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The Playboy of the Western World Paperback – April 18, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

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.
Edna O'Brien is the internationally-acclaimed author of 18 books including Down by the River, The House of Splendid Isolation, Mother Ireland, The Country Girls Trilogy, and A Fanatic Heart (all available from Plume). Born and raised in Ireland, she lives in London.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 68 pages
  • Publisher: Book Jungle (April 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160597496X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605974965
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When this play was produced for the first time in 1907 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, the Irish Independent noted that "a mob of howling devils" rioted at the end of Act I because Synge had used the word "shift," meaning "petticoat." The rioting continued on successive nights for a week, because the focus of the action is Christy Mahon, a fugitive, who ironically gains the adulation of a small village because he claims to have killed his father. Every newspaper in Dublin abhorred the play and the Dublin Evening Mail was appalled at its "libeling" of "the saintly Irish peasant." (Quotations from newspapers of the day are widely available and are a fascinating commentary on the period.) Today, a hundred years later, the play is not dated, feeling completely fresh and completely modern. Our on-going fascination with misdeeds and miscreants appears to be so universal that this wryly satiric play is now regarded as Synge's comic masterpiece.

The plot is well known by now. Christy Mahon arrives at a small country inn in a panic, believing that the peelers are tracking him for the murder of his father. The locals at the inn's bar, instead of being horrified by his actions, admire his courage in taking on his father, and give the meek and timid Christy a feeling of accomplishment that he has never had at home. Pegeen Mike, daughter of the owner, hires him to work at the inn, where he becomes the focus of the town's women, both young and old, as he tells, again and again, the story of his (increasingly brave) fight with his slave-driving father. Christy, however, has eyes only for Pegeen.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ivan Yager on June 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
At one point in Ulysses, during a discussion of Shakespeare, Malachi Mulligan asks if Shakespeare isn't the fellow who sounds like John Millington Synge. That's a jab, but a friendly one. I don't think it's intended to be far off from the truth either.

I agree that reading these plays aloud is wonderful.

In a class I took, we read extended portions of "Playboy of the Western World". The class was busting, tearing up with laughter. The play is fall-over funny even if you're reading to yourself.

I just have to say though, that the plays are for performing.

A friend of mine and I did a scene as an acting exercise for a class she was taking--it was one of the scenes in which Christy courts Pegeen Mike--from "Playboy of the Western World". The audience--about 15 people--were spellbound. We looked out at dropped jaws.

This friend of mine and I did a competent job of acting. What blew the class away, really, was the ecstatic language and the infatuation one feels for the characters, their solidity, and the dramatic electricity between them... Lines from this bit come back to me, what? 20 years later? It's like music! The action goes from high tragedy to knockabout.

Well, it's what makes the Irish the Irish.

And the play's been just as good when others did it.

"Riders to the Sea" is like a religious ceremony, similar to the way that the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles are. They use choruses to much the same effect. The action is ritualized and repetitive. Idealized characters utter formula phrases. "Riders" sounds out some elemental terrain: it packs a deep sort of wallop. I'd love to see this performed.

Marvelous English theater!
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You really lose nothing in going for a used copy of the eleven year old edition, as it is exactly page for page, word for word the same all the way through, and with the same high quality one expects from the Oxford World Classics series.

Only the cover design is altered, but with the same painting in detail from Sean Keating's Dun Aengus. Most lamentably and most cruelly and most incomprehensibly, this series remains entitled not only Oxford World's Classics, but also Oxford ENGLISH Drama.

This is not English Drama, but Irish National Art, written for the Irish National Theatre directed by Mr. WB Yeats himself, with Lady Gregory in the Irish Renaissance of one hundred years ago. Upon these plays the Abbey Theatre thrived, and everyone involved, and all of the audience, all arise as one body to protest this misnomer.

This is not English Drama; 'tis Irish through and through.

This slander is like including Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney in an anthology of British Poetry.

But let that not dissuade you from this book, this National treasure, ably edited by Ann Saddlemyer in 1995. Her learned fourteen page introduction is comprehensive without being wearisome, and provides fully the background of these great plays. The note on the text indicates the plays are drawn from Ms. Saddlemyer's 1968 Oxford University Press edition, which she crafted from a close examination of every available draft and worksheet.

In the present edition (originally of 1995) she adds Explanatory Notes based most notably on Nicholas Grene's study of an Abbey Theatre promptbook and typescript presented in his 1982 CUA edition of the Synge play Well of the Saints, as well as other sources.
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