The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

In The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Mag Folan wages a relentless and petty war with her forty-year-old daughter, Maureen, a spinster, who lives in lonely isolation with her semi-invalid mother in a small cottage in the remote Irish community of Leenane. The two women have developed a mutually dependent relationship in which each vies for superiority over the other, both bound to an emotionally empty, dead-end life. Mag constantly accuses Maureen of neglecting her, and the daughter accuses her mother of faking illness in an effort to keep her home. Pato Dooley, a handsome Irishman who lives in London and is employed as a construction worker there, is visiting his family in Leenane. Pato’s brother Ray comes by to invite the Folans to his uncle’s going-away party. Mag is too ill, but Maureen goes and meets Pato. She invites him home, and he stays the night. The next morning, Maureen flaunts their night of lovemaking before her mother, who responds by telling Pato of Maureen’s period of madness years earlier. Mag’s attempt to discourage Maureen’s new lover fails, however: When Pato leaves, his and Maureen’s mutual attraction remains strong. The audience senses that he offers Maureen the hope of escape from her miserable life with Mag.

Back in London, Pato plans to emigrate to the United States and writes Maureen, asking her to accompany him there. Fearing that Mag may intercept the letter, he entrusts its delivery to his brother, Ray, with...

(The entire section is 586 words.)