The Silver Tassie unfolds in four relatively long acts. Act 1 opens in the home of the Heegans; as Mrs. Heegan gets Harry’s clothes ready for his return to his army unit, Mr. Heegan and his friend exchange stories about Harry’s strength and athletic prowess. Meanwhile, Susie Monican, a friend of the family and a young woman with a crush on Harry, attempts to get attention by uttering constant dour predictions and prophecies of doom prompted by her narrow fundamentalist piety. This domestic scene is disturbed by noise from the flat upstairs, where the Forans are having another row. Mrs. Foran comes in hastily to hide from her drunken husband, Teddy, who follows shortly, clearly inebriated and looking for his wife and Mr. Heegan—both of whom have hidden under the bed. General disapproval and Mrs. Foran’s scolding force Teddy to leave, but he can be heard smashing furniture and dishes above.
The mood changes when cheers and concertina music can be heard, and Harry enters with his arms around his favorite girlfriend, Jessica Taite. They bring the silver trophy cup, or silver tassie, that the Avondale Football Club has won by Harry’s decisive goal, the “odd goal in five.” While Harry exults in his victory and the strength of his youth, Jessie, a beautiful girl of twenty-two who is attracted to winners, and Barney, a young man who admires Harry’s superior strength and skill, join Harry in drinking wine from the silver cup, which Harry calls a “sign of youth, sign of strength, sign of victory.” Even Susie abandons her preaching and quoting of scripture to put her arm around Harry and flirt with him, though she has just bitterly repulsed an advance from Barney. Under Mrs. Heegan’s constant urging, Harry gathers up his belongings, and he, Barney, and Teddy Foran depart to catch the boat that will take them back to their army unit. At their departure, Mrs. Heegan breathes a sigh of relief.
Act 2 shifts to a frontline combat zone in France, where a ravaged monastery has been converted into a makeshift Red Cross station. Barney is the only main character to appear, although one of the anonymous soldiers seems to be Teddy. Inside the station, unnamed soldiers await an uncertain fate while recuperating from trauma, wounds, and exhaustion. They are led in various laments and litanies by a wounded soldier called simply The Croucher, who begins the scene with a lamentation in biblical cadences about the surrealist landscape. In a series of poetic complaints, the soldiers voice their disillusionment with the war and express their sense of the futility of fighting. A visiting civilian dignitary arrives and utters absurd clichés about the significance of war. Finding Barney under restraint for the crime of stealing a chicken, the civilian voices his approval of such discipline. The civilian dignitary disappears for a while into a dugout, and a “staff-wallah”...
(The entire section is 1185 words.)