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The Playboy of the Western World


The Playboy of the Western World


“It’s great luck and company I’ve won me in the end of time - two fine women fighting for the likes of me - till I’m thinking this night wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in years gone by!”

It is good to be reminded that a public fascination with criminals and general wrongdoers is far from new. But at the first performance of “Playboy,” in Dublin in 1907, there were actual riots.

Two years later its author was dead but his play was known internationally.

With The Playboy of the Western World, Synge had given his audience a play in which a village loon named Christy splits his father's head open with a shovel, runs away, tells people he "killed his da" and is promptly ordained a hero by excitable women and drunken men.

The young, attractive Widow Quin (Emma O’Donnell) puts her finger on his demeanor when she teases him, saying, “Don’t be letting on to be shy — a fine, gamy, treacherous lad the like of you.”

While Synge may have offered The Playboy of the Western World as a celebration of the Rabelaisian vitality and exuberance of the Irish in a blandly modern world, many Irish nationalists, made sensitive by a long history of colonial ridicule, perceived condescension.

Good Irishmen and Irishwomen did not appreciate being portrayed as the kind of people who would embrace and protect a killer, even if Christy’s father was a nasty old ne'er-do-well, long since deserving of his fate.

J.M. SYNGE (1871 – 1909) was an Irish playwright, and poet. He was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and was one of the co-founders of the Abbey Theatre. He is best known for his play The Playboy of the Western World, which caused riots in Dublin during its opening run at the Abbey Theatre. Tragically, Synge developed a severe form of Hodgkin's disease that was then untreatable. He died several weeks short of his 38th birthday.


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