Thursday, September 21st, 2017...5:08 pmwinslowo

Synge’s Humor Envelops Masculinity and Religion.

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In Act I of J.M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, the character Shawn appears as an archetypal wimp willing to make excuses that expose his “flaws” as a strong, masculine man.  Furthermore, Synge plays on the overwhelming influence and existence of the Catholic Church in Ireland in order to emphasize how Shawn tries to exploit widely accepted societal beliefs for his own benefit.  After Pegeen’s father, Michael, walks into the scene with his two companions, this cowardly side of Shawn comes out in full. Michael responds to his daughter’s worries of walking home alone in the dark and mysterious night by saying, “Let Shawn Keogh stop along with you.” (113-114).  Immediately Shawn responds saying that he “would” but then retorts, “I’m afraid of Father Reilly, and what at all would the holy father and the Cardinals of Rome be saying if they heard I did the like of that?” (117-118).  This is hilarious because not only does it show Shawn’s trepidation in a scenario where we might expect him to try and act macho and in charge, but it also shows how important the church is in this society.  He seems to think that if he justifies his actions using religion it will be an acceptable excuse, but instead it makes him look absurd.  Why would the Pope and the Cardinals pay any attention to a couple in a small Irish town walking home together? He must be insinuating that this would be too much intimate contact before marriage.  It is an absurd fear that is covering up his fear of the night.


  •   Professor Seiler
    September 25th, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Owen–so you read Shawn’s religiosity here–and a religious identity experienced only as fear–as ironic? That is, you think Shawn is being disingenuous, isn’t really scared of the Church, and is only afraid of Pegeen? That’s a distinctive take, and you’d have to stage the rest of the play–in which Shawn is consistently “weak”–to bear it out. Nice job!

  • I like the way you expanded the poem’s theme of religious devotion outward in order to provide insight on the way in which Synge be utilizing Shawn as a vehicle to provide social commentary on the Catholicism of Ireland. When reading your blog post, I wondered how you might stage Shawn’s actions or aesthetics. Maybe Shawn would be wearing a noticeable cross or engaging with a picture of a religious figure during this first scene. Overall, great post!

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