Do you have any information on previous Dublin Shakespeare Society events? Perhaps you can tell us about a production you attended or have an old playbill, poster or programme that we can include on our website?
Please get in touch with us today and help us to complete our archive of historical documents.
Through the Decades
Read about the main activities of the Society through the decades, or jump to a short history of the society below:
Harry Clarke Window
This beautiful stained glass window was originally thought to have been a Harry Clarke window. It was determined late that it came from the Harry Clarke school. It was mounted in the wall of the Capitol cinema in Prince's Street – the former La Scala Theatre.
When the cinema was doomed to be demolished to make way for the British Home Stores – now occupied by Penney's – the window was in peril of being demolished along with the building. Representations were made and it was agreed that the window would be donated to the Dublin Shakespeare Society, who took it gratefully. At this time however, the DSS was in the throes of losing their premises at No. 50 North Great George's Street and there was nowhere to install a window of such proportions. For some years it languished unmounted in the basement of No. 50 and when the DSS moved to No. 41 on the same street, the window moved too.
As the lease on No. 41 was only a short one (3 years) that time quickly passed and the DSS was back at square one. When the lease expired the window was moved to temporary storage and subsequently was accepted into the Dublin City Library in Ballyfermot for safe keeping, where it is currently stored.
A Short History of the Dublin Shakespeare Society – ‘The Shakes’
The Society was founded in 1907 as a branch of the British Empire Shakespeare Society (BESS), which had been established in London in 1901. The prime movers were academics from Trinity College (Dublin University).
The inaugural meeting of the Society took place on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Dublin, on 12 September 1907. The Rev. John Pentland Mahaffy, later Provost of Trinity College, presided at the meeting and was succeeded as President of the Society in 1908 by Edward Dowden, Professor of English and a Shakespearean scholar. The membership was drawn mainly from the Dublin middle, upper, and professional classes. (The membership fee of five shillings was a considerable sum at the time).
The objects of the Society, set out at its first meeting, were:
- To promote greater familiarity with Shakespeare's work among all classes throughout the British Empire.
- To help the rising generation not only to study Shakespeare's works but to love them.
- To form Shakespeare Clubs and Reading Societies or help those existing in London and the provinces and in the colonies.
- To encourage the study of Shakespeare by prizes given yearly for the best reading, recitation, and actual scenes from his plays and by essays on Shakespeare by members and associates of the Society.
Initially, the activities of the Society were mainly literary and organisational. Academic treatises were delivered and the members entertained themselves with play readings from the Bard's works. Also, distinguished actors such as Henry Irving visited the Society and delivered public readings from the works. Irving's solo reading of Hamlet at the Theatre Royal in May 1911 was a notable occasion. A year earlier, members of the Society accompanied members of F.R.Benson's company in 'Readings from Shakespeare' at the Gaiety Theatre (February 1910).
The Society did not 'take to the boards' until April 1910 - in a production of Romeo and Juliet, at the Molesworth Hall.
The Shakes has performed virtually all of the Bard's plays over the years. In more recent times their productions have also included many of the classics of Irish and World Theatre, including plays by Friel, Tom Murphy, Stoppard, Rattigan, Eugene O'Neill, Shaw, O'Casey, Tennessee Williams, Calderon, Camus, Ibsen, Fugard and many others.
The Shakes also presents rehearsed play readings and occasional entertainments. In 2006 it presented two nights of readings from the works of Flann O'Brien/Myles na Gopaleen. It also presented a rehearsed reading of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea.
A Chronology of all the productions presented by the Society in the 100 years of its existence, which can be traced from the available records, is included on this web-site.
For many years located in 'The Studio' at 50 North Great Georges Street, the Dublin Shakespeare Society is now firmly based at The Teachers' Club (Club na Muinteori), 36 Parnell Square, where it has presented most of its major productions in recent years.
The Dublin Shakespeare Society celebrated its centenary in 2007.