Thursday, September 21st, 2017...8:31 pmolearyc

Humor in Playboy of the Western World

Jump to Comments

Synge’s Playboy of The Western World begins with satirical commentary about how typical plays with love stories turn out. Peegan is categorizing a list of unusual wedding items for a woman of a lower socioeconomic status which brings out the initial satirical tone. She mentions how she intends to buy many yards of yellow fabric for her gown. In addition, she includes on her list “A pair of lace boots with lengthy heels” (1-2). Shortly after, Shawn enters the scene I instantly found the relationship between Shawn and Peegan to be comical. Peegan is alone in the sheebeen and hypothetically the couple could be alone for the night. Whereas you normally would see a Male character be more forward, Shawn is afraid of being with Peegan when a third party is not around, nor does he want to sin before they are married. I found similarities between Shawn and Peegan’s dynamic and their embodiment of reverse gender roles to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Both women can have a sassy, synod, and at times, aggressive tone. Additionally, they both manage to make the male character feel emasculated. Lady Macbeth tries to convince Macbeth to kill the king, and Peegan wants Shawn to stay with her to protect her from the unknown that is outside, but both men are fearful. I found the parenthesis before a character’s line explaining the tone to be useful when reading this play. The notation helps the reader see how you are supposed to interpret the dialogue. After Peegan expresses how Shawn shouldn’t leave her alone until morning, Shawn’s response (with awkward humor) noted in the book, is that “ If it is, when were wedded in a short while you’ll have no call to complain, for I’ve little will to be waking off to wakes or weddings in the darkness of the night.” Peegan responds with rather scornful, good humor “You’re making mighty sure Shaneen that I’ll wed you now.” Although I did find Peegan’s banter to be comical, I do believe the play could you some more conspicuous, outlandish comic relief, similar to the scene with the drunk towards the end of the play Macbeth. Although Playboy of the Western World is intended to be a comedy and does not need the same comic relief as a tragedy, I think it would be both funny and useful if Peegan made a reference to Macbeth saying “Un-sex me here” in a light-hearded sarcastic tone, to alert the audience early on of this humorous relationship between two characters where there is not as much romance. Further, that there is this strong sense of reverse gender roles.


  •   Professor Seiler
    September 25th, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Caroline–intriguing idea to build a Lady Macbeth reference directly into _Playboy_. One effect there would be to displace the association with murder from Christy to Pegeen. Was this your intention? Good job!

    One or two paragraph breaks and your points would be even clearer.

  • I think it’s a rather interesting comparison you make between Macbeth and this play. I don’t know that the un-sex me quote here is particularly helpful, but seeing Shawn as an ironic descendent of Macbeth reshapes the way both roles sit theatrically, and, in doing so, I think forces anyone working on this play to rethink the Shawn/Christy dichotomy.

  • I really appreciate the ingenuity of this post! I would have never thought to pair Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with the central figures of “Playboy of the Western World”, but I think that this juxtaposition, particularly between Lady Macbeth and Pegeen, emphasizes the way in which these characters interact with the opposite sex. The only thing I would push back on a little bit is the idea that Pegeen completely emasculates Shawn- I would argue that that Shawn is made to look less manly not only because he stands in contrast to the satirical, rather blunt Pegeen, but because he himself refuses to engage in the sexual acts that one might expect and prioritizes religion and purity over bravado and sex. Nevertheless, wonderful post!

  • I love your comparison to Macbeth! The “usual” gender roles do seem to be reversed between Shawn and Pegeen in this play. I think the role that murder plays in this play and in Macbeth would be a cool thing to consider too, how are the two related?

Leave a Reply