The Playboy of the Western World

By J. M. Synge.


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In writing The Playboy of the Western World, as in my other plays, I have used one or two words only that I have not heard among the country people of Ireland, or spoken in my own nursery before I could read the newspapers. A certain number of the phrases I employ I have heard also from herds and fishermen along the coast from Kerry to Mayo, or from beggar-women and ballad-singers nearer Dublin; and I am glad to acknowledge how much I owe to the folk imagination of these fine people. Anyone who has lived in real intimacy with the Irish peasantry will know that the wildest sayings and ideas in this play are tame indeed, compared with the fancies one may hear in any little hillside cabin in Geesala, or Carraroe, or Dingle Bay. All art is a collaboration; and there is little doubt that in the happy ages of literature, striking and beautiful phrases were as ready to the storyteller’s or the playwright’s hand, as the rich cloaks and dresses of his time. It is probable that when the Elizabethan dramatist took his ink-horn and sat down to his work he used many phrases that he had just heard, as he sat at dinner, from his mother or his children. In Ireland, those of us who know the people have the same privilege. When I was writing The Shadow of the Glen, some years ago, I got more aid than any learning could have given me from a chink in the floor of the old Wicklow house where I was staying, that let me hear what was being said by the servant girls in the kitchen. This matter, I think, is of importance, for in countries where the imagination of the people, and the language they use, is rich and living, it is possible for a writer to be rich and copious in his words, and at the same time to give the reality, which is the root of all poetry, in a comprehensive and natural form. In the modern literature of towns, however, richness is found only in sonnets, or prose poems, or in one or two elaborate books that are far away from the profound and common interests of life. One has, on one side, Mallarmé and Huysmans producing this literature; and on the other, Ibsen and Zola dealing with the reality of life in joyless and pallid words. On the stage one must have reality, and one must have joy; and that is why the intellectual modern drama has failed, and people have grown sick of the false joy of the musical comedy, that has been given them in place of the rich joy found only in what is superb and wild in reality. In a good play every speech should be as fully flavoured as a nut or apple, and such speeches cannot be written by anyone who works among people who have shut their lips on poetry. In Ireland, for a few years more, we have a popular imagination that is fiery and magnificent, and tender; so that those of us who wish to write start with a chance that is not given to writers in places where the springtime of the local life has been forgotten, and the harvest is a memory only, and the straw has been turned into bricks.

J. M. S.

January 21st, 1907.

The Playboy of the Western World

Persons in the Play

The action takes place near a village, on a wild coast of Mayo. The first Act passes on an evening of autumn, the other two Acts on the following day.

Act I

Scene: Country public-house or shebeen, very rough and untidy. There is a sort of counter on the right with shelves, holding many bottles and jugs, just seen above it. Empty barrels stand near the counter. At back, a little to left of counter, there is a door into the open air, then, more to the left, there is a settle with shelves above it, with more jugs, and a table beneath a window. At the left there is a large open fireplace, with turf fire, and a small door into inner room. Pegeen, a wild-looking but fine girl, of about twenty, is writing at table. She is dressed in the usual peasant dress.

Pegeen Slowly as she writes. Six yards of stuff for to make a yellow gown. A pair of lace boots with lengthy heels on them and brassy eyes. A hat is suited for a wedding-day. A fine tooth comb. To be sent with three barrels of porter in Jimmy Farrell’s creel cart on the evening of the coming Fair to Mister Michael James Flaherty. With the best compliments of this season. Margaret Flaherty.
Shawn A fat and fair young man comes in as she signs, looks round awkwardly, when he sees she is alone. Where’s himself?
Pegeen Without looking at him. He’s coming. She directs the letter. To Mister Sheamus Mulroy, Wine and Spirit Dealer, Castlebar.
Shawn Uneasily. I didn’t see him on the road.
Pegeen How would you see him Licks stamp and puts it on letter. and it dark night this half hour gone by?
Shawn Turning towards the door again. I stood a while outside wondering would I have a right to pass on or to walk in and see you, Pegeen Mike, Comes to fire. and I could hear the cows breathing, and sighing in the stillness of the air, and not a step moving any place from this gate to the bridge.
Pegeen Putting letter in envelope. It’s above at the crossroads he is, meeting Philly Cullen; and a couple more are going along with him to Kate Cassidy’s wake.
Shawn Looking at her blankly. And he’s going that length in the dark night?
Pegeen Impatiently. He is surely, and leaving me lonesome on the scruff of the hill. She gets up and puts envelope on dresser, then winds the clock. Isn’t it long the nights are now, Shawn Keogh, to be leaving a poor girl with her own self counting the hours to the dawn of day?
Shawn With awkward humour. If it is, when we’re wedded in a short while you’ll have no call to complain, for I’ve little will to be walking off to wakes or weddings in the darkness of the night.
