Sean O’Casey (1880–1964)
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.
1. “Many characters invest all of their energy into words rather than deeds.” (Christopher Murray, Sean O’Casey.) Do you agree?
2. Discuss naturalism in Juno and Paycock.
3. “The play attacks all kinds of idealism.” Discuss with reference to three or four characters.
4. Discuss Juno and the Paycock as tragicomedy.
5. Discuss illusion and reality in Juno and the Paycock.
6. 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”?
7. Evaluate Alfred Hitchcock’s 1930 film adaptation of Juno and the Paycock.
8. 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. http://www.rfd2.net/britishdrama4.htm#O%27Casey
- 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. http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/pdfs/theatre/fw8801.pdf
- Listen to a superb recording of Juno and the Paycock, with an introduction by Sean O’Casey.
4. 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.
5. 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. http://www.abbeytheatre.ie/images/uploads/user/resources/AT_Plough_ResourcePack_Oct2012.pdf
6. A useful website from W.W. Norton. Focus on the material on the The Easter Rebellion of 1916. https://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/20century/topic_3_05/welcome.htm
7. 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
“Are You There, Moriarity?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_nh4wKKlhE
(Yes,) Let Me Like a Soldier Fall http://www.james-joyce-music.com/song13_discussion.html
Full text Plough and the Stars (in Twenty-five Modern Plays, S. Marion Tucker, ed., pp. 721-65). https://archive.org/details/twentyfivemodern001705mbp
Full text Shadow of a Gunman (in 1000 Years of Irish Prose, V. Mercier and David H. Greene, eds. pp. 247-94). https://archive.org/stream/1000yearsofirish00merc/1000yearsofirish00merc_djvu.txt
Sean O’Casey by Reginald Gray by Reginald Gray (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sean_O%27Casey_by_Reginald_Gray.jpg) is in the Public Domain