A Political Dystopia In Expressionistic Format: Denis Johnston's The Old Lady Says "No!"
European Journal of Molecular & Clinical Medicine,
2020, Volume 7, Issue 6, Pages 3147-3156
AbstractThe goal of this resea r c h i s t o l o o k a t D e n i s J o h n s t o n ' s expressionistic
technique in The Old Lady Says: "No!" (1929) in order to get a better understanding of
his political views on post-independence Ireland as a political, moral, and social
dystopia that clashes violently with the idealized image of pre-independence Ireland.
The play's expressionist form corresponded to the Gate members' collective spirit. They
all agreed that the old playwriting, acting, and directing methods had f u l f i l l e d t h e i r
f u n c t i o n in the past and could no longer be considered relevant in the modern era.
The play has a historical foundation and revolves around the figure of Robert Emmet, a
19th-century patriot who was persecuted for leading a revolt against British rule in
1801 and became a national hero for the Irish people. In reading Emmet, who was
sentimentally presented in Irish romantic literature, Johnston takes a very different
approach. Johnston portrays the Irish death wish, which pushes young men to their
fate irrationally under the banner of patriotism. Like most German expressionist theatre
and Johnston's own plays, the piece takes a politically extreme stance. Johnston creates
a stark contrast between the idealized past with its tremendous rage of emotions and
the Free State Ireland with its violence, riots, revolt, and assassinations by setting
Emmet in twentieth-century Dublin. He intends to criticize both ideals, implying that
the present's misery results from the idealized past's blindness.
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