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By the Bog of Cats

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  760 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Set in the mysterious landscape of the bogs of rural Ireland, Carr's lyrical and timeless play tells the story of Hester Swane, an Irish traveller with a deep and unearthly connection to her land. Tormented by the memory of a mother who deserted her, Hester is once again betrayed, this time by the father of her child, the man she loves. On the brink of despair, she embarks ...more
Published December 2nd 2004 by Faber Faber (first published January 1st 1998)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  760 ratings  ·  62 reviews

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Two things: This play is DARK, and the GHOST FANCIER has just enough CREEP!

Oh Hester....WHAT you did!

Hester is a wild one who hankers to spend her life on the bleak landscape BY THE BOG OF CATS yearning for her crazy long lost mother. She dearly loves her seven year old daughter Josie and her child's father Carthage....whom she refuses to give up without a fight.

Cat-Woman is her crazy friend with a taste for mice and vision enough to give fair warning, "leave this place now or you never will."


Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, plays, irish, own
One of the many reasons I love Irish lit is that its signature fusion of comedy and tragedy is something I find so shockingly, painfully honest. I love reading something that has me laughing out loud on one page, and has me covering my mouth in horror on the next. Mastering that tonal shift is a fine line to walk, but Marina Carr manages it with aplomb here.

By the Bog of Cats is a play about a traveller woman called Hester, who feels a deep connection with the bog she lives on, but who's being f
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loosely based on Medea, Carr's version is a stage worthy vehicle in its own right, although it sometimes bogs (sorry/not sorry!) down in repetitiveness, and is confusing in parts. It would have been interesting to see the 2004 London revival starring Holly Hunter, if nothing else to see if she could pull off the Irish accent. ...more
Sep 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, z2016, plays
A very dramatic and interesting Irish play. It was quite dark and sad and I really liked that. I'd definitely recommend it. ...more
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
Absolutely fucking brilliant. I didn't know which 'myth' the reviews/reviewers were referring to, and I'm thankful for that because I only picked up on it towards the end of the play (and it was such a glorious surprise). Darkness with a lovely touch of comedy - my favourite. Also, I did read this in my awful Irish accent, trying to sound like Saoirse Ronan and Hozier but nothing like any of them at all. Made me miss Ireland. Oh dear Ireland. Had only great moments there. Got a proper job offer ...more
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Updated review: I had to reread this play for another literature class, and I can confidently say that I loved it just as much the second time around. If you are a fan of dark literature, you absolutely must read this, and read it immediately.

If all of my english class readings were like this, I would be a very happy person. Riveting, demented, dark, and just a little bit disturbing: all in all a fantastically entertaining read. I got through it all in one sitting, partly because I had nothing e
Kevin (Irish Reader)
I read this play for my english class and really enjoyed it! I'm slightly confused by the last line but I still enjoyed it! ...more
John Pistelli
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Like many a literary work of the so-called postmodern period, Marina Carr's famous 1998 play By the Bog of Cats is a critical echo chamber of prior texts, whether near or far in space and time from its setting in the Irish midlands in the late 20th century. The literature of prior eras lacked neither for influences nor allusions, but postmodern writers call on precursors neither to buttress their own intellectual authority (à la Dante or Milton) nor to stabilize their otherwise unwieldy subject ...more
Mark Woodland
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a curious play.... but one worth reading, and one that does read well on its own (though if you have a chance to see a production, don't pass it up). Set in the midlands of Ireland in a small town by, as the title says, the Bog of Cats, it features a cast of strong individual characters, with very distinct desires and agendas of their own. This sets up a nice interweaving of conflicts; two characters can both be said to be "against" another, but for completely different reasons. Each scene ...more
Sophie Elizabeth
I have read many, many Irish plays in my time at college, but this one is hands-down my favourite.

Something about the content is utterly hair-raising and plays upon highly emotive themes of land and identity, all the while rooting it in a sort of conflict between wilderness and society.