Pegeen With rather scornful good humour. You’re making mighty certain, Shaneen, that I’ll wed you now.
Shawn Aren’t we after making a good bargain, the way we’re only waiting these days on Father Reilly’s dispensation from the bishops, or the Court of Rome.
Pegeen Looking at him teasingly, washing up at dresser. It’s a wonder, Shaneen, the Holy Father’d be taking notice of the likes of you; for if I was him I wouldn’t bother with this place where you’ll meet none but Red Linahan, has a squint in his eye, and Patcheen is lame in his heel, or the mad Mulrannies were driven from California and they lost in their wits. We’re a queer lot these times to go troubling the Holy Father on his sacred seat.
Shawn Scandalized. If we are, we’re as good this place as another, maybe, and as good these times as we were forever.
Pegeen With scorn. As good, is it? Where now will you meet the like of Daneen Sullivan knocked the eye from a peeler, or Marcus Quin, God rest him, got six months for maiming ewes, and he a great warrant to tell stories of holy Ireland till he’d have the old women shedding down tears about their feet. Where will you find the like of them, I’m saying?
Shawn Timidly. If you don’t it’s a good job, maybe; for With peculiar emphasis on the words. Father Reilly has small conceit to have that kind walking around and talking to the girls.
Pegeen Impatiently, throwing water from basin out of the door. Stop tormenting me with Father Reilly Imitating his voice. when I’m asking only what way I’ll pass these twelve hours of dark, and not take my death with the fear. Looking out of door.
Shawn Timidly. Would I fetch you the Widow Quin, maybe?
Pegeen Is it the like of that murderer? You’ll not, surely.
Shawn Going to her, soothingly. Then I’m thinking himself will stop along with you when he sees you taking on, for it’ll be a long nighttime with great darkness, and I’m after feeling a kind of fellow above in the furzy ditch, groaning wicked like a maddening dog, the way it’s good cause you have, maybe, to be fearing now.
Pegeen Turning on him sharply. What’s that? Is it a man you seen?
Shawn Retreating. I couldn’t see him at all; but I heard him groaning out, and breaking his heart. It should have been a young man from his words speaking.
Pegeen Going after him. And you never went near to see was he hurted or what ailed him at all?
Shawn I did not, Pegeen Mike. It was a dark, lonesome place to be hearing the like of him.
Pegeen Well, you’re a daring fellow, and if they find his corpse stretched above in the dews of dawn, what’ll you say then to the peelers, or the Justice of the Peace?
Shawn Thunderstruck. I wasn’t thinking of that. For the love of God, Pegeen Mike, don’t let on I was speaking of him. Don’t tell your father and the men is coming above; for if they heard that story, they’d have great blabbing this night at the wake.
Pegeen I’ll maybe tell them, and I’ll maybe not.
Shawn They are coming at the door. Will you whisht, I’m saying?
Pegeen Whisht yourself.
She goes behind counter. Michael James, fat jovial publican, comes in followed by Philly Cullen, who is thin and mistrusting, and Jimmy Farrell, who is fat and amorous, about forty-five.
Men Together. God bless you. The blessing of God on this place.
Pegeen God bless you kindly.
Michael To men who go to the counter. Sit down now, and take your rest. Crosses to Shawn at the fire. And how is it you are, Shawn Keogh? Are you coming over the sands to Kate Cassidy’s wake?
Shawn I am not, Michael James. I’m going home the shortcut to my bed.
Pegeen Speaking across the counter. He’s right too, and have you no shame, Michael James, to be quitting off for the whole night, and leaving myself lonesome in the shop?
Michael Good-humouredly. Isn’t it the same whether I go for the whole night or a part only? and I’m thinking it’s a queer daughter you are if you’d have me crossing backward through the Stooks of the Dead Women, with a drop taken.
Pegeen If I am a queer daughter, it’s a queer father’d be leaving me lonesome these twelve hours of dark, and I piling the turf with the dogs barking, and the calves mooing, and my own teeth rattling with the fear.
Jimmy Flatteringly. What is there to hurt you, and you a fine, hardy girl would knock the head of any two men in the place?
Pegeen Working herself up. Isn’t there the harvest boys with their tongues red for drink, and the ten tinkers is camped in the east glen, and the thousand militia⁠—bad cess to them!⁠—walking idle through the land. There’s lots surely to hurt me, and I won’t stop alone in it, let himself do what he will.
Michael If you’re that afeard, let Shawn Keogh stop along with you. It’s the will of God, I’m thinking, himself should be seeing to you now. They all turn on Shawn.
Shawn In horrified confusion. I would and welcome, Michael James, but I’m afeard of Father Reilly; and what at all would the Holy Father and the Cardinals of Rome be saying if they heard I did the like of that?
Michael With contempt. God help you! Can’t you sit in by the hearth with the light lit and herself beyond in the room? You’ll do that surely, for I’ve heard tell there’s a queer fellow above, going mad or getting his death, maybe, in the grip of the ditch, so she’d be safer this night with a person here.
