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Aug 31, 2013

The Playboy of the Western World

The Playboy of the Western World

Three Act Play of John Millington Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, tells the story of “mister honey”, Christy Mahon, “ slow at learning, a middling scholar only” running away from his farm, claiming he killed his father by driving a loy into his head.
"I just riz [raised] the loy [club] and let fall the edge of it on the ridge of his skull, and he went down at my feet like an empty sack, and never let a grunt or groan from him at all."
After he buried him, he hit the road, walking for eleven days, “facing hog, dog, or divil.”  Jimmy Farrell praises him for his bravery, and Pegeen joins in: "It's the truth they're saying, and if I'd that lad in the house, I wouldn't be fearing the . . . cut-throats, or the walking dead." At this Micheal says to Christy
“That was a hanging crime, mister honey. You should have had good reason for doing the like of that.
But the locals are more interested in vicariously enjoying his story than in condemning the immorality of his murderous deed. He captures the romantic attention of the bar-maid Pegeen Mike, the daughter of Flahetry, who thinks, “A daring fellow is the jewel of the world.”
Many other women also become attracted to him, including the Widow Quin, who tries unsuccessfully to seduce Christy at Shawn’s behest. 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.”
Christy also impresses the village women by his victory in a donkey race, using the slowest beast.
Eventually Christy’s father, Mahon, who was only wounded, tracks him to the tavern. When the townsfolk realize that Christy’s father is alive, everyone (including Pegeen) shuns him as a liar and coward. In order to regain Pegeen’s love and the respect of the town, Christy attacks his father a second time. This time it seems that Old Mahon really is dead, but instead of praising Christy, the townspeople, led by Pegeen, bind and prepare to hang him to avoid being implicated as accessories to his crime. Pegeen cries:
“The blow of a loy, have taught me that there’s a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed”
She addresses Christy with the words:
You’ve turned me a likely gaffer in the end of all, the way I’ll go romancing through a romping lifetime, for this hour to the dawning of the Judgment Day.
Christy’s life is saved when his father, beaten and bloodied, crawls back onto the scene, having improbably survived his son’s second attack. He gives Christy a good thrashing and marches him off back home. As Christy and father leave to wander the world. Shawn suggests, he and Pegeen get married soon, but she spurns him. Pegeen laments betraying and losing Christy:
 “O my grief, I’ve lost him surely.  I’ve lost the only  playboy of the western world.”
"Synge's play is part of the problem," suggests Michael Billington, blaming it for why this "perfectly creditable revival … never achieves the right ecstatic quality". Women love bad boys, they say. But in J. M. Synge’s timeless comedy “The Playboy of the Western World,” a whole village falls in love with one — a young man who staggers through the pub door one evening and soon confesses that he has killed his father.
"The cast catch the flights of Synge's dramatic language but fail to keep their feet on the ground," says Ian Shuttleworth in The Financial Times.
The play is very exciting in the beginning, but the effect of the dramatic contrasts is considerably diluted when Christy is shown as champion of the village games in which he has won all the prizes. At this end, we are ready to say, what is seen in The Riders of the Sea, “By the grace of the Almighty God ……….. We must be satisfied.”
Christy’s tale represents an attack on the authority. His tales are part of the same pattern in the play as Pegeen’s dream of a “Yellow gown” or his prowess in the Games—something special, thrilling and potentially liberating.
In the end, though, Christy has the last laugh—by “daring to dream” that he could destroy the authority, he starts a chain of events that lead to his genuinely managing to destroy his father’s power  over him. In the end, Pegeen and the others are stuck with their old lives, while the father and son go off to start a new one-based on storytelling.
The Playboy of the Western World is presented as a microcosm of the world itself. It may have taken place in the Aran Islands but it still can be linked to societies in different parts of the world. His characters, most, importantly his protagonist represents the universal youth in search of his identity and how he finally he finds his place in the society as he realizes full potential among other more complex themes in the play.


The Playboy of the Western World has a two-fold theme, patricide and the transformation of a young man by change in circumstances and environment. The story deals with how the Mayo people make a hero of a Youngman who just committed patricide. The glorification of a murderer by the people of Mayo seem quite for fetched but Synge here describes a real character by telling us un his book The Aran Islands of an actual case of this kind whereby the people of Aran Islands gave shelter and helped a murderer who had killed his father. Hence already it is a play whose foundation lies in being real and so relevant.

1 comment:

  1. A loy is not a club. It comes from the Irish word láí that describes a long handled spade… I use one to this day.

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