They're playing it at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin around my birthday this August and I am already looking forward to going to see it.
Jan 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays-read, play-date
(Play discussion group script #34)
Dean S.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, 21st, fantasy, irish
This was the first time I was reading a play by Carr and that’s wow! A modern day Medea which is greatly intertwined with the modern notion of land ownership, while managing to maintain its touch of classical fantasy without sounding weird and out-of-place.
Hester is a woman who has experienced, and continuous to experience, a number of episodes of loss and is greatly touched by them while trying to fight tooth and nail to avoid further ones or repeating them in her own life, specially when it co
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reading-for-uni
TW: suicide, child abuse, alcoholism, child neglect, murder, self-harm, sexual assault

Where do I even start with this play? It is definitely a lot. Very heavy hitting. But I like the circularity of the play. It definitely has a few plot twists you don't see coming. I though I knew how this was ending... boy was I wrong.

The characters are... something?? I really enjoyed the fantastical elements of this play. I still haven't fully processed it but uhm... it's a lot.
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My brother gave me this play to read and I absolutely loved it. It was a sad play that followed quite an imperfect character, but she was interesting and real. She did some bad things for no good reason, and she was quite a bad person but it’s a nice break from the typical hero or heroine. She was left behind by everyone she loved, and it broke her beyond repair. This was a great, cathartic play to read and I think it’s one of my favorites.
Jaime Tamar
Viscerally horrifying. Hard to read because 80% of the lines are yelling and it gets tiring in your head after awhile. Also it's written in dialect so you feel like you have to read it in an Irish dialect but thats easier said than done. But the story was very poignant and the imagery incredibly effective. ...more
Adela Jeon

This was such an interesting yet heartbreaking play to read! I especially liked all the metaphors, imagery, and supernatural (?) elements surrounding Hester and her history. I feel like there were tons of things throughout the play that have the potential to be analyzed and critiqued, which is always fun for rereads. Though I’m not sure how inclined I am to reread this play....!
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read this mainly because of the midlands setting. I honestly don't get modern Irish drama. Such an odd melange of elements at once old fashioned and modern and just plain weird.

Personal to CRES: if you ever read this, please explain it to me.
Polaris Hall
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my all-time favorite reads. I worked on producing this show and the story was so powerful and gripping I'll never forget. Swane's journey in some way resonates within everyone, and the satisfying tragedy fulfills what the readers knows must happen, but dreads nonetheless. ...more
David Eden
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful writing and engaging characters. The play is grim but it is not without humour. It updates the tragedy of Medea, set in the present day in Ireland. It would be fascinating to see on the stage.
Hana Ferguson
Mar 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars! Wow. I never read playwrights but had to for my Irish Lit class. This had an extremely unique storyline and characters. Really enjoyed this contemporary playwright thst highlighted the discrimination against tinkers and turmoil within Ireland.
A beautiful play, one of my absolute favourites. Set in the bog in Ireland, Hester Swane is a traveller. Not accepted by her community but not fully rejected either, wants to be with the man she loves and has a child with. Beautiful writing and a play I would love to see in person.
Eden Nicholls
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes. Modern day Medea.
(╯`▭´)╯︵ (dǝꓭ ƨ'ɒnɒ⅃) ǝɔnɒꓷ

I liked it a little better than Medea. Still really weird, though.
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
that was WAY worse than i ever imagined oh my God
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its a modern take on Medea.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-for-class
Read it for my Irish Literature class. It was a weird story and a sad ending.
Just This
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
weird, kooky play about a messed up lady who lives on a bog... fantastic dialogue & spooky hints
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most heartbreaking plays I've read in a while. It wasn't what I expected but reading it with my class, we laughed and cried (almost) such a sad life Hester had. Love Marina Carr ...more
Mar 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent reworking of Euripides’ “Medea”, both dark and intriguing.
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