John Millington Synge(1871-1909)
The Playboy of the Western World
--- a leading figure in Irish Literary Renassance
--- reflects gullibility, superstition and brutality
--- blends Celtic romanticism with modern realism
--- two elements in his plays: Irish peasantry
and Irish speech
- Audience claimed that the play was a degrading representation
of Irish sensibilities (Bowen 71).
- Literary historians have explained the townsfolk¡¦s sympathy
with the deed as being the empathy of an oppressed people with anyone who
rebelled against authority.
- The audience of the play saw it as a representation of
reality rather than a work of art.
of the play
- The play is not merely a story of young innocence and love
but of the mentality and actions of an entire community.
- The play is said to be a play about audience response (Smith
- By presenting the three father figures in the play, Synge
presents a comic but degrading form of Irish institution that shapes the life
of most Irishmen.
- Old Mahon is an individual with scant regard for the citizens
- Pegeen Mike¡¦s father, Michael James Flachery, is the epitome
of the Irish father stereotype the Dublin audience was so eager to rid themselves
of (Harrington 73).
- Though never appearing on stage; Father Reilly is the father
of authority and repression.
- Synge draws on traditional and tragedy and mythology in making
patricide the operative center of his plot (Harrington 73).
- The play is a mixture of tragedy and comedy.
- The irony of the play is, as Pegeen Mike says, the difference
between a callous story and a dirty deed (Harrington 75).
- The Characters use the same patterns of exaggeration of imagination
- The play is about the ability of language to create a reality
far greater than empirical fact (Harrington 77)
- Christian Analogy of the play.
- Christy's reception of gifts from three local maids echoes
of the gifts of venerating Magi (Harrington 72).
- Old Mahon is a Godlike figure with a son appropriately
- Christy's enticing words, like Christ¡¦s sermons, enhance
his stature in the eyes of his disciples.
- Like Christ, Christy is wounded in the process and abandoned
before achieving final playboyhood and romping off through life in the Western
Topics for discussion
- In Alison Smith's introduction to Synge's collected plays
and poems, she claims that: "Synge didn't want to create a world or people
too far from 'the fundamental realities of life' in any of his writing, and
the noble peasant of Ireland is noble to him because he or she can deal with
those fundamental realities." To what extent do the peasants in the play conform
to Synge's own claim?
- Is there any satiric element in Synge's Playboy? And
who is the play's intended target?
- The play is regarded as a mixture of both tragedy and comedy
and yet sometimes regarded as more "comic" than "tragic." How do you evaluate
the play with its "bitter violence" and "uneasy end"?
- In Bowen's essay, he asserts that "in degrading the motives
of the Mayo citizenry, the audience saw an extension of itself, ¡K the play
degraded the viewers"(71). Do you agree with the idea? And what is the irony
- Consider why the patricide is a popular topic for townsfolk.
- Is there any development in the growth of Christy's personality?
Does he reach the final manhood at last?
- What is the function of Widow Quin in the play?
Notes on The Playboy of the Western World
* J. M. Synge