A Temper of Misgiving: W. B. Yeats and the Ireland of Synge’s Time

Levitas, Ben. 2016. A Temper of Misgiving: W. B. Yeats and the Ireland of Synge’s Time. In: Senia Pašeta, ed. Uncertain Futures: Essays About the Irish Past for Roy Foster. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 110-122. ISBN 9780198748274 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This essay explores how W. B. Yeats was defined in the early twentieth century not just by his own work, but in his public representation of J. M. Synge’s. It suggests that as Yeats’s view on nationalism hardened in his defence of Synge, particularly in the context of his death, it became detached from change: frozen until the American tour of 1912 delivered a jolt of reassessment, then amplified by the shock of 1916. Examining his 1911 essay ‘J. M. Synge and the Ireland of his Time’, his 1923 Nobel lecture, and the journals later published as Estrangement and The Death of Synge, it is suggested that Yeats came to construe the construction of identity—his own and Ireland’s—as forms of masked performance. In the shift from certainty to reassessment lie the origins of doubt as a core aspect of Yeats’s later theatre, politics, and poetry.

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):



W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, Abbey theatre, Irish drama, Lady Gregory, poetry, Irish history

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


June 2016Published

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Date Deposited:

18 Oct 2016 09:29

Last Modified:

09 Mar 2021 11:38



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