Places: The Plough and the Stars

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1926

First produced: 1926

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: 1916

Places DiscussedClitheroe apartment

Clitheroe Plough and the Stars, Theapartment. Two-room apartment of Jack and Nora Clitheroe in an aging Georgian house in a Dublin slum. The place bears the marks of self-conscious gentility, with lofty windows, a fireplace painted to resemble marble, prints on the walls, and delftware decorations. Together these amenities suggest “an attempt toward a finer expression of domestic life” and represent Nora’s aspirations for domestic tranquility.

Public house

Public house. Bar in which the tenement’s inhabitants encounter Dublin’s street life. The place is defined by a large counter, central window, and comfortable booths where patrons engage in barbed conversation. As armchair patriots debate bromides, the voice of an anonymous patriot drifts in from outside. The voice is that of Padraig Pearse, who is delivering an oration on the steps of the General Post Office which proclaimed Ireland’s independence and inaugurated the Easter Uprising. These words are a dramatic counterpoint to the vapidities of the bar’s customers.

Bessie Burgess’s room

Bessie Burgess’s room. Apartment in the Clitheroe building in which another tenant lives. This home, with its “unmistakable air of poverty bordering on destitution,” stands in stark contrast to the Clitheroes’ place. Burgess is hosting a wake for the dead child of another tenant. Once again the actions on the barricaded streets inform life in the building as soldiers battle and a stray bullet kills Burgess.

Sean O’Casey’s Dublin reveals the hard reality of the slums which nurtured him and the desire for national independence. The contrasting idealism of the Clitheroe home and the grimness of Burgess’s apartment underscore the author’s divided attitudes toward Irish patriotism.

BibliographyAyling, Ronald. Sean O’Casey: Modern Judgments. Nashville, Tenn.: Aurora Press, 1970. Includes valuable comments on The Plough and the Stars. Considerations of O’Casey’s poetic gifts, his use of symbols, his socialism, and his place in the Irish Dramatic Movement.Hogan, Robert. The Experiments of Sean O’Casey. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1960. A refreshing synthesis of dramatic theory and theatrical practice. Argues that in his Dublin trilogy O’Casey is expanding his technical capacities, and that The Plough is a stage in his continuing experimentation.Kilroy, Thomas, ed. Sean O’Casey: A Collection of Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975. An excellent selection from leading Irish, British, and American O’Casey critics, discussing his politics, dramatic technique, and development. Represents disagreements about O’Casey’s achievement as a political dramatist.Krause, David. Sean O’Casey: The Man and His Work. New York: Macmillan, 1975. The best study of O’Casey’s dramatic work. Describes the economic, political, and religious tensions in the Dublin of his time.Sean O’Casey Review 3 (Spring, 1976). Special issue on The Plough and the Stars. Valuable essays on the first production, O’Casey’s realism and pacifism, socialism, the historical background, the O’Casey-Pearse relationship, and Bessie Burgess as Cathleen Ni Houlihan.
Categories: Places