W. B. Yeats, 1916
W. B. Yeats wrote twenty-six plays. They include farces and conventional folk dramas, verse plays based on Irish myths, and the experimental Plays for Dancers. All of the plays show a playwright continually experimenting with dramatic form, content and style of presentation, and open to collaboration with fellow artists, among them the designer Gordon Craig and the dancers Michio Ito and Ninette de Valois.
The first of Yeats's plays to be performed in the professional theatre was The Land of Heart's Desire, presented at the Avenue Theatre, London, in 1894. He completed his last play, The Death of Cuchulain, a few days before his death in January 1939.
(left) Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Deirdre in Yeats's "Deirdre". (right) The Old Abbey Theatre, Dublin.
He has had a significant influence on the history of world theatre in the 20th century, principally because he incorporated into his later plays, theatre techniques from the Japanese Noh to create a minimalist "theatre of the mind." Many theatre artists, including Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, are in his debt.
As T. S. Eliot said of his own attempts to write verse drama, "Yeats had nobody, we had Yeats."
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