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The Playboy of the Western World, Essential Revision Notes

© 2016.

All revision notes have been produced by mockness ltd for

Table of Contents

Context 5

JM Synge 5

Inspiration 6

The ‘Playboy’ 7

Summary 8

Structure and Style 12

Setting 12

Glossary – Locations; People 12

Genre 12

Dialogue 13

Glossary – Language used 14

Imagery 15

Humour 15

Characters 16

Christopher Mahon 16

Analysis 16

Margaret Flaherty 20

Analysis 20

The Widow Quin 22

Analysis 22

Michael Flaherty 24

Shawn Keogh 24

Philly Cullen and Jimmy Farrell 24

Sara Tansey, Susan Brady, and Honour Blake 24

Old Mahon 24

Father Reilly 24

Kate Cassidy 24

Themes 25

Escapism 25

Darkness 25

Religion 25

Fathers 26

Social Expectations 26

Poetry 27

The Playboy 27

Marriage 27

Important Quotations Explained 28

1. 28

2. 28

3. 28

4. 29

5. 29

6. 29

7. 30

8. 30

9. 30

10. 31

Sample Answers 32

In his Preface to The Playboy, Synge writes that “on the stage one must have reality, and one must have joy." What does he mean by this? 32

One of the first compliments Pegeen pays Christy is to compare him to “the poets.” Why is this significant? 32

Why did The Playboy’s first-night audience grow hostile at the entrance of Old Mahon? 32

Shawn appeals incessantly to the authority of the absent Father Reilly. Why is this significant? 32

Discuss the inversion of the Cuchulainn myth, as Synge uses it in The Playboy. 33

Discuss the “Theory of Regeneration,” and its importance to Irish Culture at the beginning of the 20th century. How does The Playboy reflect this theory? 33

How are we to understand the term ‘Playboy’ in terms of the play? 33

What was the purpose of Synge’s program note? 34

How does Synge’s Preface to The Playboy differ from the program note? 34

Would you describe Pegeen Mike as strong-willed, weak, or somewhere in between? 34

Fathers and Sons in The Playboy of the Western World 36


The play debuted on January 26, 1907, at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The National Theatre Society produced the drama and W.G. Fay directed and played the part of Christy Mahon. Riots and protests followed this opening performance after...

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