Shawn With plaintive despair. I’m afeard of Father Reilly, I’m saying. Let you not be tempting me, and we near married itself.
Philly With cold contempt. Lock him in the west room. He’ll stay then and have no sin to be telling to the priest.
Michael To Shawn, getting between him and the door. Go up now.
Shawn At the top of his voice. Don’t stop me, Michael James. Let me out of the door, I’m saying, for the love of the Almighty God. Let me out Trying to dodge past him. Let me out of it, and may God grant you His indulgence in the hour of need.
Michael Loudly. Stop your noising, and sit down by the hearth. Gives him a push and goes to counter laughing.
Shawn Turning back, wringing his hands. Oh, Father Reilly and the saints of God, where will I hide myself today? Oh, St. Joseph and St. Patrick and St. Brigid, and St. James, have mercy on me now! Shawn turns round, sees door clear, and makes a rush for it.
Michael Catching him by the coattail. You’d be going, is it?
Shawn Screaming. Leave me go, Michael James, leave me go, you old Pagan, leave me go, or I’ll get the curse of the priests on you, and of the scarlet-coated bishops of the courts of Rome. With a sudden movement he pulls himself out of his coat, and disappears out of the door, leaving his coat in Michael’s hands.
Michael Turning round, and holding up coat. Well, there’s the coat of a Christian man. Oh, there’s sainted glory this day in the lonesome west; and by the will of God I’ve got you a decent man, Pegeen, you’ll have no call to be spying after if you’ve a score of young girls, maybe, weeding in your fields.
Pegeen Taking up the defence of her property. What right have you to be making game of a poor fellow for minding the priest, when it’s your own the fault is, not paying a penny potboy to stand along with me and give me courage in the doing of my work? She snaps the coat away from him, and goes behind counter with it.
Michael Taken aback. Where would I get a potboy? Would you have me send the bellman screaming in the streets of Castlebar?
Shawn Opening the door a chink and putting in his head, in a small voice. Michael James!
Michael Imitating him. What ails you?
Shawn The queer dying fellow’s beyond looking over the ditch. He’s come up, I’m thinking, stealing your hens. Looks over his shoulder. God help me, he’s following me now, He runs into room. and if he’s heard what I said, he’ll be having my life, and I going home lonesome in the darkness of the night.
For a perceptible moment they watch the door with curiosity. Someone coughs outside. Then Christy Mahon, a slight young man, comes in very tired and frightened and dirty.
Christy In a small voice. God save all here!
Men God save you kindly.
Christy Going to the counter. I’d trouble you for a glass of porter, woman of the house. He puts down coin.
Pegeen Serving him. You’re one of the tinkers, young fellow, is beyond camped in the glen?
Christy I am not; but I’m destroyed walking.
Michael Patronizingly. Let you come up then to the fire. You’re looking famished with the cold.
Christy God reward you. He takes up his glass and goes a little way across to the left, then stops and looks about him. Is it often the police do be coming into this place, master of the house?
Michael If you’d come in better hours, you’d have seen “Licensed for the sale of Beer and Spirits, to be consumed on the premises,” written in white letters above the door, and what would the polis want spying on me, and not a decent house within four miles, the way every living Christian is a bona fide, saving one widow alone?
Christy With relief. It’s a safe house, so. He goes over to the fire, sighing and moaning. Then he sits down, putting his glass beside him and begins gnawing a turnip, too miserable to feel the others staring at him with curiosity.
Michael Going after him. Is it yourself fearing the polis? You’re wanting, maybe?
Christy There’s many wanting.
Michael Many surely, with the broken harvest and the ended wars. He picks up some stockings, etc., that are near the fire, and carries them away furtively. It should be larceny, I’m thinking?
Christy Dolefully. I had it in my mind it was a different word and a bigger.
Pegeen There’s a queer lad. Were you never slapped in school, young fellow, that you don’t know the name of your deed?
Christy Bashfully. I’m slow at learning, a middling scholar only.
Michael If you’re a dunce itself, you’d have a right to know that larceny’s robbing and stealing. Is it for the like of that you’re wanting?
Christy With a flash of family pride. And I the son of a strong farmer, With a sudden qualm. God rest his soul, could have bought up the whole of your old house a while since, from the butt of his tailpocket, and not have missed the weight of it gone.
Michael Impressed. If it’s not stealing, it’s maybe something big.
Christy Flattered. Aye; it’s maybe something big.
Jimmy He’s a wicked-looking young fellow. Maybe he followed after a young woman on a lonesome night.
Christy Shocked. Oh, the saints forbid, mister; I was all times a decent lad.
Philly Turning on Jimmy. You’re a silly man, Jimmy Farrell. He said his father was a farmer a while since, and there’s himself now in a poor state. Maybe the land was grabbed from him, and he did what any decent man would do.
