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The Playboy of the Western World

by J. M. Synge

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Why was J. M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World badly received when it was first performed?


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The initial production of J. M. Synge`s play The Playboy of the Western World was extremely badly received, causing riots in the theatre, and remained quite controversial for several years. In part, this has to do with the context of its performance. The Abbey Theatre was started by William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory as a place for recollection and reproduction of Celtic traditions, as part of a nationalistic movement concerned with ending English political and cultural hegemony. In this context, Synge`s work was unpopular because of the unflattering way it portrayed Irish rural culture, in many ways reproducing stereotypes such as the cowardly braggart with a gift for blarney, the Irish as alcoholic, etc.

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