Brilliant Playwrights Abroad
Like Joyce, many of Ireland's most talented writers continued to leave Ireland. Government and Church censorship, combined with the economic limits of the Irish market, sent young intellectuals abroad. Two of Ireland's greatest playwrights achieved their success overseas: George Bernard Shaw in England and Samuel Beckett in France. Although they left their birthplace far behind, the Emerald Isle continued to influence their work throughout their careers.
George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950)
George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. The difficulties of his early life, including frequent poverty and an alcoholic father, probably helped create the social conscience that motivated much of his later work. In 1876 Shaw moved to London, where he continued his education and became involved in socialist circles. It was at this time that he began working as a drama critic and eventually began producing his own dramatic works.
Shaw wrote over fifty plays, including
Shaw continued writing into his nineties. Several of his plays were made into movies, of which the most famous are
Samuel Beckett (1906–89)
Beckett was born in Dublin to a middle-class Protestant family. After an education at Trinity College, he moved to Paris, where he befriended James Joyce and became involved in the Parisian literary scene. Beckett experimented with various styles during this period, producing poems, novels, and short stories that were popular in French critical circles. During World War II, Beckett stayed in France and was active in the Resistance.
In the postwar years, Beckett began to find true success by evolving his own style and writing primarily in French (he usually translated the English versions himself). He wrote a critically acclaimed trilogy of novels:
In 1969 Beckett received the Nobel Prize in literature “for his writing, which — in new forms for the novel and drama — in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation” (in other words, for inventing absurdist drama). He produced a number of plays in the 1970s and 1980s, which were widely read but less original than his earlier works. He died in Paris in 1989.