The performance of manliness was central to a legal system where men dominated as judges, juries, and lawyers, and formed a majority of plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses. The negotiation of competing visions of masculinity became central to the performance of justice and men used appearances in the court as opportunities to present and defend their particular sense of manliness. In the context of the Dublin magistrate’s court in the early nineteenth century, men from the Irish lower classes sought to present a persona of Irish manhood, rooted in Irish republicanism, a strong identification with the Dublin artisanal classes, and set against an authoritarian British “other.” In presenting this manhood for an audience, men drew on story and song to convey complex messages that fed into political and manly identity. In doing so, they turned the metaphorical theatre of the court into an actual theatre, utilising space, audience, and the potential for wider publicity in a performance that both ensured their message was heard and emphasised their manliness as masters of the stage. This article explores the use of singing and performance by Irishmen in the Dublin magistrate’s court, highlighting their use in the process of furthering lower-class manliness and political identity as Irishmen.


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pp. 746-768
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