‘I sing what was lost and dread what was won’: Yeats and the Legacy of Censorship, 1935–1939

Lauren Arrington

in W.B. Yeats, the Abbey Theatre, Censorship, and the Irish State

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199590575
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595523 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs

‘I sing what was lost and dread what was won’: Yeats and the Legacy of Censorship, 1935–1939

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The relationship between censorship and financial circumstance culminates in this chapter. It argues that as Yeats aged and sought to secure his legacy he was complicit in censorship in the belief that the potential for long‐term financial security legitimized the compromise of artistic freedom. As the Abbey negotiated with the Irish government for a new building there was a drastic increase in the number of plays that were sent back for revision before their production; these revisions pertained to religious, sexual, and political references. A play by Paul Vincent Carroll, The White Steed, was deemed of excellent quality by Yeats, but because Carroll critiqued the hegemonic marriage of Catholic conservatism to the state Yeats believed that it would endanger the negotiations, and the play was refused. It argues that there is significant evidence to suggest that Yeats also withheld The Herne's Egg due to fears that it would inflame opposition to the reconstruction scheme. While Yeats hoped that immediate compromises would secure the theatre's financial future (and thus the freedom of the theatre to experiment). Negotiations for the new building came to an unsuccessful conclusion in 1939, the same year as Yeats's death, and the aesthetic compromise merely resulted in establishing a precedent for censoring plays as the theatre grew more conservative in the subsequent decades.

Keywords: reconstruction; Paul Vincent Carroll; Herne's Egg; Yeats

Chapter.  15924 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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