Michael To Christy, mysteriously. Was it bailiffs?
Christy The divil a one.
Michael Agents?
Christy The divil a one.
Michael Landlords?
Christy Peevishly. Ah, not at all, I’m saying. You’d see the like of them stories on any little paper of a Munster town. But I’m not calling to mind any person, gentle, simple, judge or jury, did the like of me.
They all draw nearer with delighted curiosity.
Philly Well, that lad’s a puzzle⁠—the world.
Jimmy He’d beat Dan Davies’ circus, or the holy missioners making sermons on the villainy of man. Try him again, Philly.
Philly Did you strike golden guineas out of solder, young fellow, or shilling coins itself?
Christy I did not, mister, not sixpence nor a farthing coin.
Jimmy Did you marry three wives maybe? I’m told there’s a sprinkling have done that among the holy Luthers of the preaching north.
Christy Shyly. I never married with one, let alone with a couple or three.
Philly Maybe he went fighting for the Boers, the like of the man beyond, was judged to be hanged, quartered and drawn. Were you off east, young fellow, fighting bloody wars for Kruger and the freedom of the Boers?
Christy I never left my own parish till Tuesday was a week.
Pegeen Coming from counter. He’s done nothing, so. To Christy. If you didn’t commit murder or a bad, nasty thing, or false coining, or robbery, or butchery, or the like of them, there isn’t anything that would be worth your troubling for to run from now. You did nothing at all.
Christy His feelings hurt. That’s an unkindly thing to be saying to a poor orphaned traveller, has a prison behind him, and hanging before, and hell’s gap gaping below.
Pegeen With a sign to the men to be quiet. You’re only saying it. You did nothing at all. A soft lad the like of you wouldn’t slit the windpipe of a screeching sow.
Christy Offended. You’re not speaking the truth.
Pegeen In mock rage. Not speaking the truth, is it? Would you have me knock the head of you with the butt of the broom?
Christy Twisting round on her with a sharp cry of horror. Don’t strike me. I killed my poor father, Tuesday was a week, for doing the like of that.
Pegeen With blank amazement. Is it killed your father?
Christy Subsiding. With the help of God I did surely, and that the Holy Immaculate Mother may intercede for his soul.
Philly Retreating with Jimmy. There’s a daring fellow.
Jimmy Oh, glory be to God!
Michael With great respect. That was a hanging crime, mister honey. You should have had good reason for doing the like of that.
Christy In a very reasonable tone. He was a dirty man, God forgive him, and he getting old and crusty, the way I couldn’t put up with him at all.
Pegeen And you shot him dead?
Christy Shaking his head. I never used weapons. I’ve no license, and I’m a law-fearing man.
Michael It was with a hilted knife maybe? I’m told, in the big world it’s bloody knives they use.
Christy Loudly, scandalized. Do you take me for a slaughter-boy?
Pegeen You never hanged him, the way Jimmy Farrell hanged his dog from the license, and had it screeching and wriggling three hours at the butt of a string, and himself swearing it was a dead dog, and the peelers swearing it had life?
Christy I did not then. I just riz the loy and let fall the edge of it on the ridge of his skull, and he went down at my feet like an empty sack, and never let a grunt or groan from him at all.
Michael Making a sign to Pegeen to fill Christy’s glass. And what way weren’t you hanged, mister? Did you bury him then?
Christy Considering. Aye. I buried him then. Wasn’t I digging spuds in the field?
Michael And the peelers never followed after you the eleven days that you’re out?
Christy Shaking his head. Never a one of them, and I walking forward facing hog, dog, or divil on the highway of the road.
Philly Nodding wisely. It’s only with a common weekday kind of a murderer them lads would be trusting their carcase, and that man should be a great terror when his temper’s roused.
Michael He should then. To Christy. And where was it, mister honey, that you did the deed?
Christy Looking at him with suspicion. Oh, a distant place, master of the house, a windy corner of high, distant hills.
Philly Nodding with approval. He’s a close man, and he’s right, surely.
Pegeen That’d be a lad with the sense of Solomon to have for a potboy, Michael James, if it’s the truth you’re seeking one at all.
Philly The peelers is fearing him, and if you’d that lad in the house there isn’t one of them would come smelling around if the dogs itself were lapping poteen from the dungpit of the yard.
Jimmy Bravery’s a treasure in a lonesome place, and a lad would kill his father, I’m thinking, would face a foxy divil with a pitchpike on the flags of hell.
Pegeen It’s the truth they’re saying, and if I’d that lad in the house, I wouldn’t be fearing the loosed kharki cutthroats, or the walking dead.
Christy Swelling with surprise and triumph. Well, glory be to God!
Michael With deference. Would you think well to stop here and be potboy, mister honey, if we gave you good wages, and didn’t destroy you with the weight of work?
Shawn Coming forward uneasily. That’d be a queer kind to bring into a decent quiet household with the like of Pegeen Mike.
