Patrick Pearse: Psychobiographical Reflections on an Enigmatic, Paradoxical Personality

  • Patricia Meredith Orr
  • Orla Landy (Dublin Business School)
  • Kevin Lynch
  • Donall McLoughlin
  • Niamh O'Rourke
  • Clare Sheridan
  • Michelle Tuohey


To date historians have focused almost exclusively on Patrick Pearse’s key role in the 1916 Easter Rising to the extent that there is much less information about his personality development and characteristics. They have portrayed the elusive, paradoxical Patrick as nationalist, revolutionary and martyr or as a flawed and failed human being. Moran, agreeing with comments made at an earlier time by F.S.L. Lyons, suggests that, to have any real understanding of Patrick’s role in the rebellion and the events that led up to it, historians need to focus more attention on understanding the man himself.[1] The approach used in this article is psychobiographical, a methodology that applies psychological theory to biographical information in order to more fully understand an individual’s personality and achievements. In the case of Patrick Pearse the biographical information focuses on consensual aspects of his family background, his life experiences, his role as educator and his emergence as leader and hero. With regard to psychological theory, there are many empirically supported perspectives than could have been applied in this psychobiography. However, for the purposes of this particular article three perspectives have been selected.  Drawing on some main tenets of the psychoanalytic, humanistic and trait approaches, the authors hope to provide a broader understanding of the influences and experiences that may have shaped Pearse as son, sibling, peer, educator and ultimately as a main instigator of the 1916 Rising and one of Ireland’s most famous patriots.

[1] Sean Farrell Moran. Patrick Pearse and the Politics of Redemption: The mind of the Easter Rising, 1916, (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 1997), 6. 

Keywords: Ireland--History--Easter Rising, 1916, Pearse, Padraig, 1879-1916, Biography— Psychology, Archetype (Psychology), Personality, Humanistic psychology, Jungian psychoanalysis, Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939

How to Cite:

Orr, P. M., Landy, O., Lynch, K., McLoughlin, D., O'Rourke, N., Sheridan, C. & Tuohey, M., (2016) “Patrick Pearse: Psychobiographical Reflections on an Enigmatic, Paradoxical Personality”, Studies in Arts and Humanities 2(1), 33-51. doi:

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Published on
16 Jun 2016
Peer Reviewed