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“Colonial Control of Irish Land:  Unromancing the Romantic Irish Scenery in  John Bull's Other Island

Husne Jahan

De Anza College, Cupertino, California


Bernard Shaw's Irish play John Bull's Other Island (1904) dramatizes the issues of the use and misuse of Irish land by landowners, agents and peasants, and the occupation and manipulation of the same land by English colonial and capitalist forces. In Shaw's play, the idea of the romantic appeal of Irish scenery is carefully constructed and then deconstructed, pointing out in the process that a great deal of the concept of the romantic appeal of Irish landscape is actually an ideological construct. John Bull's Other Island demystifies the Irish landscape, along with its colleens, peasants and priests and brings out the “reality” of Ireland's colonial predicament by juxtaposing a romantic and mystical Irish landscape with situations and dialogues that undercut those very qualities. Theatrically, John Bull's Other Island deconstructs the escapist romantic tradition of earlier popular Irish drama, and politically, it presents a critical look at English capitalist and imperialist control of Ireland.