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The Playboy of the Western World
Transcript of The Playboy of the Western World
in Irish Literature The characters
and the play Analysis of the play Seminar Biography Edmund John Millington Synge was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, travel writer and collector of folklore. He was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and was one of the co founders of the Abbey Theatre.
(Wikipedia) Early life Born on April 16, 1871 in Rathfarnhan, County Dublin, Ireland;
Eighth son of John Hatch Synge and Kathleen Traill;
Part of the Protestant middle and upper class;
Interest in ornithology and observation. Young life Educated privately at schools in Dublin and Bray;
At sixteen, started violin lessons studying at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin;
Influenced by Shakespeare, Beethoven and Darwin;
In 1888, entered Trinity College, Dublin, studying Gaelic and Irish antiquities and graduated with a B.A. in 1892. Adult life Went on to Germany to continue his studies in music and literature;
Started writing plays;
Formed the Irish Literary Society in 1892;
Returned to Ireland in 1894, and moved to Paris the following January to study literature and languages at the Sorbonne. Adult life Around 1896, met W.B. Yeats who would become a lifelong friend and mentor;
Aran Islands, living with peasants and their families;
In 1905, became a director of the Irish National Theatre Society along with Yeats and Lady Gregory.
Became secretly engaged to the actress Molly Allgood in 1906 though they never married.
On the 24th of March, 1909, John Millington Synge died of Hodgkin's disease in the Elpis Nursing Home, Dublin. "He was a drifting silent man full of hidden passion, and loved wild islands, because there, set out in the light of day, he saw what lay hidden in himself." W.B. Yeats, 1910 Other works In the Shadow of the Glen, 1903Riders to the Sea, 1904The Well of the Saints, 1905The Aran Islands, 1907 The Playboy of the Western World, 1907Deirdre of the Sorrows 1910In Wicklow and West Kerry, 1912Collected Works of John Millington Synge Characters Young man who claims to have murdered his father. At the beginning of the play, Christy is ordinary and undistinguished except in his ability to tell a good story- the story of how he killed his father. His tale turns him into a hero to his listeners. Their admiration for him improves his self-esteem. By the end of the play, he is a better man. Christopher Mahon: Characters Margaret Flaherty: Pretty, quick-witted pub owner's daughter who takes a fancy to Christy Mahon. Her friends call her Pegeen Mike, or simply Pegeen. She is a bit of a tragic figure at the end of the play, when Christy leaves her community without reconciling with her. Characters Michael Flaherty: Father of Margaret (Pegeen) Flaherty and owner of the pub in which the action of the play takes place. He enjoys attending wakes (night-long viewings of corpses before funerals), where liquor and lively talk flow freely. During most of the onstage action of the play, he is offstage attending a wake with his friends. Characters Shawn Keough Characters Philly Cullen, Jimmy Farrell: Dull, spineless young farmer who has Michael Flaherty's approval to marry Margaret (Pegeen), his second cousin. She despises Shawn. Friends of Michael Flaherty who attend the wake with him. Characters Widow Quin: Crafty, opportunistic 30-year-old who makes a play for Christy. According to rumors, her husband died by her hand. Characters Sara Tansey, Susan Brady, Honor Blake: Girls who fall in love for Christy after hearing of his murderous talents. Characters Old Mahon: Characters Father Reilly: Christy Mahon's father. Thanks to his thick skull, he survives Christy's attempts to kill him. Although he has always looked down on his son, he comes to respect him at the end of the play after Christy reveals himself as a man of nerve and derring-do. Local Roman Catholic priest. He does not appear in the play, but his presence is nevertheless felt because of Shawn Keough's frequent references to him. Because Shawn is a relative (second cousin) of the object of his affection, Pegeen, he needs the approval of the Catholic Church to marry her. Therefore, Shawn is forever worrying about how his conduct will be perceived by Father Reilly, apparently a by-the-book cleric. Characters Kate Cassidy Deceased local resident. It is her wake that Flaherty and his friends attend. At the end of the nineteenth century, Irish writers were divided between two impulses: to express the nostalgia of the heroic legends of the past and to illustrate the beliefs and struggle of the home-rule movement. They met in Dublin, as that city's theater became an artistic representation of Irish country life and legends as well as the politics of the age. In the 1890s, the Irish upper and middle classes clamored for literature that reflected the nationalistic spirit of the age. They turned their interest to the tales of Ireland's heroic past, recorded by folklorists. In 1899, William Butler Yeats, along with Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn, founded the influential Irish Literary Theatre to promote a national movement of the arts. When Martyn, an Ibsen devotee, later left, the remaining members retitled themselves the Abbey Theatre Company. Yeats had envisioned a people's theater where writers and actors could return to the sources of their art:
•the native speech
•rich mythology of the Irish In the late nineteenth century, playwrights turned away from what they considered the artificiality of melodrama to focus on the commonplace in the context of everyday contemporary life. They rejected the flat characterizations and unmotivated violent action typical of melodrama. Realism Birth of the Irish Theater Their work, along with much of the experimental fiction written during that period, adopts the tenets of realism, a new literary movement that took a serious look at believable characters and their sometimes problematic interactions with society Reactions to the play First play:
- January 26, 1907
- At the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
- Produced by The National Theatre Society
- Directed by W.G. Fay ( who played the part of Christy Mahon.) Riots and protests followed this opening performance after many theatergoers charged that the play capitalized on the stereotype of the Irish as heavy drinkers, roughs, and boasters They play depicted the rural Irish as simpletons, intentionally fostered bigotry against the Catholic Church by describing the parish priest in the play as a tyrant and by implying that all Catholics are as dim-witted and weak-minded as the character Shawn Keough. It presented offensive language and behavior, including the scene at the end in which an angry crowd ties up the main character, Christy Mahon Many Irish believed Synge despised Catholicism. This is probably because Synge was raised a Protestant by a family known for anti-Catholicism dating back at least to his grandfather, a Protestant clergyman and confirmed anti-Catholic When it was first staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin the play was described as "an unmitigated, protracted libel upon Irish peasant men and, worse still, on Irish peasant girlhood" and the audience rioted nightly. The Irish Home Rule movement articulated a longstanding Irish desire for the repeal of the Act of Union of 1800 by a demand for self-government within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The movement drew upon a legacy of patriotic thought that dated back at least to the late 17th century (WIKIPEDIA) On the west coast of County Mayo Christy Mahon stumbles into Flaherty's tavern. There he claims that he is on the run because he killed his own father by driving a loy into his head. Flaherty praises Christy for his boldness, and Flaherty's daughter (and the barmaid), Pegeen, falls in love with Christy, to the dismay of her betrothed, Shawn. Because of the novelty of Christy's exploits and the skill with which he tells his own story, he becomes something of a town hero. Many other women also become attracted to him, including the Widow Quinn, who tries unsuccessfully to seduce Christy at Shawn's behest. Christy also impresses the village women by his victory in a donkey race, using the slowest beast.
Eventually Christy's father, Mahon, who was only wounded, tracks him to the tavern. When the townsfolk realize that Christy's father is alive, everyone (including Pegeen) shuns him as a liar and a coward. In order to regain Pegeen's love and the respect of the town, Christy attacks his father a second time. This time it seems that Old Mahon really is dead, but instead of praising Christy, the townspeople, led by Pegeen, bind and prepare to hang him to avoid being implicated as accessories to his crime. Christy's life is saved when his father, beaten and bloodied, crawls back onto the scene, having improbably survived his son's second attack. As Christy and his father leave to wander the world, Shawn suggests he and Pegeen get married soon, but she spurns him. Pegeen laments betraying and losing Christy: "I've lost the only playboy of the western world."