Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Quare Fellow

The Quare Fellow, a man scheduled for execution because he murdered his brother. He never appears on stage but is the focal point of all discussion and represents all quare fellows (prisoners scheduled for execution) everywhere.


Dunlavin, an old man who has spent most of his life in Irish prisons without becoming dulled by the experience. Often, he seems to speak for the playwright, doling out astute pieces of social criticism. His comparison of upper-and lower-class murder styles, for example, and his insistence that he prefers murderers to perpetrators of sexual crimes are comic, set pieces that focus on social pretensions and hypocrisies, which the playwright has attacked elsewhere. Dunlavin is a crafty old-timer who knows the prison system and can con authorities, cadge cigarette butts, and find access to alcohol. He is sympathetic to other prisoners, providing a practical example of how to survive an inhumane situation by using humor, but he is also hardened to the realities of his life and does not expect softness, compassion, or even justice from his world.

Warder Regan

Warder Regan, an unusual prison guard whose humor is a match for Dunlavin’s. Like Dunlavin, he uses his humor as a means of coping with a prison situation and a world that he would otherwise find unbearable. He is too familiar with the prisoners to suit prison authorities, and his clear parallels with Dunlavin prevent any implication that all virtue lies on the prisoners’ side of the bars.


Neighbour, a contemporary of Dunlavin, also a prison old-timer. He is less sardonic than Dunlavin, but his presence allows the two old men to reminisce about the harshness of poverty outside the prison and to analyze prison life itself, thus voicing many of the play’s social concerns. Neighbour’s...

(The entire section is 780 words.)