RTÉ One | Tuesday 15th March | 10.15pm
A Terrible Beauty, Professor Declan Kiberd looks at the role that artists and writers had in reinventing Ireland in the late Nineteenth Century – and asks whether the Celtic Revival really was the spark that ignited the revolutionary flame.
Built around carefully-selected key works from the Celtic Revival period, the documentary looks at how a small number of writers, thinkers and activists dreamed up not one, but many, visions for a new, independent Ireland; and examines how those visions would shape the Ireland that was to emerge – and inspire some to take action.
Reflecting in his latter years about his play, Kathleen Ni Houlihan, the poet W. B. Yeats wrote:
Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot?
The play, first performed in 1902, and starring Maud Gonne as Kathleen, an old woman whose “beautiful green fields” had been taken away from her by a wicked stranger, had enflamed nationalist sentiment. Many of the more militant elements of Irish nationalism lauded it as a key turning-point in the move towards a military strike; but others had concerns about its message.
One critic asked whether,
…Such plays should be produced unless one was prepared for people to go out to shoot and be shot.
Declan Kiberd, and a host of historians and experts, ask the question: did the cultural revival really spark the rebellion of 1916?