'He was a dirty man, God forgive him, and he getting old and crusty'
Riots greeted the first performance of The Playboy of the Western World at Dublin's Abbey Theatre on 26 January 1907 for its perceived attack on the Irish people, and eggs, potatoes and even a slice of fruit cake were hurled at the actors during subsequent performances. Yet now Synge's comedy centring around an apparent parricide and its cover-up is considered his masterpiece. Also containing Yeats's The Countess Cathleen (1892) and O'Casey's Cock-a-doodle Dandy (1949), this collection of three plays shows a vital stage in the rich explosion of Irish drama that first made itself heard at the turn of the twentieth century, and gathered momentum during the Easter Rising of 1916 and beyond.
W. A. Armstrong's introduction to this edition examines how the Irish Dramatic Movement revived the ancient Irish language and its myths, legends and folklore.
With an introduction by W. A. ARMSTRONG
About The Authors
John Millington Synge was born in 1871 of an old Anglo-Irish family. Due to ill-health he was educated mainly by private tutors before studying at Trinity College Dublin and the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He went to Germany to continue his musical studies in 1893 and then, turning to literature, moved to Paris in 1895. There he met W.B. Yeats, who suggested he go to the Aran Islands to live with the islanders as one of themselves and to "express a life that has never found expression." He spent a few weeks on the islands each year from 1898 to 1902. The Aran Islands did not appear until 1907, but it was his experiences in Aran that gave him the plots of his plays In the Shadow of the Glen (1903), The Riders to the Sea (1904) and The Well of the Saints (1905).
His emergence as a playwright coincided with and furthered the Irish dramatic revival. He was first a literary adviser and then a director of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, where the first performances of his plays provoked violent controversies. His most famous work, The Playboy of the Western World, which was suggested by an anecdote he had heard in Aran, unleashed a riot in the theater at its first performance in 1907. Synge was in love with the young actress, Molly Allgood, who played the principal female role in this play, and it was she who inspired his play Deirdre of the Sorrows, left unfinished at his early death in 1909. Another of his earlier plays, The Tinker's Wedding, had been regarded both by Synge and Yeats as too dangerous to put on in Dublin, and it was not seen there until 1971.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Dublin. His father was a lawyer and a well-known portrait painter. Yeats was educated in London and in Dublin, but he spent his summers in the west of Ireland in the family's summer house at Connaught. The young Yeats was very much part of the fin de siècle in London; at the same time he was active in societies that attempted an Irish literary revival. His first volume of verse appeared in 1887, but in his earlier period his dramatic production outweighed his poetry both in bulk and in import. Together with Lady Gregory he founded the Irish Theatre, which was to become the Abbey Theatre, and served as its chief playwright until the movement was joined by John Synge. His plays usually treat Irish legends; they also reflect his fascination with mysticism and spiritualism. The Countess Cathleen (1892), The Land of Heart's Desire (1894), Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), The King's Threshold (1904), and Deirdre (1907) are among the best known.
After 1910, Yeats's dramatic art took a sharp turn toward a highly poetical, static, and esoteric style. His later plays were written for small audiences; they experiment with masks, dance, and music, and were profoundly influenced by the Japanese Noh plays. Although a convinced patriot, Yeats deplored the hatred and the bigotry of the Nationalist movement, and his poetry is full of moving protests against it. He was appointed to the Irish Senate in 1922. Yeats is one of the few writers whose greatest works were written after the award of the Nobel Prize. Whereas he received the Prize chiefly for his dramatic works, his significance today rests on his lyric achievement.
His poetry, especially the volumes The Wild Swans at Coole (1919), Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921), The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933), and Last Poems and Plays (1940), made him one of the outstanding and most influential twentieth-century poets writing in English. His recurrent themes are the contrast of art and life, masks, cyclical theories of life (the symbol of the winding stairs), and the ideal of beauty and ceremony contrasting with the hubbub of modern life. Yeats died in 1939.
|The Countess Cathleen||p. 17|
|The Playboy of the Western World||p. 65|
|Cock-a-doodle Dandy||p. 135|
|Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.|
Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics
For Ages: 18+ years old
Number Of Pages: 224
Published: 3rd December 1997
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.8 x 1.3
Weight (kg): 19.9