Brendan Behan Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brendan Behan (BEE-uhn) emerged as a significant Irish author and playwright during the 1950’s but failed to fulfill that promise in the last six years of his life. One of seven children, he was born in Dublin in 1923, the son of Stephen and Kathleen Kearney Behan. Deeply committed to Irish nationalism, Stephen Behan had been imprisoned in Kilmainhain Prison for his actions during the Irish Civil War, and Kathleen Behan was consistently outspoken in her support of Irish independence. With such a family background, Brendan’s enrollments in the Fianna Eireann at the age of seven and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) at the age of fourteen are clearly understandable.{$S[A]Street, Emmet;Behan, Brendan}

Behan’s formal education was slight, consisting of six years with the School of the French Sisters of Charity and three with the Christian Brothers. Although poor, his parents enhanced this schooling by continually reading to all of their children. Behan’s education was completed by his apprenticeship to the house-painting business, but his work in that trade was interrupted because of his IRA activities and subsequent imprisonment. Arrested in 1939 at the age of sixteen for carrying the makings of a homemade bomb, Behan served a three-year term in an English reform school. Then in 1942 he was arrested again for firing at police officers while they pursued three IRA officers. Sentenced to fourteen years in an Irish prison, Behan served only a portion of the time, released in 1946 under a general amnesty from the government.

Prison was to become the impetus for Behan’s literary career. With the time and resources to refine his knowledge of Gaelic, Behan worked on several poems. The genius of these twelve lyric poems was recognized by their inclusion in a volume of modern Irish poetry. Prison also provided Behan with the material for his critically acclaimed autobiography The Borstal Boy, as well as the characters and plot for his stage play The Quare Fellow.

Released from imprisonment a second time, Behan painted houses, served an additional four-month sentence for falsifying his identity and reentering England to help an Irish prisoner escape, joined the Irish Press Association as a freelance journalist (he wrote a number of distinguished columns for the Irish Press), and worked as a broadcaster for Ireland’s national radio. During...

(The entire section is 980 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Brendan Behan Published by Gale Cengage

Brendan Behan was born February 9, 1923, in Dublin, Ireland, into a working-class Irish-Catholic family that had long been involved in the...

(The entire section is 471 words.)