Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

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Summary

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

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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.

(The entire section is 991 words.)