Synge, The Aran Islands, PlayBoy Riots, and the Myth of the Irish West A Presentation by: Ashley Miller, MichaelUhl, Tyler Vatcoskay, Samantha Vath, and Kaitlin Yahr
The Lead-Up • Synge’s Exploration of the Aran Islands, the myth of the Irish West, and the Playboy riots prove interwoven events that functioned together. Synge’s visit to the islands inspired his interest in the mythical aspect of the Irish West, as he collected stories and folklore from the inhabitants and observed their rural life. These visits, along with his detection of a pagan presence lying under the peasantry’s Catholicism, allowed him to connect enough information to begin writing plays, thus leading to the production of The Playboy of The Western World.
The Result • Synge’s work on the stage caused actual riots from the audience, the people offended due to his portrayal of Irish culture. Despite the negative responses Synge’s play received however, the work succeeded in inspiring the Irish to come together in patriotism and nationalistic pride to refute the inaccurate representation of their culture.
Synge’s motivations • Synge's mother • Evangelical • Felt chronically isolated and lonely. • Called the Catholic bourgoisie the “ungodly ruck of fat-faced,sweaty-headed swine” • “Till I was twenty-three, I never met or at least knew a man or woman who shared my opinions” • Intense desire to belong to some kind of community thought process. • “The individual mood is often trivial, perverse, fleeting, [but the] national mood [is] broad, serious, provisionally permanent.”
The Aran Islands • Sense of community • No stunted emotions • Expressed their feelings freely • Physical and emotional • Synge’s reaction • Astonishment
On Women… • Biggest impact • Dressed and undressed in his company • Breast-fed their children in front of him • Bathed in public • Sang obscene songs • Free with physical contact • Unique perspective on women • "courage, honesty, and frank sensuality“ • liberal in their actions • lack submissive inclinations. • These women Synge encountered contributed to the masculine personalities of the women in The Playboy of The Western World.
The Island’s Impact • Community (and sense of self) • Unreciprocated: "On some days I feel this island as a perfect home and resting place; on other days I feel that I am a waif among the people. I can feel more with them than they can feel with me." • Theme of The Playboy of the Western World • Change from isolation and loneliness to identification with a community • Both Synge and Christy • "I was lonesome all times, and born lonesome, I'm thinking, as the moon of dawn." • Christy is accepted by the community, but is forced out in the end because they find out he lied about killing his father. This acceptance and rejection is also reminiscent of Synge's experience on the Aran Islands.
More on synge’s perception • Language: “some of them express themselves more correctly that the ordinary peasant, others use the Gaelic idioms…not found in modern Irish” (Synge 170) • Landscape-rocky, desolate land not conducive to farming. • People-story tellers, simplistic and more primitive
Man of aranRobert Flaherty • Film as a whole • Meant to portray contemporary life on the islands • Man of Aran Film • Landscape • 1:01:20-1:03:00 • People • 50:06 • Language • Very little speaking in the film
Was synge accurate? • Similarities? • Women • Sense of community • Hardships land creates • Differences? • Not shown as enchanting as Synge found it to be • Absence of story tellers • No sense of verbal communication
Film • Overall • Film does a good job capturing the hard work and community feel Synge encountered • Similar to Synge’s view of the people especially the women
Irish West and American West similarities • Traditional values and culture • Distain for modern/Anglicized • Landscape • Handling of the law • Violence
Characteristics of Irish west and the American West • Irish West • Community aspect • Landscape • Refuge from moral lifestyle • Religious escape • Women • American West • Cowboys, Pony Express, Railroad • Individualism • Landscape • American Dream • Puritan Ethic “Self-interest and liberty are only given free rein insofar as the passions, and the sensual pleasure in general, are controlled and subordinated” (Gibbons 24). • Women
Differences portrayed in the Play • Handling of the law • Distrust of the law • Community aspect with individual decisions • American West – Community needs individual • Irish West – Individual needs community • Men and woman roles • Challenging morals of the “playboy/cowboy”
The first Performance • Progressively more hostile -A drift of Mayo girls in their shifts itself” v. “ A drift of chosen females” • Performances following inaudible
What in the play provoked Riots? • Insulting women • Endorsing patricide • Did not represent western seaboard
Why did the riots occur? • Third performance • Galwayman, riled up Irish • Different groups there -Irish lower-class -Irish upper class(Supporters of British rule) • Chanting, Singing, Taunting
Resources: • Christopher MorashA History of Irish Theatre, 1601-2000. • Luke Gibbons, “Synge, Country and Western: The Myth of the West in Irish and American Culture” • Martin McLoone, “Haunted Landscapes and the Irish West” • Robert Flaherty’s film Man of Aran • Four Plays and Aran Islands, ed. Robin Skelton.