The Rising of the Moon

by Isabella Augusta Persse

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The comedic play "The Rising of the Moon" by Isabella Augusta Persse, better known as Lady Gregory, tells the tale of a group of policemen searching for an escaped prisoner in the hopes of acquiring the one-hundred-pound reward for his capture. While searching for him, the prisoner joins the "search for himself" and waits with the Sergeant, eventually forming an unlikely bond with him and escaping successfully.

Sergeant: You know him? . . . What sort is he? . . .
Man: I tell you wouldn't like to be looking at him. You'd be afraid to be in the one place with him. There isn't a weapon he doesn't know the use of, and as to strength, his muscles are as hard as that board.

In light of the rest of the story, this exchange is humorous. While the sergeant is speaking with the Ragged Man, he learns that the man apparently knows the prisoner. The Man, who is himself actually the prisoner, then begins to weave a story about the strength and fearsome nature of the prisoner. He is bolstering his own reputation and using his supposed outside knowledge to encourage fear and ensure that he is given a wide berth, which will help with evading capture.

Sergeant: Well, who knows, but I might? I had a great spirit in those days.

The Sergeant is here speaking about Irish nationalism, for which the prisoner was jailed. In one of the more sincere moments in the play, the Sergeant reveals to the prisoner that he, too, had nationalist leanings, but he instead chose a life of security for his family in service of the British government instead of becoming a rebel. A kinship of a sort then begins to form between the two men.

Policeman B: Did anyone come this way?Sergeant (after a pause): No one.

In this final moment, with a choice between letting the prisoner go or turning him in for the one-hundred-pound reward, the Sergeant decides to let the Man go. He later calls himself a fool, but he had formed a bond with the Man and felt a brief rekindling of his nationalist revolutionary sentiments in that final moment.

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