Pegeen Very sharply. Will you whisht? Who’s speaking to you?
Shawn Retreating. A bloody-handed murderer the like of.⁠ ⁠…
Pegeen Snapping at him. Whisht I am saying; we’ll take no fooling from your like at all. To Christy with a honeyed voice. And you, young fellow, you’d have a right to stop, I’m thinking, for we’d do our all and utmost to content your needs.
Christy Overcome with wonder. And I’d be safe in this place from the searching law?
Michael You would, surely. If they’re not fearing you, itself, the peelers in this place is decent droughty poor fellows, wouldn’t touch a cur dog and not give warning in the dead of night.
Pegeen Very kindly and persuasively. Let you stop a short while anyhow. Aren’t you destroyed walking with your feet in bleeding blisters, and your whole skin needing washing like a Wicklow sheep.
Christy Looking round with satisfaction. It’s a nice room, and if it’s not humbugging me you are, I’m thinking that I’ll surely stay.
Jimmy Jumps up. Now, by the grace of God, herself will be safe this night, with a man killed his father holding danger from the door, and let you come on, Michael James, or they’ll have the best stuff drunk at the wake.
Michael Going to the door with men. And begging your pardon, mister, what name will we call you, for we’d like to know?
Christy Christopher Mahon.
Michael Well, God bless you, Christy, and a good rest till we meet again when the sun’ll be rising to the noon of day.
Christy God bless you all.
Men God bless you. They go out except Shawn, who lingers at door.
Shawn To Pegeen. Are you wanting me to stop along with you and keep you from harm?
Pegeen Gruffly. Didn’t you say you were fearing Father Reilly?
Shawn There’d be no harm staying now, I’m thinking, and himself in it too.
Pegeen You wouldn’t stay when there was need for you, and let you step off nimble this time when there’s none.
Shawn Didn’t I say it was Father Reilly.⁠ ⁠…
Pegeen Go on, then, to Father Reilly, In a jeering tone. and let him put you in the holy brotherhoods, and leave that lad to me.
Shawn If I meet the Widow Quin.⁠ ⁠…
Pegeen Go on, I’m saying, and don’t be waking this place with your noise. She hustles him out and bolts the door. That lad would wear the spirits from the saints of peace. Bustles about, then takes off her apron and pins it up in the window as a blind. Christy watching her timidly. Then she comes to him and speaks with bland good-humour. Let you stretch out now by the fire, young fellow. You should be destroyed travelling.
Christy Shyly again, drawing off his boots. I’m tired, surely, walking wild eleven days, and waking fearful in the night. He holds up one of his feet, feeling his blisters, and looking at them with compassion.
Pegeen Standing beside him, watching him with delight. You should have had great people in your family, I’m thinking, with the little, small feet you have, and you with a kind of a quality name, the like of what you’d find on the great powers and potentates of France and Spain.
Christy With pride. We were great surely, with wide and windy acres of rich Munster land.
Pegeen Wasn’t I telling you, and you a fine, handsome young fellow with a noble brow?
Christy With a flash of delighted surprise. Is it me?
Pegeen Aye. Did you never hear that from the young girls where you come from in the west or south?
Christy With venom. I did not then. Oh, they’re bloody liars in the naked parish where I grew a man.
Pegeen If they are itself, you’ve heard it these days, I’m thinking, and you walking the world telling out your story to young girls or old.
Christy I’ve told my story no place till this night, Pegeen Mike, and it’s foolish I was here, maybe, to be talking free, but you’re decent people, I’m thinking, and yourself a kindly woman, the way I wasn’t fearing you at all.
Pegeen Filling a sack with straw. You’ve said the like of that, maybe, in every cot and cabin where you’ve met a young girl on your way.
Christy Going over to her, gradually raising his voice. I’ve said it nowhere till this night, I’m telling you, for I’ve seen none the like of you the eleven long days I am walking the world, looking over a low ditch or a high ditch on my north or my south, into stony scattered fields, or scribes of bog, where you’d see young, limber girls, and fine prancing women making laughter with the men.
Pegeen If you weren’t destroyed travelling, you’d have as much talk and streeleen, I’m thinking, as Owen Roe O’Sullivan or the poets of the Dingle Bay, and I’ve heard all times it’s the poets are your like, fine fiery fellows with great rages when their temper’s roused.
Christy Drawing a little nearer to her. You’ve a power of rings, God bless you, and would there be any offence if I was asking are you single now?
Pegeen What would I want wedding so young?
Christy With relief. We’re alike, so.
Pegeen She puts sack on settle and beats it up. I never killed my father. I’d be afeard to do that, except I was the like of yourself with blind rages tearing me within, for I’m thinking you should have had great tussling when the end was come.
Christy Expanding with delight at the first confidential talk he has ever had with a woman. We had not then. It was a hard woman was come over the hill, and if he was always a crusty kind when he’d a hard woman setting him on, not the divil himself or his four fathers could put up with him at all.
