Act III Summary

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Later that evening, Meg and Pat bicker about Pat’s narration of his heroic past. Their disagreement emphasizes the disputed nature of Irish history. Miss Gilchrist spouts pious nothings about the prisoner, to which Meg responds brusquely. Meanwhile, Leslie asks Pat why he has been captured. Pat and Meg respond promptly: there is a war on, and Leslie is a ‘‘prisoner of war.’’ Leslie answers angrily that his capture will have no effect at all upon the British Government. He is increasingly apprehensive about his safety, for it seems certain that the British government will not negotiate with the IRA.

Pat seems to become more sympathetic towards the prisoner: he even joins in, with the other cast members, when Leslie sings a song, ‘‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.’’ This moment of shared camaraderie marks their acceptance of the prisoner’s humanity and heightens their concern about his imminent execution. This acceptance is emphasized by Behan in the surreal song-and-dance return in which Mulleady deserts his paramour, Miss Gilchrist, and joins Rio Rita and his transvestite lover, Princess Grace, in a song that celebrates being ‘‘queer.’’ (Later, it appears that all three men are in fact secret government agents and are preparing to rescue the hostage.) Leslie is about to join in the songand- dance routine but is stopped by a horrified Miss Gilchrist.

After a slight scene change, Teresa enters to find Leslie sleeping. He is bitter about his impending execution and is hostile to her, but he is terrified when she starts to leave him. They agree that if he escapes, she will come and visit him at his army barracks in Armargh. They are then interrupted by the IRA Officer. Suddenly the British police burst into the house. Mulleady reveals himself to be a secret policeman. In the confusion, Leslie is shot by British troops. The play ends with a tragi-comic lament sung by Leslie, who rises from the dead.

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Act II Summary