Paul A. Doyle
Unquestionably, Carroll suffered because he lacked the charisma of O'Casey or Behan, yet in any sensible estimate of modern Irish drama, Carroll must be rated the most important dramatic talent in the Irish theatre since the early writings of O'Casey. (p. 15)
[The title, Things That Are Caesar's,] epitomizes the basic thematic motifs found in most of Carroll's early writing: the conflict between God and Mammon, Church and State, and Flesh and Spirit. Carroll became intrigued by observing these particular forces at work in each individual and determined to ponder the divisions, torments, and tragedies that resulted from such opposing elements in the nature of man. (p. 20)
[Shadow and Substance is] presented in the Ibsen formula of a tightly constructed play with intensely probing character revelation. But Carroll's ability with dialogue is his own gift. The conversation is quick-paced, concise, sharp, and frequently ironic, satiric, and humorous. Several of the dialogue exchanges are as keen and as lively as any conversations conceived by a modern dramatists…. The drama critics, who enthusiastically applauded the play, used such comments as "passionate eloquence," "probing power," "spiritual beauty," and "tender and sensitive," but the play is also masterly for its adept use of satire and irony. It possesses an astringency that both bites and purifies.
Like O'Casey in his anti-clericism and like Synge in his attack on Irish characteristics, Carroll tried to capture all that he found distasteful in Ireland and to present these aspects on the stage. (p. 36)
While the play has aspects that are rather peculiarly Irish, it is not simply an Irish play…. It establishes that pride, violence, intolerance, and similar abominations are false and vicious shadows compared with the essential substance of fundamental faith and humanity. (p. 37)
Carroll [in his conception of heroism is similar] to Yeats, Joyce, AE, and numerous other modern Irish writers who were obsessed with the desire for heroism in an unheroic world. Kindred demonstrates that Carroll was well-acquainted with a concept stressed in several of Yeats's plays; viz., that the gods must have human assistance before they can achieve their purposes. Furthermore, Kindred's search for a new leader reflects the general Messianic ideal among Irish writers who were preoccupied with the heroic personality and with heroic ideals for Ireland…. In his portrayal of heroism and heroic qualities—in various forms—Carroll returns again and again to this theme in several of his plays, Kindred being his most philosophically grandiose statement of such conceptions.
Unfortunately, both for Carroll's high thinking and for his career, Kindred fails as a play—for several reasons. It is too often melodramatic, artificial, and stagey—at times almost wooden. (p. 47)
The majority of Carroll's stories can be classified as tales of humor, character sketches, and ghostly sagas—all of which usually inculcate some moral point,...
(The entire section is 1284 words.)