Pegeen With curiosity. And isn’t it a great wonder that one wasn’t fearing you?
Christy Very confidentially. Up to the day I killed my father, there wasn’t a person in Ireland knew the kind I was, and I there drinking, waking, eating, sleeping, a quiet, simple poor fellow with no man giving me heed.
Pegeen Getting a quilt out of the cupboard and putting it on the sack. It was the girls were giving you heed maybe, and I’m thinking it’s most conceit you’d have to be gaming with their like.
Christy Shaking his head, with simplicity. Not the girls itself, and I won’t tell you a lie. There wasn’t anyone heeding me in that place saving only the dumb beasts of the field. He sits down at fire.
Pegeen With disappointment. And I thinking you should have been living the like of a king of Norway or the Eastern world. She comes and sits beside him after placing bread and mug of milk on the table.
Christy Laughing piteously. The like of a king, is it? And I after toiling, moiling, digging, dodging from the dawn till dusk with never a sight of joy or sport saving only when I’d be abroad in the dark night poaching rabbits on hills, for I was a divil to poach, God forgive me, Very naively. and I near got six months for going with a dung fork and stabbing a fish.
Pegeen And it’s that you’d call sport, is it, to be abroad in the darkness with yourself alone?
Christy I did, God help me, and there I’d be as happy as the sunshine of St. Martin’s Day, watching the light passing the north or the patches of fog, till I’d hear a rabbit starting to screech and I’d go running in the furze. Then when I’d my full share I’d come walking down where you’d see the ducks and geese stretched sleeping on the highway of the road, and before I’d pass the dunghill, I’d hear himself snoring out, a loud lonesome snore he’d be making all times, the while he was sleeping, and he a man ’d be raging all times, the while he was waking, like a gaudy officer you’d hear cursing and damning and swearing oaths.
Pegeen Providence and Mercy, spare us all!
Christy It’s that you’d say surely if you seen him and he after drinking for weeks, rising up in the red dawn, or before it maybe, and going out into the yard as naked as an ash tree in the moon of May, and shying clods against the visage of the stars till he’d put the fear of death into the banbhs and the screeching sows.
Pegeen I’d be well-nigh afeard of that lad myself, I’m thinking. And there was no one in it but the two of you alone?
Christy The divil a one, though he’d sons and daughters walking all great states and territories of the world, and not a one of them, to this day, but would say their seven curses on him, and they rousing up to let a cough or sneeze, maybe, in the deadness of the night.
Pegeen Nodding her head. Well, you should have been a queer lot. I never cursed my father the like of that, though I’m twenty and more years of age.
Christy Then you’d have cursed mine, I’m telling you, and he a man never gave peace to any, saving when he’d get two months or three, or be locked in the asylums for battering peelers or assaulting men With depression. the way it was a bitter life he led me till I did up a Tuesday and halve his skull.
Pegeen Putting her hand on his shoulder. Well, you’ll have peace in this place, Christy Mahon, and none to trouble you, and it’s near time a fine lad like you should have your good share of the earth.
Christy It’s time surely, and I a seemly fellow with great strength in me and bravery of.⁠ ⁠…
Someone knocks.
Christy Clinging to Pegeen. Oh, glory! it’s late for knocking, and this last while I’m in terror of the peelers, and the walking dead.
Knocking again.
Pegeen Who’s there?
Voice Outside. Me.
Pegeen Who’s me?
Voice The Widow Quin.
Pegeen Jumping up and giving him the bread and milk. Go on now with your supper, and let on to be sleepy, for if she found you were such a warrant to talk, she’d be stringing gabble till the dawn of day.
He takes bread and sits shyly with his back to the door.
Pegeen Opening door, with temper. What ails you, or what is it you’re wanting at this hour of the night?
Widow Quin Coming in a step and peering at Christy. I’m after meeting Shawn Keogh and Father Reilly below, who told me of your curiosity man, and they fearing by this time he was maybe roaring, romping on your hands with drink.
Pegeen Pointing to Christy. Look now is he roaring, and he stretched away drowsy with his supper and his mug of milk. Walk down and tell that to Father Reilly and to Shaneen Keogh.
Widow Quin Coming forward. I’ll not see them again, for I’ve their word to lead that lad forward for to lodge with me.
Pegeen In blank amazement. This night, is it?
Widow Quin Going over. This night. “It isn’t fitting,” says the priesteen, “to have his likeness lodging with an orphaned girl.” To Christy. God save you, mister!
Christy Shyly. God save you kindly.
Widow Quin Looking at him with half-amazed curiosity. Well, aren’t you a little smiling fellow? It should have been great and bitter torments did rouse your spirits to a deed of blood.
Christy Doubtfully. It should, maybe.
Widow Quin It’s more than “maybe” I’m saying, and it’d soften my heart to see you sitting so simple with your cup and cake, and you fitter to be saying your catechism than slaying your da.
