Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Christopher Kuipers, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Todd N. Thompson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

James M. Cahalan, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Roslyn Blyn-LaDrew, Ph.D.


In this dissertation, I examine adaptations of plays by Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov by the celebrated contemporary Irish playwrights Brian Friel (1929 - 2015) and Frank McGuinness (b. 1953). Critics have analyzed some of the individual adaptations, but I connect the adaptations done by Friel and McGuinness, discovering deeper relationships between these Irish playwrights and Ibsen and Chekhov. Moreover, I interrogate how these adaptations function as a way of redefining Ireland; they represent an attempt by writers in a newly hybrid and multicultural Ireland to engage with this identity from within, while framing Ireland as a multicultural nation directly connected in the richness of arts and history to the other members of the European Union and the global community at large.

My theoretical approach here is twofold: 1) to use place studies to situate my examination, and 2) to use adaptation theory for textual analysis of the works. I examine Friel’s adaptations of Chekhov’s The Bear and Uncle Vanya, as well as his adaptation of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler; I also discuss Friel’s original play Afterplay, which follows the fate of two of Chekhov’s beloved characters. I examine McGuinness’s adaptations of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Ghosts, The Lady from the Sea, John Gabriel Borkman, and Peer Gynt. Finally, I end with a look at how both Friel and McGuinness adapted Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

The mere existence of the adaptations examined here underscores a deeper connection between people across cultures and nations; they point to a more globalized notion of experience. As Ireland itself evolves in its role both as a European Union nation and as a global entity, the need for dramatic adaptations such as the ones discussed here will persist. The adaptations by Brian Friel and Frank McGuinness examined here pay homage to the past, while embracing a new future, replete with new experiences and new ideas.