Critical Context

Cock-a-Doodle Dandy unites many of the themes that appear in O’Casey’s later plays and consolidates them in a definitive statement on the repressive religious atmosphere and the suspicious grasping avarice of the Ireland he had known and which remained unchanged by independence after World War I or prosperity after World War II. In the play, O’Casey joins the romantic vision he sought to express in some of his critical writings with the grim contempt he had conceived for the reactionary force of the Church in Irish public life. Cock-a-Doodle Dandy pillories those who had resented not only his own social criticism but also the work of Ireland’s best artists, such as James Joyce. Moreover, although O’Casey continued to write for the final decade and a half of his life, Cock-a-Doodle Dandy may be his last dramatic work that approaches the level of his early masterpieces.

In his characterizations of Father Domineer and the superstitious neopagan seer, Shanaar, O’Casey created two allegorical figures embodying sterility and the dehumanizing force of religious bigotry. The achievement of the play, however, may ultimately lie in the creation of the Cock and Robin Adair, its defender and apologist. The feminine characters are also well drawn, though none is quite of the stature of O’Casey’s earlier Juno. At any rate, O’Casey is able to represent sympathetic and energetic forces to counter the evils he ridicules—an achievement beyond the reach of many satirical playwrights.