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Introduction to "The Plough and the Stars."

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by

Mags Clancy

on 15 September 2014

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Transcript of Introduction to "The Plough and the Stars."

For the unskilled workers, Dublin in the early 1900s was a city of extreme poverty, unemployment, poor housing conditions and a high mortality rate. The fact that the population was increasing at the time only made the situation worse. A family like the Clitheroes, with three earners and no children, would have been very unusual at the time.
Dublin in the 1900s.
By 1914, Dublin’s death rate was the fifth highest in the world. The main causes of death were: poor clothing leading to exposure in bad weather, insufficient food for children, overcrowding, tuberculosis, malnutrition and an excess of drink.
Cause of Death in Dublin.
Acts I and II of the play are set in late 1915. At this time World War I was been fought in Europe. This affected Ireland greatly. Firstly, over 150,000 men went to fight in the British army. Secondly, Home Rule was put on hold, which meant that Ireland now had to wait for its own government.
Act One and Two.
Acts III and IV are set during the week of the Easter Rising in 1916. There was a minority of people in Ireland who wanted complete separation from Britain. They saw World War I as an opportunity to attack Britain and gain independence for Ireland. Patrick Pearse was the leader of these people. He appears in Act II as “the figure in the window.” He believed that Irish people should make a “blood sacrifice” to win freedom for Ireland.
Acts Three and Four.
Seán O'Casey.
Introduction to "The Plough and the Stars."
O'Casey's Opinion.
The Irish Citizen Army was formed to protect workers. Seán O'Casey was a member of this group. James Connolly was the leader of the army and he joined with Pearse to fight for Ireland. O'Casey did not want this to happen. He felt conditions for workers should be improved first.
Public Opinion of the Rising.
Those who took part in the Easter Rising did not have the support of the people in the beginning. The fighting closed down the city and food became scarce. Many civilians were killed and buildings were destroyed. A lot of looting took place immediately after the Rising as well. In many cases, the Rising left people worse off than they were before.
Change in Opinion.
However, public opinion changed. When fifteen of the leaders were executed people changed their minds and started to support the idea of independence from Britain. O'Casey's play is quite critical of the Rising and this is why it caused riots when it was first performed, ten years after the Rising.
Love Story.
Of course, we must also remember that "The Plough and the Stars" is not just a political play. It is also the story of Nora's love for her husband, Jack Clitheroe, and how the Rising separates them.
Full transcript