Sean O'Casey, The Plough and the Stars

Sean O'Casey (1880–1964) was born the last of five surviving children to poor Protestant parents in a Dublin tenement. His father died in 1886 and the family was provided for by his mother, who became to him the embodiment of true heroism, which consists of endurance by strong women rather than the heroics of fighting men. He had little if any formal education and began work at the age of fourteen. During the nine years he worked as a laborer on the railways, he devoted much of his energy to educating himself, learning Irish, going to plays, and writing, initially under the Gaelic form of his name, Sean O'Cathesaigh. He also became a member of the Irish Republican and Gaelic Leagues. He received encouragement from Yeats's patron, Augusta Gregory, and sent a number of plays to the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The Shadow of a Gunman was performed there in 1923, as well as Juno and the Paycock in 1924. They were published together as Two Plays in 1925. Riots broke out at performances of his third play at the Abbey, The Plough and the Stars, in 1926, the audience objecting to the depiction of Patrick Pearse >> note 1 in an unheroic light. The play was dedicated: "To the gay laugh of my mother at the gate of the grave."

Following a disagreement with Yeats and the Abbey Theatre management, which rejected the experimental The Silver Tassie (1928), O'Casey moved to England in 1926, where he remained until his death in 1964. His later works include Within the Gates (1933), Red Roses for Me (1942), Cock-a-Doodle Dandy (1949), and The Bishop's Bonfire (1955).

 

The Plough and the Stars.


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