The Shadow of a Gunman by Sean O'Casey

Table of Contents

Important background 2

Seán O'Casey 2

The play 2

The War of Independence 2

Early 1920s Ireland 3

Plot summary 4

Characters and Setting 5

Character profiles 5

Setting 5

Atmosphere and Themes 6

Atmosphere 6

Themes 6

Important background

Seán O'Casey

Seán O'Casey was an Irish dramatist and memoirist. A committed socialist, he was the first Irish playwright of note to write about the Dublin working classes.

O'Casey was born in the northern inner-city area of Dublin. His family background was ‘shabby genteel’, and not, as often assumed, the working-class culture in which his plays are set. His parents were Protestants and he was a member of the Church of Ireland, baptised on 28 July 1880 in St. Mary's parish, confirmed at St John the Baptist Church in Clontarf, and an active member of Saint Barnabas until his mid-twenties, when he drifted away from the church.

O'Casey's father died when Seán was just six years of age, leaving a family of thirteen. The family lived a nomadic life thereafter, moving from house to house around north Dublin. As a child, he suffered from poor eyesight, which interfered somewhat with his early education, but O'Casey taught himself to read and write by the age of thirteen.

The play

O'Casey's first accepted play The Shadow of a Gunman was performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1923. This was the beginning of a relationship that was to be fruitful for both theatre and dramatist but ended in some bitterness.

The play deals with the impact of revolutionary politics on Dublin's slums and their inhabitants, and is understood to be set in Mountjoy Square, where he lived during the 1916 Easter Rising. It was followed by Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926). The former deals with the effect of the Irish Civil War on the working class poor of the city, while the latter is set in Dublin in 1916 around the Easter Rising.

Both plays deal realistically with the rhetoric and dangers of Irish patriotism, with tenement life, self-deception, ...

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