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Theatre / The Plough and the Stars

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A classic Irish play written by Sean O'Casey set during the infamous Easter Rising from the point of view of the working class residents of a Dublin tenement:

  • Jack Clitheroe: a bricklayer and former member of the Irish Citizen Army.
  • Nora Clitheroe: A homemaker, who futilely tries to convince Jack to stay with her rather than fight in the Easter Rising.
  • Peter Flynn: a labourer, and Nora's uncle.
  • The Young Covey: a fitter, ardent socialist and cousin of Jack
  • Bessie Burgess: a street fruit-vendor, and the lone Protestant and supporter of British rule, who often gets involved in bitter quarrels with her neighbors.
  • Fluther Good: a carpenter, and trade-unionist.
  • Mrs Gogan: a gossipy charwoman.
  • Mollser Gogan: daughter of Mrs Gogan, dying from consumption

All of them more-or-less get along when Bessie isn't engaging in quarrels with her Catholic neighbors. The central conflict between Jack and Nora. Nora wants to Jack to stay at home with her, while Jack feels compelled to honor the call of the Irish Citizen Army when the Easter Rising begins in earnest. What follows is the unfolding of the six day rebellion from the tenants point of view and how it affects their lives.

During its premiere at the Abbey Theatre in 1926, the audience rioted in part because of the deception of a prostitute but also because they thought it was an insult against the men who fought in the Rising which to led W. B. Yeats (the Abbey's cofounder) Shaming the Mob: "You have disgraced yourselves again; is this to be the recurring celebration of the arrival of Irish genius?". note  Nevertheless, the play has become a classic and is regularly performed in Ireland today.

It was also made into an ill-received film in 1936 by John Ford, that he himself disowned because of how RKO Pictures forced him to downplay the politics and put more focus on Jack and Nora. In fact he was so fed up that he let the set and left the assistants to finish it. The tumultuous Abbey Theater premiere is dramatized in one of John Ford's last films, Young Cassidy.

Tropes in this work include:

  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The British troops are quickly able to quell the rebellion after a week of fighting.
  • Downer Ending: The British end up stopping the rebellion and Jack dies during the fight, leaving Nora mad with grief. Oh, and her child is stillborn.
  • Meaningful Name: The play's title comes from the flag the rebels used in the Rising. The flag also know as the Starry Plough features a design of the Big Dipper over a plough. James Connolly, co-founder of the Irish Citizen Army said that the flag was meant to represent that a free Ireland would control its own destiny from the plough to the stars.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: O'Casey's tendency to write dialogue the way he thought it should sound leads to a rare textual example of this, most noticeably with the British soldiers: his representation of a Cockney accent is as outlandish as Dick van Dyke's in Mary Poppins, e.g. "That's not plying the gime" for "That's not playing the game." Most productions get around this by hiring actors who are English (or can do flawless Cockney accents) and having them speak the lines as if they were written in standard English.
  • StrawmanPolitical: The Young Covey, whose response to basically everything that happens is to criticise it for not being in support of the revolution. He explains every event in terms of the one book of political theory he seems to have read, the fictional Jenersky's Thesis on the Origin and Development of the Evolutionary Idea of the Proletariat.
  • Token Minority: Bessie Burgess is the lone Protestant among the tenants and as such doesn't want the Rising to succeed.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Rebels are outnumbered by the British, but also their attempt at getting the people to rise up doesn't work; the people of Dublin just go looting instead, and the rebels lose. This was Truth in Television.
  • War Is Hell: Why Nora implores Jack not to fight.