Summary

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 254

Under Milk Wood is a radio play written by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, commissioned by the BBC and first performed in 1954. To write a summary, it is important to consider aspects like title, setting, characters, themes, plot, technique, context, and anything else that is unusual or interesting about the...

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Under Milk Wood is a radio play written by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, commissioned by the BBC and first performed in 1954. To write a summary, it is important to consider aspects like title, setting, characters, themes, plot, technique, context, and anything else that is unusual or interesting about the text and its reception.

The setting for the play is a fictional Welsh fishing village called Llareggub, which if read backwards gives an interesting comment on the village and what happens there! The name is also of interest for being similar to many Welsh place names because of the double "l." Interestingly, this was also used as part of the title for the piece, but it was changed to Under Milk Wood to appeal to American audiences.

The characters are the people who live in the village, and the play begins with letting the audience into their dreams via an introduction from the narrator. There is then a kind of "day in the life" in the village, before they finally go back to their dreams at the end. Character names include Captain Cat, Mr. and Mrs. Willy Nilly, and Mr. and Mrs. Pugh, among various others. We get some insight into their lives through their dreams and what they do during the day: women gossiping at the village shop, the minister preaching a sermon, people working on the farm, and the postman on his rounds.

Like most of Dylan Thomas's work, this piece is rich with poetic language and playful use of image and technique.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 737

Night’s deep shadows lie over sleeping Llareggub, a small, decayed seaside resort village—so a guidebook might describe the town, a place of no particular interest to the sportsman, the health seeker, or the tourist. Under the black, moonless sky, the cobblestone streets are silent, and Milk Wood is empty of lovers, the darkness disturbed only by the secret, rustling animal life. In their darkened houses the people of Llareggub sleep, their dreams filled with love or hate, desire or dismay.

Captain Cat is a retired, blind sea captain. Through his dreams echo the voices of sailor friends lost long ago, with whom he shared the same girl, Rosie Probert. Mog Edwards, the draper, in sleep loves Myfanwy Price more than all the cloths and weaves in the great Cloth Hall of the world. Myfanwy, secretly in love with Mog, promises in her sleep to warm his heart beside the fire so that he can wear it under his vest after he closes his shop. Mr. Waldo lies in a drunken slumber beside his unhappy, unloved wife; other women he has known pass through his dreams. Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard gives orders to the two husbands she has bossed into their graves. Inspectors fly into the dreams of Mrs. Beynon, the butcher’s wife, to persecute her husband for selling the meat of cats and owls. Her daughter, Gossamer, a schoolteacher, dreams of her lover, a small, rough man with a bright bushy tail like a fox’s. Sinbad Sailors hugs his pillow and imagines that he is embracing Gossamer Beynon. His grandmother dreams of the Garden of Eden. Willy Nilly, the postman, walks fourteen miles in his sleep. Polly Garter dreams of babies.

Day breaks, and the people arise and go about their business. The Reverend Eli Jenkins, whose God is a God of innocence and wonder, goes to his door and, in the bright sunshine, sings his morning service, a lyric that might have come out of Robert Herrick. Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, whose god is cleanliness, does not care to have boarders in her clean rooms and starched beds, their breath all over the furniture, their feet trampling her carpets. Ocky Milkman puts water in the milk before he delivers it. Mr. Pugh, the schoolmaster, daydreams of feeding his wife an arsenic-and-weed-killer biscuit; at breakfast he reads Lives of the Great Poisoners, the title of his book concealed by a brown paper wrapper. Polly Garter nurses the youngest of her brood. Sinbad Sailors opens his pub, the Sailors Arms, and drinks a pint of beer. (The hands of the ship’s clock in the pub have stood at half past eleven for half a century, so that it is always opening time.) Mr. Cherry Owen hears how, while drunk, he hurled sago at the wall, just missing his wife and the picture of Auntie Blossom, and danced on the table. Mrs. Willy Nilly, the postman’s wife, steams open letters and reads them aloud. Nogood Boyo, lying on his back among crabs’ legs and tangled lines in the unbailed bottom of his dinghy, looks at the sky and says that he does not know or care who might be up there looking down. Sinbad Sailors continues to dote on Gossamer Beynon. Lord Cut-Glass, in his kitchen filled with clocks, one for each of his sixty-six years, squats to eat from a dish marked “Fido.” Captain Cat remembers the rowdy long ago of his youth.

Night falls, and Llareggub prepares to return to sleep. Mog Edwards and Myfanwy Price, a town’s length between them, write to each other the daily love letters that they never mail. Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard seals her house against the night air and the damp from the sea. The Reverend Eli Jenkins recites his sunset poem, asking God to look after and bless the people of Llareggub, a town where no one is wholly good or wholly bad. Mr. Cherry Owen goes off to get drunk at the Sailors Arms; his wife has two husbands, one drunk, one sober, and she loves them both. Captain Cat, secure in his bunk, goes voyaging in his dreams. In Milk Wood, where lovers stray, drunken Mr. Waldo hugs Polly Garter in the warm silence under the trees, but it is not Mr. Waldo or any of her lusty, six-foot lovers Polly is thinking of, but Willy Weazel—little Willy Wee—who is dead and six feet underground.

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