Sean O’Casey (1880–1964)
151 Study Questions, Activities, and Resources
Study Questions and Activities
- Why does Boyle call himself “Captain”?
- Identify Jerry Devine.
- Why does Juno not want to leave for work before the captain begins his breakfast?
- Why is Mary on strike?
- What is the main difference between a “die-hard” and a “free-stater”?
- What faction did Robbie Tancred side with in the Civil War?
- What is the comic significance of the coal-vendor?
- Why does Mary pay so little attention to Jerry?
- Why is Joxer afraid to stick his head out of the window?
- What plan do Joxer and the captain make in case they are surprised by Juno?
- Why does the captain come to the conclusion that Devine is “not like a Christian at all”?
- How does Boyle turn Father Farrell’s offer of help into an attack on the clergy?
- To what is Johnny referring when he boasts that “Ireland only half free will never be at peace while she has a son left to pull the trigger”?
- What news does Bentham bring?
- Does Boyle continue to attack the clergy?
- What words of Mrs Tancred in Act II does Juno repeat in Act III?
- What is the thematic role of Bentham’s theosophy?
- Why is the will a “washout”?
- Find one of Mrs Madigan’s malapropisms in Act III.
- Comment on Devine’s words, “Mary, humanity is above everything.”
- What does Boyle mean when near the end of the play he speaks of his “Volunteer butties”?
Short Essay Questions
- Discuss irony in the play.
- Show how Boyle is not the only person guilty of “peacockery” in the play.
- What are some uses O’Casey makes of song in the play?
- How is Capt. Boyle a miles gloriosus figure?
- Discuss Joxer Daly as a type of comic “parasite” as in Ben Jonson.
- Compare Capt. Jack with Shakespeare’s Falstaff.
- Compare Maisie Madigan and Chaucer’s Wyf of Bath or Shakespeare’s Mistress Quickly.
- The song “Young Cassidy” is not sung in the play, but it is a tribute to Sean O’Casey. Demonstrate why this is so. You will need to do a little biographical research.
- “Many characters invest all of their energy into words rather than deeds.” (Christopher Murray, Sean O’Casey.) Do you agree?
- Discuss naturalism in Juno and Paycock.
- “The play attacks all kinds of idealism.” Discuss with reference to three or four characters.
- Discuss Juno and the Paycock as tragicomedy.
- Discuss illusion and reality in Juno and the Paycock.
- Do you agree with critic James Agate’s assessment in his review of a 1925 London production, that “Juno and the Paycock is as much a tragedy as Macbeth, but it is a tragedy taking place in the porter’s family”?
- Evaluate Alfred Hitchcock’s 1930 film adaptation of Juno and the Paycock.
- Discuss Juno and the Paycock as a feminist play.
- Read Richard F. Dietrich’s online chapter from his British Drama 1890-1950, pp. 208-222. It provides useful biographical and textual information.
- Read the program from a 1988 production of Juno and the Paycock at the University of British Columbia. It contains some helpful biographical and contextual essays, especially on the Irish Civil War.
- Listen to a superb recording of Juno and the Paycock, with an introduction by Sean O’Casey.
- View the first play in the Dublin Trilogy, The Shadow of a Gunman, which treats the Irish War of Independence (Anglo-Irish War) of 1919-1921.
- An informative and easy-to-navigate resource pack from the Abbey Theater for their 2012 production of The Plough and the Stars. “Politics and History” pp. 12-19 are particularly useful.
- A useful website from W.W. Norton. Focus on the material on the The Easter Rebellion of 1916.
- The Story of Ireland. A BBC/RTE television documentary in 5 parts. Parts 4 and 5 are the most useful. Currently available on YouTube. Introduced by Fergal Keane.
Song References: Juno and Paycock
(Yes,) Let Me Like a Soldier Fall
Full text Plough and the Stars (in Twenty-five Modern Plays, S. Marion Tucker, ed., pp. 721-65).
Full text Shadow of a Gunman (in 1000 Years of Irish Prose, V. Mercier and David H. Greene, eds. pp. 247-94).
Sean O’Casey Early Plays as Larkinite Stage Parables by Mary Elizabeth Papke.