Act II Summary

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Later that day, Leslie is guarded by the IRA Officer and Volunteer but not closely enough to stop him interacting with the other residents of the brothel. He scrounges a cup of tea off the inexperienced Volunteer, and as soon as the Volunteer’s back is turned, ‘‘all hell breaks loose.’’ Colette offers him a free five minutes upstairs, while other characters generously produce ‘‘stout, hymn sheets, aspidistras, and words of comfort.’’

Pat clears them out of the room, then leaves with the Volunteer. Teresa enters with the prisoner’s tea tray. They start talking. Leslie begs a cigarette off her. She produces one that Pat gave her—an early sign that the old Republican has a warm heart—then offers to go out and buy a pack of cigarettes for him. She exits. The Officer then accuses Leslie of attempting to escape (in fact he wants to go to the bathroom) and implicates Teresa. Pat assures the belligerent man that Teresa will ‘‘do nothing to bring the police here.’’ For all of Pat’s assurances, the officer is unimpressed, and the two men are once more at each other’s throats.

Distracted by a street demonstration against the impending execution of the Belfast prisoner, the Officer exits and the other characters seize the opportunity to visit Leslie. Miss Gilchrist and Mulleady are the first of his visitors. They spend their time with him indulging in nostalgic praise of the British monarchy and singing songs celebrating self-love. Pat soon drives them off-stage. Teresa returns, and the young man and woman continue to exchange details about their lives, developing an intimacy that seems to be leading towards romance.

The couple are interrupted by Monsewer, who stages a mock drill, then sings a song about ‘‘the Captains and the Kings.’’ This light interlude is disrupted by the Officer, who returns to inspect the prisoner. He then leaves, while Teresa remains, and tells Leslie about her strict Catholic convent education. In a compassionate gesture, Teresa gives the prisoner her medal of the Virgin Mary. The atmosphere changes when they sing a courtship song to each other, then suddenly leap into bed. Discovered by Meg, Teresa protests innocently that ‘‘I was just dusting.’’

Meg begins singing a song about the Easter Uprising, which Leslie, in a self-referential authorial aside, says was written by ‘‘Brendan Behan.’’ During the chaos that subsequently unfolds, Pat hands Leslie a copy of a newspaper in which Leslie reads about his own capture. ‘‘’If [the Belfast prisoner is] . . . executed—the IRA declare that Private Leslie Alan Williams will be shot as a reprisal.’’ The act ends with Leslie singing a bigoted, bitter, patriotic song.

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Act I Summary


Act III Summary