In Sean O’Casey’s play, Juno and “Captain” Jack Boyle are a married couple. The vain Jack is the “paycock” of the title. The couple have two children together, and Juno’s main activity is to keep the family together and their household running. Years of having always to be the practical one in the couple have taken a toll, and Juno always seems anxious and tired. Beneath her worn-out façade, she is still a good-looking woman.
The playwright gives Juno some depth of character but in some ways makes her an archetypal mother figure. Within her focus on the family, she is sometimes harsh on her children and often seems uncaring toward people outside the family. Rather than support Mary, her daughter, in a labor strike, she complains of the lost income. Her treatment of Mrs. Tancred, for example, who just lost her husband, comes across as insensitive.
Much of the action revolves around how a windfall legacy will be spent, and the later revelation that the inheritance has fallen through—leaving them in more debt than ever. A parallel, and even more serious, issue is her son Johnny’s involvement with the IRA. Ultimately, suspected of betraying Tancred and causing his death, Johnny is killed as well. It falls to Juno to identify his body. In the course of the play, Juno must confront a number of other serious issues, including learning that Mary is pregnant, and that her husband has betrayed her. The question of whether she will, in turn, stay loyal to Jack is another significant plot point.