The Rising of the Moon

by Isabella Augusta Persse

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What is the conflict in the one-act play The Rising of the Moon?

Quick answer:

The primary conflict in The Rising of the Moon is internal within the Sergeant. He is torn between his sympathy for the Irish nationalist cause and his responsibilities as a police officer.

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Lady Gregory’s play The Rising of the Moon is concerned with a police sergeant who must make a difficult decision. The play’s action builds toward a climax in which the sergeant finally decides to allow an escaped prisoner to remain free rather than take him into custody. The main conflict is internal, taking place within the Sergeant. This type of conflict is also called person versus self.

The play is set in Ireland in the early twentieth century. The reason he makes this choice is that he is Irish and sympathizes with the Irish nationalist cause. His loyalty to his position as an officer of the law, which also requires loyal to the English rulers, ultimately takes second place to his Irish identity. Even the prospect of a substantial reward is not enough to convince him to turn in the escaped prisoner.

The playwright does not explicitly state all the mental processes that the Sergeant undergoes as he tries to sort out this internal conflict. The play begins by showing some of the steps that the Sergeant and two Policemen—referred to only as B and X—are taking as they participate in a wider effort to apprehend an escaped prisoner. Once the Sergeant is alone, another man comes along. He identifies as a singer and, as they converse, even offers to help the Sergeant try to catch the escapee. The Sergeant’s background as a nationalist sympathizer is also revealed. Finally, the Sergeant realizes that the singer himself is the escapee in disguise. By this time, however, he is about to leave on a nearby boat. Although the Sergeant is angry about being tricked, he chooses not to take him into custody.

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