Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Boyle apartment

Boyle apartment. Tenement in Dublin, Ireland, in which are crammed the four members of the Boyle family. The atmosphere is one of claustrophobia—all actions occur in the front room of this two-room flat—while beyond its confines Ireland is struggling to gain independence from England and, in a larger sense, its colonial past.

Stage directions indicate a place that is sparse and dilapidated, though a few possessions are significant—a laborer’s shovel, which sees no work given the captain’s assiduous avoidance of employment. A clock rests face down on the mantel, and time seems to stand still for the Boyles; their concerns have less to do with the unfolding future than with a repetition of predictable patterns from the past. Historical changes are overtaking them and will belie their predictable lifestyle. Another symbolic ornament is a picture of the Virgin Mary, under which a votive candle remains perpetually lit until it burns out in act 3, signaling the end of son Johnny’s life.

Beginning with act 2, the furnishings change dramatically when it appears that the captain has been blessed with a generous inheritance. Gone are the meager furnishings, replaced by “glaringly upholstered” chairs, cheap pictures, and artificial flowers. By act 3 all this has been repossessed, and the family’s fortunes fall precipitously.

In many ways this apartment is a mirror of Sean O’Casey’s own humble origins in the tenements of Dublin’s poorest neighborhoods and a symbol of the lack of opportunity in Ireland.

Juno and the Paycock Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ayling, Ronald. Sean O’Casey. Nashville, Tenn.: Aurora Press, 1970. Selection from O’Casey criticism includes valuable comments on Juno and the Paycock. 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 synthesis of dramatic theory and theatrical technique. Argues that in his Dublin trilogy, O’Casey is continually expanding his technical capacities and that Juno and the Paycock 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: his politics, dramatic technique, and development. Representing disagreements about O’Casey’s achievement as a political dramatist.

Krause, David. Sean O’Casey: The Man and His Work. New York: Macmillan, 1975. One of the best studies of O’Casey’s dramatic genius and the complex engagement between this milieu and his dramatic work. Describes the economic, political, and religious tensions in Dublin in his time, his involvement with Irish revolutionary movements, the Gaelic League, and the Irish Labor Movement.

Owens, Cóilín, D., and Joan N. Radner, eds. Irish Drama: 1900-1980. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1990. Places Juno and the Paycock in the context of the Irish dramatic movement, provides a clear general introduction to the critical issues in the play, a bibliography, and comprehensive annotations to the text.