“The Plough and the Stars” by Sean O’Casey

26 Sep

Our visit to the O’Reilly Theatre to watch “The Plough and the Stars”!

Machismo men with red-blooded tempers, alcoholics and patriotic people by every sense of the word, these three Irish stereotypes became very apparent in the play my drama class watched this past weekend, entitled, The Plough and the Stars, by Sean O’Casey.
Based on the famous unsuccessful 1916 uprising of Irish society against British rule, O’Casey uses the first two acts to give his audience a perspective into Irish society prior to the uprising in 1915. As a member of the audience, I was able to gain a greater understanding into the factors that led to the conflict; which include a desire to gain independence and pursue other liberties that were denied by the British. Moreover, there was a strong element of nationalism that featured in these first two acts, expressed by the protagonist, Jack Clitheroe, and the characters of Uncle Peter and the Young Covey, a cousin of the Clitheroes’. There were various scenes in these first two acts where these characters would go on long rants about the discriminatory British rule and how the average Irish workingman deserves a better life.
The last two acts were set during the 1916 Easter uprising within the very heat of the conflict. I was exposed to the aggressive nature of Irish men through the character of Jack, who abused his wife Nora in one of the scenes, after she kept on insisting that he come home instead of going to fight the British. The character of Fluther reinforces this stereotype when he gets into a fight at a pub about politics with a British man.
Finally, the use of alcohol throughout the play played a crucial role in many of the scenes. Not only did this element of the play cause many conflicts, it was used as a mechanism by the characters to deal with the stresses of the conflict and express their feelings. Thus, the overconsumption of alcohol within the play was believable, as a large part of Irish culture involves drinking.
The play highlights three important characteristics of Irish culture that helped me better understand the people of Ireland. I was able to experience these stereotypes in the context of the 1916 uprising, and this interesting opportunity has made me realize that these stereotypes are true of the Irish people to a limited extent; not all Irishmen belong to these stereotypes as was expressed in the play.
I am glad to have watched such a historically rich and entertaining play so early into my experience here in Ireland, and look forward to viewing other forms of arts/media to develop a greater familiarity and understanding of Irish culture.

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