The Rising of the Moon Summary
Isabella Augusta Persse, better known as Lady Gregory, wrote the play The Rising of the Moon in the early 1900's. It is a comedic tale of police officers and an escaped prisoner they are trying to find, and it explores some of the dynamics between English and Irish people as well as prisoners and their captors.
In the story, a prisoner has escaped from jail and is on the loose. Three men, a sergeant and two junior assistants, are distributing flyers trying to aid in his capture, offering a sum of one hundred pounds, which, at the time was an incredible amount. After passing out flyers, the men separate and the sergeant decides to sit and wait out on a quay to see if the prisoner can be captured. While he rests there, he thinks about the wealth one would have if they received the hundred pounds, and a man comes up to him.
The man acts as an entertaining ballad singer, but in reality, he is the fugitive prisoner. He claims to know the convict and offers to help the sergeant, who agrees, because the man says he wants no part in the reward and would let the sergeant take all of it. While the two man wait, they discuss their lives and muse on why the sergeant took the path in life he did instead of turning to nationalism and becoming a patriot, making him question his life choices and ingratiating the fugitive to him somewhat.
As they are sitting and the fugitive is singing, a passing ship responds to one of his songs, revealing that they are his escape plan. The sergeant learns that he has been tricked and is furious but gives pause because of their conversation. He decides in the end to allow the prisoner to leave and get to the ship because of their connection and the conversations they had been having.
On a moonlit night on an Irish wharf, three Irish police officers in the service of the occupying English government paste up wanted posters for a clever escaped political criminal. Convinced that the escaped rebel might creep to the water’s edge to be rescued by sea, they all hope to capture him for the hundred-pound reward and perhaps even a promotion. The Sergeant sends his two younger assistants with their only lantern to post more flyers around town while, uneasily, he keeps watch at the water’s edge.
A man in rags tries to slip past the Sergeant, explaining that he merely wants to sell some songs to incoming sailors. The Ragged Man identifies himself as Jimmy Walsh, a ballad singer. When the man heads toward the steps to the water, the Sergeant stops him, insisting that Jimmy leave by way of town. Trying to interest the officer in his songs, the man sings a few ballads to the protesting Sergeant, who wants only to keep the area clear so he can catch the fleeing prisoner if he appears. The Sergeant orders the man to leave the area immediately.
The Ragged Man pretends to start toward town but stops to comment on the face on the poster, saying that he knows the man well. Interested, the Sergeant changes his mind about sending the Ragged Man away and insists that the stranger stay to furnish more information about the fugitive. The Ragged Man describes a dark, dangerous, muscular man who is an expert with many weapons, then he hints at previous murders of police officers on moonlit nights exactly like the present one.
Frightened, the Sergeant gladly accepts the Ragged Man’s offer to stay with him on the wharf to help look for the escaped murderer. Sitting back-to-back on a barrel in order to have full view of the dock area, the two men smoke pipes together to calm the Sergeant’s nerves. The Sergeant confesses that police work is difficult, especially for family men, because the officers spend long hours on dangerous missions. Accompanying the Sergeant’s lament, the Ragged Man starts to sing a traditional sentimental song about lovers and the beautiful Irish countryside. Then he begins a nationalistic ballad about a legendary oppressed old Irishwoman named Granuaile. The Sergeant stops him, protesting that it is inappropriate...
(The entire section is 1,313 words.)