Juno and the Paycock
On the NYRgallery, Sam Sacks writes: Juno and the Paycock, considered by many to be one of Sean O’Casey’s greatest plays, was written in the aftermath of the Irish civil war between supporters of the newly established Irish Free State and the “Die-Hards” who saw the treaty with Britain as rank capitulation; yet O’Casey submerged the volatile politics of the moment in the busy background of a domestic melodrama. For O’Casey, internecine bloodshed was merely one of many ways that man exhibited his capacity for folly.
Folly is here embodied by “Captain” Jack Boyle, the layabout patriarch of the tenement-dwelling Boyle clan, who with his mooching, wheedling drinking “butty” Joxer Daly expends most of his energy avoiding work. Boyle’s roaring arguments with his harried wife Juno dominate the play’s early scenes, and their rows often sound like laugh-track television. (Boyle: “Are you never goin’ to give us a rest?” Juno: “O’ you’re never tired o’ lookin’ for a rest.”) But through a series of classic narrative reversals—a vanished inheritance, an abandoned fiancée, an act of political vengeance—what starts as a rollicking lowbrow comedy becomes a bitter, deeply moving tragedy.
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