Lady Gregory's one-act play The Rising of the Moon is set on the quay of a small Irish seaport town on a moonlit night. There are some posts and chains, a large barrel, and stone steps leading down to the sea. Three policemen, led by a sergeant who is older...
Lady Gregory's one-act play The Rising of the Moon is set on the quay of a small Irish seaport town on a moonlit night. There are some posts and chains, a large barrel, and stone steps leading down to the sea. Three policemen, led by a sergeant who is older than the others, enter carrying placards and a pot of paste.
The play was first staged in 1907, so the policemen would be wearing uniforms typical of early-twentieth century Irish police officers: dark blue serge tunics and trousers with matching helmets. They would be dim figures in the moonlight.
Soon afterward, a ragged man enters. We are told nothing of his appearance except that he is in rags, but this alone provides a contrast to the sombre uniforms of the three policemen.
As suggested by the title, the dominant element in the setting and atmosphere of the play is the moonlight: its soft, silvery quality, the shadows it casts, and the silence of night-time. The other principal element constantly referenced in the text is the proximity of the sea, since the policemen are always waiting for the sounds of a boat nearby. This also creates a strong sense of anticipation, particularly after the ragged man describes an escaped murderer who is now in the vicinity.
The costumes do not, in fact, say much about the personalities of the characters. The policemen are in uniform, but the sergeant ends up showing sympathy for the rebels despite the affiliation to the English rulers of Ireland that his uniform obviously suggests. Similarly, the rags of the ragged man are essentially a disguise, making him seem a harmless vagrant rather than the fugitive the policemen have been seeking.