Major Dramas or Play's of John Millington Synge

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Plays

      Synge's short dramatic career includes six remarkable plays: Riders to the Sea (1903), The Shadow of the Glen (1905), The Well of the Saint (1905), The Playboy of the Western World (1907), The Tinker's Wedding (1908), Deirdre of the Sorrows (1910), and When the Moon Has Set (1968)

Riders to the Sea

      Riders to the Sea, one-act play, presents the poignant tragedy of the Islanders. These old women and fishermen are symbolic or representative figures. Synge’s Riders to the sea is not to present the external but the psychic reality of the life of the people. The play deals with the pathetic life of Maury a, who constantly by lamenting the loss of her children. It has been said that the sea is the main protagonist in the drama. The play emphasizes the helplessness and isolation, also courage and endurance of Maurya, the representative of suffering females in the Aran Islands. The denial of divine mercy intensifies the tragic predicament of the Islanders. The title of the play Riders of the Sea has supernatural significance because one rider is Bertley and the other is extinct, only seen by Maurya in her vision, her dead son, Michael.

The Shadow of the Glen

      This play was first performed in Molesworth Hall, in October 1903, while it was completed in the same year. Pat Dirane, an old man of Inishmaan, provided Synge with the stuff of the story. The story deals with an elder man who pretended to be died only to catch his wife red-handed with his lover. Futility of love is expressed by Michael Dara’s fake love for Nora as the only interest for him, is her land and money. This play works on the basic theme of female loneliness and dependence on indifferent men. The major situation is comic but the sordidness of the situation lightens the comic effect. Like all folk tales, it was international in origin and must have depended for its existence of the fact that it was a good story and dealt with emotions and altitudes close to the universal conscience.

The Well of the Saints

      The first of Synge’s three-act plays The Well of the Saints dramatises the clash between dream and reality. A blind couple, Martin and Mary Doul are persuaded by the people around them that they are the finest couple. When sight is restored to them by the holy water of the Saint, they are sadly disillusioned due to the revelation of their ugliness. The Saint promises to restore their sight permanently—but Martin rejects his offer although their neighbors try to make them realize their continued blindness, leading them along “a story path with the north wind blowing behind” to death. The human aspirations, failings and sufferings presented in the play are universal. The theme has a circular pattern: the protagonist’s journey from illusion through reality to illusion again.

The Playboy of the Western World

      The Playboy of the Western World is built on a myth, that of a simple person, Christy Manon, who professed to have killed his father in order to escape his tyranny, takes shelter in a country and boasts of being a murderer, becoming a libero in the eyes of the whole village population. The themes of dream and reality patricide and self-discovery of Christy are all recapitulated: Synge has narrated the source—folk belief in this connection in his Aran Islands: “This impulse to protect the criminal is universal in the West. It seems partly due to the association between justice and the hated English jurisdiction, but more directly to the primitive feeling of these people who are never criminals yet always capable of crime, that a man will not do wrong unless he is under the influence of a passion which is as irresponsible as a storm on the sea. If a man has killed his father and is already sick and broken with remorse they can see the reason why he should be dragged away and killed by the law.”

      Synge was exhausted by the angry hostility to his play. The Free man’s Journal described the play as “unmitigated protracted libel upon Irish Peasant men and worse still upon Irish peasant girlhood.... His play, Synge insisted, was a comedy an extravaganza made to amuse...”.

The Tinker’s Wedding

      The Tinker’s Wedding a two-act play is characterized by a farcical element. It deals with the story of a tinker couple who engage a priest to marry them after promising him a sovereign and a tin can. The recurrent themes of the horror of death and old age and of loneliness in all of Synge’s plays have been included here as well. But the play was criticized as being anti-clerical in tendency, for the irony is not confined only to the priest and formal Christian values, but extended to the institution of Marriage. Comparing it with The Shadow of the Glen, Raymond William has observed “The comedy between the thieving tinkers and the mercenary priests is lively, although it is less controlled and concentrated than that of the, Shadow of the Glen....” Synge defines the purpose of this drama thus: “We should not go to the theatre as we go to a chemist’s or a dram shop but as we go to a dinner where the food we need is taken with pleasure and excitement.” Despite its self-conscious Verbal decoration, the play does have a masterly blending of the comic and the serious in this rough-and-tumble farce.

Deirdre of the Sorrows

      Deirdre of the Sorrows is Synge’s last play and was published posthumously. It is the only play by Synge on legendary heroic themes instead of an Aran Story; a different dramatic mode. The story tells how the three sons of Usna, Naisi, Ainnle and Ardan were ruined because of Deirdre. At Deirdre’s birth, it was predicted that Ireland is to be battled and destroyed, because of her beauty. Comchubar, High king of Ulster is betrothed to Deviche who is loved madly by Naisi the elder son of Usna and causes him punishment. Deirdre also accompanies Naisi, in his exile. After seven years, they were persuaded to return and Naisi with his two brothers fall into the trap prepared by the king. Consequently, Deirdre commits suicide. Though legendary, the story of the play, is archetypal. The note of sadness due to the old age and passion for youth is celebrated in the present play, with profound mastery.

When the Moon Has Set

     When the Moon Has Set a two-act drama, was completed during 1900-1901. This play was considered unsuitable to had been performed at the Abbey Theatre. The story deals with the death of a young man due to the frustration in love. The play opens with the entrance of a young man, namely Colm Sweeney who informs Bride, the maid that he had met a mad woman who was later revealed the beloved of the dead man, uncle of Colm Sweeney. He was told that the lady refused to marry the young man, when all the arrangements were made thus gave a big shock to him. Colm Regrets at the loss and blames Mary Costello for the miserable death of his Uncle. Forgetting all the worries Colm puts a ring (supposes to be a part of Uncle’s belongings) in Eileen’s finger. We also find some biographical touch in this play as Synge was also rejected by her beloved only because he was an atheist.

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