J. M. Synge pp 30-32 | Cite as

The Well of the Saints

  • William G. Fay


And now the Abbey Theatre was launched on its voyage of fame. It was not a rich adventure. We had only a matter of forty pounds in cash in hand to keep us afloat, but, thanks to Miss Horniman,1 we were worthily housed and free from debt, and could fairly boast of being the only endowed theatre in the English-speaking world. We faced the future with confidence, not to say hardihood, and the measure of it was that for our very next production (February 1905) we trailed our coats in front of the Dublin public by presenting a full-length play by Synge. This was The Well of the Saints,2 in my opinion his best play. He gave himself a large enough canvas on which to paint the picture in his mind. He had felt what all writers of one-act plays must feel sooner or later, that the concentration demanded by a short play allows one to give only the headings and suggestions of what ought to be full scenes, if truthfully developed. As for the story, a great deal of research has gone in trying to find out the source of it; but to me this has always seemed to be a waste of time, though it may be interesting. All good dramatists have taken their plots from where they could find them. Shakespeare used Italian novelle; Wilde got the theme of Lady Windermere’s Fan from The Family Herald; and Arnold Bennett, as he once told me, had a box full of old Spanish plays that he dipped into now and again when he was short of ideas. Whether the idea of The Well of the Saints came from The Maid of Malines or Marianiela is immaterial. In any case those who knew Synge knew that in his travels through the back mountains of Wicklow and Kerry, as well as during his sojourn in the Aran Islands, he had collected enough stories for many plays without having recourse to foreign soil.


Good Play Harsh Realism Irish People Sand Hill Short Speech 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • William G. Fay

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