Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Beauty Queen of Leenane was the first of McDonagh’s plays to be produced, and it won immediate acclaim for its author. It forms part of a trilogy that includes A Skull in Connemara (pr., pb. 1997) and The Lonesome West (pr., pb. 1997), which were produced at the Druid Theater one year after The Beauty Queen of Leenane. All three plays develop the same set of characters and reflect life in the loneliness of western Ireland, a loneliness that borders on despair. McDonagh, in the plays that followed The Beauty Queen of Leenane, continued to focus on lost, violent characters trapped in empty lives without hope of fulfillment. The vigor, and often humor, with which he develops these characters shows understanding and sympathy, a keen ear for speech patterns, and an exceptional sense of pacing, which creates suspense and highly dramatic and effective conclusions.

Critics have placed The Beauty Queen of Leenane among those plays that view Ireland as a modern wasteland, which, like Maureen, has been deprived of romance or any vitalizing experience, with the possible exception of violence. Audiences have found pessimism, moral disengagement, and aimlessness running through all of McDonagh’s plays. Maureen and Mag are not burdened by conscience as they seek to destroy any chance of happiness for each other; their nihilism reflects an amoral, uninvolved culture that has lost touch with the land or with...

(The entire section is 491 words.)