Pegeen At counter, washing glasses. There’s talking when any’d see he’s fit to be holding his head high with the wonders of the world. Walk on from this, for I’ll not have him tormented and he destroyed travelling since Tuesday was a week.
Widow Quin Peaceably. We’ll be walking surely when his supper’s done, and you’ll find we’re great company, young fellow, when it’s of the like of you and me you’d hear the penny poets singing in an August Fair.
Christy Innocently. Did you kill your father?
Pegeen Contemptuously. She did not. She hit himself with a worn pick, and the rusted poison did corrode his blood the way he never overed it, and died after. That was a sneaky kind of murder did win small glory with the boys itself. She crosses to Christy’s left.
Widow Quin With good-humour. If it didn’t, maybe all knows a widow woman has buried her children and destroyed her man is a wiser comrade for a young lad than a girl, the like of you, who’d go helter-skeltering after any man would let you a wink upon the road.
Pegeen Breaking out into wild rage. And you’ll say that, Widow Quin, and you gasping with the rage you had racing the hill beyond to look on his face.
Widow Quin Laughing derisively. Me, is it? Well, Father Reilly has cuteness to divide you now. She pulls Christy up. There’s great temptation in a man did slay his da, and we’d best be going, young fellow; so rise up and come with me.
Pegeen Seizing his arm. He’ll not stir. He’s potboy in this place, and I’ll not have him stolen off and kidnapped while himself’s abroad.
Widow Quin It’d be a crazy potboy’d lodge him in the shebeen where he works by day, so you’d have a right to come on, young fellow, till you see my little houseen, a perch off on the rising hill.
Pegeen Wait till morning, Christy Mahon. Wait till you lay eyes on her leaky thatch is growing more pasture for her buck goat than her square of fields, and she without a tramp itself to keep in order her place at all.
Widow Quin When you see me contriving in my little gardens, Christy Mahon, you’ll swear the Lord God formed me to be living lone, and that there isn’t my match in Mayo for thatching, or mowing, or shearing a sheep.
Pegeen With noisy scorn. It’s true the Lord God formed you to contrive indeed. Doesn’t the world know you reared a black lamb at your own breast, so that the Lord Bishop of Connaught felt the elements of a Christian, and he eating it after in a kidney stew? Doesn’t the world know you’ve been seen shaving the foxy skipper from France for a threepenny bit and a sop of grass tobacco would wring the liver from a mountain goat you’d meet leaping the hills?
Widow Quin With amusement. Do you hear her now, young fellow? Do you hear the way she’ll be rating at your own self when a week is by?
Pegeen To Christy. Don’t heed her. Tell her to go into her pigsty and not plague us here.
Widow Quin I’m going; but he’ll come with me.
Pegeen Shaking him. Are you dumb, young fellow?
Christy Timidly, to Widow Quin. God increase you; but I’m potboy in this place, and it’s here I’d liefer stay.
Pegeen Triumphantly. Now you have heard him, and go on from this.
Widow Quin Looking round the room. It’s lonesome this hour crossing the hill, and if he won’t come along with me, I’d have a right maybe to stop this night with yourselves. Let me stretch out on the settle, Pegeen Mike; and himself can lie by the hearth.
Pegeen Short and fiercely. Faith, I won’t. Quit off or I will send you now.
Widow Quin Gathering her shawl up. Well, it’s a terror to be aged a score. To Christy. God bless you now, young fellow, and let you be wary, or there’s right torment will await you here if you go romancing with her like, and she waiting only, as they bade me say, on a sheepskin parchment to be wed with Shawn Keogh of Killakeen.
Christy Going to Pegeen as she bolts the door. What’s that she’s after saying?
Pegeen Lies and blather, you’ve no call to mind. Well, isn’t Shawn Keogh an impudent fellow to send up spying on me? Wait till I lay hands on him. Let him wait, I’m saying.
Christy And you’re not wedding him at all?
Pegeen I wouldn’t wed him if a bishop came walking for to join us here.
Christy That God in glory may be thanked for that.
Pegeen There’s your bed now. I’ve put a quilt upon you I’m after quilting a while since with my own two hands, and you’d best stretch out now for your sleep, and may God give you a good rest till I call you in the morning when the cocks will crow.
Christy As she goes to inner room. May God and Mary and St. Patrick bless you and reward you, for your kindly talk. She shuts the door behind her. He settles his bed slowly, feeling the quilt with immense satisfaction. Well, it’s a clean bed and soft with it, and it’s great luck and company I’ve won me in the end of time⁠—two fine women fighting for the likes of me⁠—till I’m thinking this night wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by.

Act II

Scene as before. Brilliant morning light. Christy, looking bright and cheerful, is cleaning a girl’s boots.

