SEAN O'CASEY: The Man Behind the Plays by Saros Cowasjee

SEAN O'CASEY: The Man Behind the Plays

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Some of the more parochial aspects of this portrait of the uproarious rebel, Sean O'Casey, are mainly for those indoctrinated readers who can keep their Dublin streets straight. Of just where Jack Boyle lived (Juno and the Paycock), Mr. Cowasjee tells us: ""Where exactly the truth lies is hard to fathom, all the more because O'Casey told me that the real Jack Boyle did not live in Gloucester Street but in Malahide, a district in the north of Dublin."" This detail, however, is a prism through which we can see how O'Casey's practice during conversation to jot innocently on bits and scraps of paper. Later, after the conversation (and speaker) appeared verbatim on the Abbey stage, O'Casey's friend might walk about puzzling whether or not to sue. Early misery and hunger drove O'Casey into political organizations but he wrote only bad verse and fantasies. Lady Gregary and Yeats persuaded him that his forte lay in characterizing lowlife types. O'Casey reluctantly took this advice and wrote his three masterpieces, which are distinguished by realistic characters strung together on episodic (or fantastic) plots. However chaotic his plots, they do render the tragedy of the very poor and that of wives who must often suffer for their husbands' stupid idealism. He broke with the Abbey, going into exile in London, and then bitterly broke with Yeats. Their battle is the book's highpoint. An admirable work, this is the best summary of O'Casey we are likely to have for some time.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1964
Publisher: St. Martin's Press