The Playboy of the Western World by J. M. Synge

The Playboy of the Western World book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download The Playboy of the Western World Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Christopher (Christy) Mahon

Christopher (Christy) Mahon, the playboy of the Western World. Arriving one evening in a village on the wild coast of County Mayo, cold, tired, and hungry, he captures the imagination of the people when he tells them how he split the skull of his harsh, unimaginative old father with a loy. Timid no longer, the young man outleaps and outruns his competitors during the rigorous village sports. His reputation for bravery is tarnished, however, when his father, with a bandaged head, arrives in town. When the athletic young man attacks his father a second time, he barely escapes hanging. Even Pegeen deserts him. Like the others, she is afraid to get involved in a murder so close to home. Disgusted with the villagers, he is determined to be a playboy somewhere else.

Margaret Flaherty

Margaret Flaherty (Pegeen Mike), the wild, sharp-tongued daughter of publican Flaherty. Enraptured by the poetic utterances and valor of young Christy, she resists the blandishments of Shawn Keogh, her cousin whom she is to marry. After hearing of Christy’s brave attack on his father and seeing his prowess on the playing field, she thinks Shawn too cowardly for her taste. She is ready to betray Christy, however, when he attacks his father again.

Widow Quin

Widow Quin, a scheming young woman of about thirty. Hearing of the arrival of the brave young stranger, she tries to coax him away from Pegeen Mike, but to no avail. In spite of her cajolery, he is determined to remain near Pegeen. Meeting the elder Mahon in the tavern, the widow tries to send him on a wild-goose chase. Afraid the two will fight, she tells the old man that his son has left the village.

Michael James Flaherty

Michael James Flaherty, a fat, jovial innkeeper and the tippling father of Pegeen Mike. He is one of the drunkest men at Kate Cassidy’s wake. When Christy and Pegeen tell him they intend to marry, he puts up a violent objection. He has qualms about having as a son-in-law a young man who killed his own father. Finally, however, he agrees to the wedding.

Old Mahon

Old Mahon, a crusty, hard-bitten old squatter, Christy’s father. Seemingly indestructible, he survives several painful beatings. A lesser man would have died from such repeated blows. In spite of his aching head, he advances threateningly on his young son in the tavern. Seizing a loy, Christy again batters his tough father to the floor. Rather glad that the boy has lost his timidity, the old man smilingly offers to take his son home with him.

Shawn Keogh

Shawn Keogh, a cowardly young man, Pegeen’s future husband. Afraid to fight Christy, he offers him numerous gifts if young Mahon will leave the village. Shawn knows that he is in danger of losing Pegeen to the stranger. In desperation, he even attempts to enlist the aid of Widow Quin, unaware of her hopes to win Christy for herself.

Jimmy Farrell

Jimmy Farrell, a small farmer, fat, amorous, and about forty-five years old. He is Michael Flaherty’s drinking companion.

Philly Cullen

Philly Cullen, a thin and mistrusting small farmer, the exact opposite of Farrell.

Sara Tansey

Sara Tansey,

Susan Brady

Susan Brady, and

Honor Blake

Honor Blake, girls of the village. After hearing of Christy’s arrival in the town, they rush to the inn and ask him to tell the story of how he split his father’s skull. This single act has lifted the young man to a hero’s level.

Characters

(Drama for Students)

Jimmy Farrell
Jimmy is a forty-five-year-old "amorous" villager who flatters Pegeen when he visits the pub. He and his friend Philly represent the voice of the villagers as they respond to Christy's story. Jimmy's praise of his actions helps build Christy's confidence and create his mythic stature in the community.

Michael James Flaherty
A jovial publican, the good-humored Michael James allows his daughter to run the pub with a strong hand. Like the other villagers, Michael James initially regards Christy as a hero, but as soon as the truth is discovered, he is one of the first to call for his hanging.

(The entire section is 1,644 words.)