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The Playboy of the Western World & Riders to the Sea

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,254 ratings  ·  36 reviews
The plays of John Millington Synge (18711909) are filled with the humors, sorrows, and dreams of the country folk of the Aran Islands and the western Irish coastlands, where, in Synge's works, "we have a popular imagination that is fiery and magnificent, and tender." The Playboy of the Western World, his most famous play, is sweetly funny and ironic as it follows its young ...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published May 12th 1993 by Dover Publications (first published 1907)
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 ·  1,254 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Perfect reading on St Patricks Day ...more
John Pistelli
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Yesterday for St. Patrick's Day I read these two classic early 20th-century dramas by the Irish playwright J. M. Synge. The texts I used were from the first edition of the Norton Critical Modern Irish Drama, and all quotations from critical and contextual sources below come from materials in that book unless otherwise noted.

Synge was a member of the Protestant middle classes, but in the nationalist ferment leading to Irish independence, he developed a fascination with the life and culture of the
Sitara Kashif
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
its a nerve tearing effort that these islanders make , the sea is their life they are supposed to depend upon it for their survival , but its their enemy as well they lose their lives in the struggle to live.
i found Synge an amazing writer he depicts the lives of his characters very realistically.especially in 'riders to the sea'
the mother who has lost all of male members to the sea keeps on praying for the life of the only living son of hers and says
' what is the price of ten thousand horses
Octavia Cade
Two and a half stars, rounding up to three. There are a couple of plays here from the Irish dramatist J.M. Synge, and one was far better than the other I thought. The Playboy of the Western World is Synge's most famous play, as I understand it, and it's also the one I liked least. I get the feeling it's meant to be funny, but this story of a big-talking brat who never quite manages to murder his father, and the community that falls for and spurns him on a dime, just inches too far into farce for ...more
Mar 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I first read these two little plays in an Irish Literature course in college. At the time, I struggled with the language and found them generally uninteresting. Although they are still not my favorite, I was able to better appreciate them this time.

The language, that I originally deemed difficult, is actually what I most appreciate about "The Playboy of the Western World." The language forces itself into an Irish accent and forms the atmosphere of the play. Playboy is a comedy and really pokes
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scripts
PWW is a weird window into human nature. Do we value a pious, hardworking man or a man who acts with outstanding violence and mystery? And what happens when we find one of them to be a fraud?

Riders to the Sea is a tiny, heartbreaking look at the cost the sea exacts for livelihood.
Dec 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
I'd seen this play once or maybe twice before reading it in Modern Drama this semester. It's been a while since I saw it, but I remember thinking it was totally crazy and nonsensical, and my mom thinking something similar, which is saying something, so it was exciting to read it in an academic setting and find out what the hell it was supposed to be about.

