The Plough and the Stars

Definition

Theater

  • A tragicomedy by Sean O'Casey, first performed atthe Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in 1926. It is set in the slumsof Dublin (which O'Casey knew at first-hand) during the 1916 EasterRising. O'Casey angered Irish patriots by emphasizing the antiheroicaspects of the rebellion and its destructive effects on the livesof ordinary people.

    The Plough and the Stars is the Abbey Theatre's mostperformed play but also one of the most troubled. On the fourth nightof the first production, police had to quell rioting members of theaudience as they stormed on stage to attack the cast. W. B. Yeats,one of the theater's founders, cried at the audience (in allusionto the riots that greeted Synge's The Playboy of the Western Worldnearly 20 years earlier), "You have disgraced yourselves again.You are rocking the cradle of a new masterpiece." After a revivalin 1951, the Abbey burned down (ironically, the play ends with soldierssinging 'Keep the Home fires Burning'). When the theater reopenedin 1966, The Plough and the Stars was the second play to bepresented. Many Irish actors have excelled in the leading role ofthe antiheroic Fluther Good; one highly acclaimed performancewas that of Cyril Cusack (1910 - 93) in a production at the NationalTheatre in 1977.

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