Sergeant, an officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary, a force recruited from native Irishmen by the British authorities. The Sergeant reveals the ambiguities and divided loyalties of his professional role. He is a slow, cautious, and somewhat unimaginative character. Although he is not particularly enlightened, he is also not outside the range of patriotic sentiment’s appeal. His discovery that this is the case is as much of a surprise to him as it is to the audience.
The Man, a character conceived of as the Sergeant’s antithesis. As a ballad singer, he is as identifiable a presence in the society of the time as a police officer. This populist disguise covers the character’s more subervisive activities. Ballads provide a medium through which the Man’s political activities may be seen as legendary. His ability to win over the Sergeant’s collusion is an argument in favor of the innate appeal of his presence and his cause.
Policeman B., one of the play’s minor characters, who constitutes the search party with Policeman X. He is intent on little more than doing his duty. His speech at the end of the play reveals his lack of interest in the world of history and culture. His behavior indicates that he needs the Sergeant to issue orders to him in order to function.
Policeman X., who is as one-dimensional and minor a character as his colleague, Policeman B. He is a little more committed to doing his duty in pursuit of the escaped prisoner. The play does not develop what this commitment means either to the character or to the play’s depiction of the powers that be. Together, the two policemen make up a framework of orthodoxy, within which the complications of the Sergeant’s loyalties may be perceived.