DruidSynge: The Playboy of the Western World

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The Playboy of the Western World

Written through the years 1904 to 1907, The Playboy of the Western World is Synge’s great comic masterpiece. In it we see Christy Mahon take refuge in a shebeen on a peninsula of County Mayo asking porter of ‘the woman of the house’ Pegeen Mike. Pegeen awaits the Pope’s dispensation to marry her cousin, Shawneen Keogh. She has a quick temper and draws from Christy the confession that he killed his father with the blow of ‘a loy’. This news spreads like wildfire among the tightly policed community of the peninsula and, if feelings are developing between Christy and Pegeen, they are not let mature before others try to turn Christy’s head. The Widow Quin is the likeliest, she finds that she and Christy have many points of sympathy with each other but she fails to wrest him from Pegeen. In the end she keeps loyal to him and works to further his cause. Christy’s confidence and price continue to rise in the community, the brief visitation by his bloodied father notwithstanding, and when he wins the horse race on the strand he is trully ‘the playboy of western world’. His father reappears, recognises Christy and exposes him, and Christy is no longer able to hold up the freight of dreams heaped on him. When he ‘kills’ his father a second time, the gap opens irrevocably between the ‘gallous story’ and the ‘dirty deed’, with the ‘dirty deed’ all that the community see and they turn violent towards him. Pegeen leads them in the effort to bring him to due process of the law. Christy is apalled to see Pegeen turn on him and brand him with a turf ember. He is flabbergasted to see his father return ‘to be killed a third time’ and in the end he drives his father before him, with a new determination to play on the world stage. Pegeen protests in an agony of solitude that she has ‘lost the only playboy of the western world.’ The first performance was given at the Abbey Theatre on the 26th January, 1907, with Maire O’Neill (stage-name for Molly Allgood) taking the lead role some months before she would become engaged to Synge. The Playboy of the Western World was first published in Dublin in 1907, to coincide with the first performance.

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