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The Playboy Of The Western World (2004)

The Playboy of the Western World (2004)
3.58 of 5 Votes: 3
1419177699 (ISBN13: 9781419177699)
kessinger publishing
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The Playboy Of The Western World (2004)
The Playboy Of The Western World (2004)

About book: This play is in a class all of its own. The language is quite remarkable. I read somewhere that Synge directly transposed from the Irish Gaelic into English. This would explain the unorthdox use of the continuous present form where standard English would use the simple present, and the absence of the words "yes" and "no" which is characteristic of all Celtic languages, Goedelic and Brythonic, and which explains why to this day, even as usually thrid generation monolingual English speakers, Irish people tend to avoid the words "yes" and "no" ("Are you going out this evening?" "I am" "You are sweet on Fiona are you?" "I am not! Who told you that?" "Louise here" "What! I never did!" "Do you speak Irish at all?" "I do not, but my father speaks some"). The Catholic and nationalist reaction to this play is much mocked today and not without reason but from their point of vantage pious Catholics and dyed in the wool nationalists had good reason to instinctively recoil. This extraordinary play unveils the reality of what lay concealed behind the coyness of many a roisin dubh: the cruelty and exploitiveness of human nature and the all too human tendency to swim with the current, howl with the wolf pack and turning with the tide of popularity. The admiration Christopher Mahon attracts for supposedly killing his pa and the rage and disappointment upon the discovery that he had managed no such terrible act, is very funny and frighteningly perceptive from the point of view of psychology allk at the same time. No wonder both nationalists and Catholics distrusted it and probably distrust it to this day. Its truth cuts to the bone of sanctity. A remaarkable quality of this play for me is its ability to be enormously funny without apparently having any jokes. I cannot quote to show it is funny and yet the entire situation, interplay of language and plot, is extremely funny. It exposes much that is wrong, even mendacious about sanctity. As such this play is iconoclastic but it is also warm and human. It does not denounce and it does not preach. It does not even seek to teach and yet we learn from it. "The Playboy of the Western World" is and will ever be a strange and unique masterpiece.

Let's get this clear from the outset... I have never really understood this play, nor the reaction to it... whether that be the violent riots it provoked when first staged by the Abbey in Dublin, or the widespread adulation it seems to garner from Irish theatrical cognoscenti... Some of the language in the play is wonderful, and there are some very amusing scenes, but it just doesn't hold together for me. If it has any theatrical value I think it is as an historical artefact, standing between the romanticised version of rural Ireland to be found in Victorian melodrama, and the more extreme parodies (eg. Flann O'Brien etc) or overtly politically conscious plays of later generations. As such I'm probably expecting too much of it... But I've always found it ironic that the romantic nationalists who rioted at its opening because of the negative picture it painted of the Irish peasantry, in many ways were ignoring one of the key messages of the play... Not the difference between the romance and reality of the Irish peasantry, but the difference between the romance and reality of violence. Christy is a hero when he was thought to have killed his father at the far end of the country, but is different altogether when it happened on their doorstep.
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I love this era of Irish literature. Synge I believe embodied exactly what Ireland needed at the time. Even though Yeats and Gregory were writing of heroes I think that this version of the hero is twisted enough to be perfect for the time.It's funny and even though a little difficult to read with the inverted Gaelic/English syntax it had going on, it's a great play! The dripping satire is something that makes the play great. The absurdist that comes with this period of Irish writing is just great and makes this play so entertaining.
As unbelievable as it would be for a man to become instantly popular due to the murder of his father, Christy's poetic storytelling is found charming by all and makes an extremely enjoyable, amusing play. Can't wait to see it on the stage.
It's hard to believe that this lovely little play sparked major rioting and uproar upon its first performance in Dublin's Abbey Theatre in 1907 and again in New York in 1911, and all because of the apparent disdain it shows toward patricide and the "womanhood" of Ireland (this latter supposedly having been slighted by the mere passing mention of women's undergarments). Synge's language is enchanting, his characters vivid, and his sense of the dramatic potent and effective. Synge described this play as a mixture of "tragedy, comedy, and extravaganza," and I can think of no better descriptors myself. Synge's own life perhaps could carry the same adjectives. That he never saw 40 is a tragedy all its own.
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