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The Playboy of the Western World

This edition is introduced by Margaret Llewllyn Jones. Similar Titles.


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There are few occasions when a play is so controversial as to unleash violent passions and cause a serious riot at its premiere.

by J.M.Synge

The Playboy of the Western World was just such a play. At its first performance on 26 January there were violent protests from the audience, which continued throughout the first week of its run, and were repeated by Irish Americans during its tour of New York, Boston and Philadelphia in As a young man studying abroad, Synge had come under the influence of the poet W. Synge joined forces with Yeats and the playwright Lady Gregory to create the Abbey National Theatre in Dublin, which was to become the home of native Irish drama. Its language, humour, ironies and contradictions all tumbled into the melting-pot to give a slice of the real life of the Irish people, shaped with all the skill of a great poet.

The Playboy of the Western World - Exchange Theatre Seattle Act 1

Synge believed that reality could be best expressed through poetry. The moral dilemma facing the community is occasioned by the arrival of a stranger, Christy Mahon, who declares to the assembled villagers in the pub that he has killed his father.

The 20th century

Sympathy and celebration mark the response of the villagers, with no judgement of his actions. But their attitude begins to change as Christy and the feisty Pegeen Mike, the landlady of the pub, become attracted to each other. It is native Irish humour that Synge enjoys, and The Playboy of the Western World is above all a comedy, although it is based on a tragic story that he had heard in the Aran islands:.

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A Connaught man killed his father with a blow of a spade when he was in a passion, and then led to this island and threw himself on the mercy of some of the natives… They hid him in a hole… and kept him safe for weeks, though the police came and searched for him…. It is from this viewpoint that Synge creates his play. Synopsis The action of the play takes place entirely in a country pub near a village on the wiId coast of County Mayo in western Ireland. Here live publican Michael Flaherty and his fiery daughter Pegeen.

She is being courted by the fat and cowardly Shawn Keogh, whom she despises, and when young Christy Mahon appears with a tale of killing his bullying father with a single mighty blow of his spade, she is fascinated.


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The peasantry, thinking that Christy really has killed his father this time — and with them all as witnesses — try to string him up. Pegeen leads them in the effort to bring him to due process of the law.

Christy is appalled to see Pegeen turn on him, and she even brands him with a turf ember. A certain number of the phrases I employ I have heard also from herds and fishermen along the coast from Kerry to Mayo, or from beggar-women and balladsingers nearer Dublin; and I am glad to acknowledge how much I owe to the folk imagination of these fine people. Anyone who has lived in real intimacy with the Irish peasantry will know that the wildest sayings and ideas in this play are tame indeed, compared with the fancies one may hear in any little hillside cabin in Geesala, or Carraroe, or Dingle Bay.