Three Plays by Austin Clarke and the “Commedia” Tradition
Commedia dell’arte influenced theatrical production styles in many European countries, Ireland being no exception, assimilating the influence through pantomime during colonial times. The drama of Austin Clarke (1896-1974) is usually examined in the context of Yeats’s plays and modern poetic drama. But among his plays are three little-known experimental pieces, The Kiss, The Second Kiss and The Third Kiss, which make use of four characters from the wider commedia tradition, Harlequin, Columbine, Pierrot and Pierrette and also self-consciously exploit the possibilities of romance, mischief and the carnivalesque for Clarke’s own poetic purposes. The aim of this essay is to show how Clarke’s use for his Lyric Theatre of themes and techniques derived from commedia dell’arte represents both a tribute to a specific international form and a critique in satirical terms of hypocrisies underlying Irish bourgeois society in the 1940s and after.