Joyce, heavily influenced by the dramatic writing of Henrik Ibsen, wrote his own theatrical work, Exiles in 1914 after the completion of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and just before beginning Ulysses. The play is set in the Dublin of 1912 and the plot revolves round the character of Richard Rowan and his intellectual dilemmas as to whether he should settle down in Ireland as a lecturer in Romance Languages trying to Europeanise Ireland or flee the net as Joyce himself did. There is a fear that if he decides to stay it will leave him in a state of paralysis and bitterness and at the play’s end we do not find a resolution, only a deep longing for love and understanding on the part of Bertha, Richard’s wife and a deep weariness on the part of Richard himself. The play has much autobiographical information relating to Joyce’s early experiences of exile in Europe which is of interest. One also gets an insight into Joyce’s preoccupation with jealousy and betrayal in love. However, as a piece of theatre, Exiles has never been a major success.
- James Joyce by Richard Ellmann Oxford University Press, 1959