J. M. Synge pp 55-62 | Cite as

J. M. Synge and the Ireland of his Time

  • W. B. Yeats


On Saturday, January 26, 1907, I was lecturing in Aberdeen, and when my lecture was over I was given a telegram which said, ‘Play great success.’ It had been sent from Dublin after the second act of The Playboy of the Western World, then being performed for the first time. After one in the morning, my host brought to my bedroom this second telegram, ‘Audience broke up in disorder at the word shift.’ I knew no more until I got the Dublin papers on my way from Belfast to Dublin on Tuesday morning. On the Monday night no word of the play had been heard. About forty young men had sat in the front seats of the pit, and stamped and shouted and blown trumpets from the rise to the fall of the curtain. On the Tuesday night also the forty young men were there. They wished to silence what they considered a slander upon Ireland’s womanhood. Irish women would never sleep under the same roof with a young man without a chaperon, nor admire a murderer, nor use a word like ‘shift’; nor could any one recognise the country men and women of Davis1 and Kickham2 in these poetical, violent, grotesque persons, who used the name of God so freely, and spoke of all things that hit their fancy.


Irish Woman Moral Indignation Front Seat Tuesday Morning Monday Night 
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  1. 1.
    Thomas Osborne Davis (1814–45), Irish writer and politician who was the chief organiser and poet of the Young Ireland movement. He wrote patriotic verses such as ‘A Nation Once Again’ and ‘The Battle of Fontenoy’. His writings virtually became the gospel of the Sinn Fein movement. His Essays and Poems, with a Centenary Memoir, 1845–1945 appeared in 1945.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Charles Joseph Kickham (1826–82), Irish poet and novelist whose nationalistic writings were immensely popular in Ireland throughout the nineteenth century. Knocknagow (1879) is generally accepted as his finest work.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1977

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  • W. B. Yeats

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