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Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright Seamus Heaney dies

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Seamus Heaney in 2012
© Dan Wooller
Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright Seamus Heaney has died aged 74.

Born in County Derry in Northern Ireland, he began writing poetry while working as a teacher in the 1960s and soon gained recognition, going on the win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995.

He also wrote translations and theatre works, including The Burial at Thebes, which was subsequently adapted as an opera which premiered at Shakespeare's Globe in 2008.

He had been living in Dublin and suffered recently from ill health. His family are expected to issue a statement on his death later today.

Playwright Simon Stephens tweeted: "A tower of a writer. We were lucky to have him. World's that little bit more disappointing without him in it."

WhatsOnStage.com's chief critic Michael Coveney said of Heaney's theatrical career:

"Heaney was a director of the Field Day company formed by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea in 1980 at the height of the recent Troubles and was always involved, and often at the company's opening nights in the Guildhall in Derry.

"When his first play, The Cure at Troy, opened there in October 1990, he signed my copy of the text with the single word - 'Hooray'. There was not much politically to rejoice about at the time, but at least a cure was envisaged.

"The play was a deeply eloquent version of Sophocles' tragedy Philoctetes, and it struck a resonating plea, especially in the marvellous antiphonal choruses, for ending a sectarian conflict more persistent even than the Trojan War.

"What a great poet he was, and nearly a great dramatist, too, as was widely recognised when The Cure at Troy came to the Tricycle in Kilburn the following year."