So apparently, it's all about poking fun at the Catholic church, which is painfully obvious once you know (the main character's name is
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love both of these plays (playboy and riders to the sea). I first encountered them as a freshman in college. This time around I found even more to love. In class we discussed the play in terms of the three main offenses of he play, why it got such a strong reaction from its initial audience: sex, geography, and violence. Of course, as a modern reader it seems like such a mellow play, but in a nationalist theatre, where patrons expected either a nationalist allegory or a traditional comedy, ...more
Amber Tucker
Initial / temporary review: Three stars, or four? I'm not sure, but have decided to be generous for the time being, since there is much that I enjoyed in this play. The dialect is brilliantly transporting; I amused myself for the first Act reading aloud in a pathetic excuse for an Irish brogue but nobody was around to hear me, so it was all good. The characters: over-realistically wrought, if you get my drift. Which means they're classic. Hopeless as people, but excellent as characters. (The ...more
Mar 28, 2011 added it
Shelves: theatre, ireland
Playboy of the Western World is a satirical look at Catholicism and Irish 'peasantry' that apparently sparked a riot when it was first performed in 1907 Dublin. Christy Mahon wanders into town, claiming he killed his father. Instead of finding his actions immoral or his character lacking, the townspeople enjoy his story of patricide and sort of deify him for his strength, vigor, and boldness. Synge is quite adept at capturing rhythms and idioms of speech, playing on folk culture and myths to ...more
Ayne Ray
Apr 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A richly crafted drama from one of Ireland's premier playwrights, set in the Western coast of Ireland. The play caused a riot when it was first produced in 1907 after the mention of a petticoat (no, really). According to the newspapers at the time, the mob was only prevented from storming the stage by the call-boy, who had "armed himself with a big axe...and swore by all the saints in the calendar that he would chop off the head of the first lad who came over the footlights." Gotta love it.
Garrett Zecker
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Short, sweet, and to the point, these plays exemplify in the simplest of terms the life of the Irish experience. Riders to the Sea is a simple examination that the nature of our existence may be predestined to a certain fate, and that cultural and professional folklores are likely to follow us through our experience no matter how hard we try to lessen the magnitude and effect. Not so fascinating, not so interesting, but entirely effective writing.
May 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Somehow even though this is a seminal modern play, this modernist didn't end up reading it until this summer! It is dark, funny, and the ending surprised and fascinated me...I wish that I had gotten to see a performance of the play because the texture of the Irish dialogue really loses something (I am sure) being visual rather than aural. Also, I would love to see Stephen Rea perform Christy! (he was pictured on the cover of the edition of the play that I read)
Miles McCoy
Jan 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Had to read this for my Irish Literature class. Definitely not a bad read at all. Plays really aren't my thing, and I went into this small collection thinking that it was going to be difficult to understand the characters as far as dialoge, but it actually was not hard to interpret at all. "Playboy" was definitely my favorite out of the two, if I had to pick one.
Michael P.
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I seem to be reading a higher than usual amount of Irish literature this year, and this play is known as one of the best. This is perhaps the fourth time I have read it. I seem to understand it better as I get older. There is a lot to be said for being yourself, and a lot to be said for finding a community where you can, if you can. Don't want to live up to or down from a lie.
John Kirwin
Watched the play on PBS in 1979 with my father. A humorous story about a son who tries to escape the family farm after he thinks he killed his father. His father bring him back to reality after he develops an independent and strong identity, while staying in a public house and making friends with the innkeepers daughter.
Jack Hrkach
Aug 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
I gave this four stars because, while I know it's an important play, Riders to the Sea gets only a 3 rating in my view, while Playboy gets if not 5, just short of it. As I write frequently when I review plays I think vital to the theatre, if you haven't read these yet, or better SEEN a good production of Playboy, specifically, you simply must. Okay?
May 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: play-hunt
The heavy old Irish vocabulary and slang made this one a very difficult read. There are gems once you work your way through the language and I did have an honest laugh once or twice while reading, but in the end it was far to little to make up for the rest.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The greatest Irish play ever, because it defines a distinctly Irish hero. Brendan Behan won't be an issue likely because he is the best post Singe, modern Irish playwright, Quare Fellow being the play.
Gary Mesick
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Synge is tremendous--and tremendously funny. "Playboy" especially is a great play of mistaken identity. And if you ever get a chance to see it (by actors with legitimate Irish accents), it is worth seeing.
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Synge is one of my favorite playwrights. Melodramatic, over-the-top, farcical and often touching and lyrically poetic. He had a short writing career but was instrumental to the Celtic Renaissance.
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
Not a redeemable character in the lot, but a fun read nonetheless.
Laura Ferrari
Jun 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
The last part was kinda cool, particuarly the bit with the bellows. Otherwise a snore. I did learn a few new words though.
Patricia Burroughs
Sep 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Read for research but enjoyed thoroughly.
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2009
Two great plays, one hilarious and one heartbreaking. I'd love to see Playboy produced sometime. Could be a rollicking good time.
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
read it for school... it was pretty decent. written in old time irish so a little hard to understand at times, but a cute little story.
Apr 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
An in-depth look at life in late 19th century rural Ireland.
Sun Yung
Aug 28, 2007 rated it liked it
I read this in college, and remember thinking it was powerful...
Mar 02, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
To be honest, I didn't really get it. I'll probably have to read it again. (Play; 100 pages)
Kaethe Douglas
Jul 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Let's just say this is not my favorite period in drama.
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Edmund John Millington Synge (pronounced /sɪŋ/) was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, and collector of folklore. He was one of the cofounders of the Abbey Theatre. He is best known for the play The Playboy of the Western World, which caused riots during its opening run at the Abbey theatre. Synge wrote many well known plays, including "Riders to the Sea", which is often considered to be his ...more

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