Christy To himself, counting jugs on dresser. Half a hundred beyond. Ten there. A score that’s above. Eighty jugs. Six cups and a broken one. Two plates. A power of glasses. Bottles, a schoolmaster’d be hard set to count, and enough in them, I’m thinking, to drunken all the wealth and wisdom of the County Clare. He puts down the boot carefully. There’s her boots now, nice and decent for her evening use, and isn’t it grand brushes she has? He puts them down and goes by degrees to the looking glass. Well, this’d be a fine place to be my whole life talking out with swearing Christians, in place of my old dogs and cat, and I stalking around, smoking my pipe and drinking my fill, and never a day’s work but drawing a cork an odd time, or wiping a glass, or rinsing out a shiny tumbler for a decent man. He takes the looking glass from the wall and puts it on the back of a chair; then sits down in front of it and begins washing his face. Didn’t I know rightly I was handsome, though it was the divil’s own mirror we had beyond, would twist a squint across an angel’s brow; and I’ll be growing fine from this day, the way I’ll have a soft lovely skin on me and won’t be the like of the clumsy young fellows do be ploughing all times in the earth and dung. He starts. Is she coming again? He looks out. Stranger girls. God help me, where’ll I hide myself away and my long neck naked to the world? He looks out. I’d best go to the room maybe till I’m dressed again.
He gathers up his coat and the looking glass, and runs into the inner room. The door is pushed open, and Susan Brady looks in, and knocks on door.
Susan There’s nobody in it. Knocks again.
Nelly Pushing her in and following her, with Honor Blake and Sara Tansey. It’d be early for them both to be out walking the hill.
Susan I’m thinking Shawn Keogh was making game of us and there’s no such man in it at all.
Honor Pointing to straw and quilt. Look at that. He’s been sleeping there in the night. Well, it’ll be a hard case if he’s gone off now, the way we’ll never set our eyes on a man killed his father, and we after rising early and destroying ourselves running fast on the hill.
Nelly Are you thinking them’s his boots?
Sara Taking them up. If they are, there should be his father’s track on them. Did you never read in the papers the way murdered men do bleed and drip?
Susan Is that blood there, Sara Tansey?
Sara Smelling it. That’s bog water, I’m thinking, but it’s his own they are surely, for I never seen the like of them for whity mud, and red mud, and turf on them, and the fine sands of the sea. That man’s been walking, I’m telling you. She goes down right, putting on one of his boots.
Susan Going to window. Maybe he’s stolen off to Belmullet with the boots of Michael James, and you’d have a right so to follow after him, Sara Tansey, and you the one yoked the ass cart and drove ten miles to set your eyes on the man bit the yellow lady’s nostril on the northern shore. She looks out.
Sara Running to window with one boot on. Don’t be talking, and we fooled today. Putting on other boot. There’s a pair do fit me well, and I’ll be keeping them for walking to the priest, when you’d be ashamed this place, going up winter and summer with nothing worth while to confess at all.
Honor Who has been listening at the door. Whisht! there’s someone inside the room. She pushes door a chink open. It’s a man. Sara kicks off boots and puts them where they were. They all stand in a line looking through chink.
Sara I’ll call him. Mister! Mister! He puts in his head. Is Pegeen within?
Christy Coming in as meek as a mouse, with the looking glass held behind his back. She’s above on the cnuceen, seeking the nanny goats, the way she’d have a sup of goat’s milk for to colour my tea.
Sara And asking your pardon, is it you’s the man killed his father?
Christy Sidling toward the nail where the glass was hanging. I am, God help me!
Sara Taking eggs she has brought. Then my thousand welcomes to you, and I’ve run up with a brace of duck’s eggs for your food today. Pegeen’s ducks is no use, but these are the real rich sort. Hold out your hand and you’ll see it’s no lie I’m telling you.
Christy Coming forward shyly, and holding out his left hand. They’re a great and weighty size.
Susan And I run up with a pat of butter, for it’d be a poor thing to have you eating your spuds dry, and you after running a great way since you did destroy your da.
Christy Thank you kindly.
Honor And I brought you a little cut of cake, for you should have a thin stomach on you, and you that length walking the world.
Nelly And I brought you a little laying pullet⁠—boiled and all she is⁠—was crushed at the fall of night by the curate’s car. Feel the fat of that breast, Mister.
Christy It’s bursting, surely. He feels it with the back of his hand, in which he holds the presents.
Sara Will you pinch it? Is your right hand too sacred for to use at all? She slips round behind him. It’s a glass he has. Well, I never seen to this day a man with a looking glass held to his back. Them that kills their fathers is a vain lot surely. Girls giggle.
Christy Smiling innocently and piling presents on glass. I’m very thankful to you all today.⁠ ⁠…
Widow Quin Coming in quickly, at door. Sara Tansey, Susan Brady, Honor Blake! What in glory has you here at this hour of day?
Girls Giggling. That’s the man killed his father.
Widow Quin Coming to them. I know well it’s the man; and I’m after putting him down in the sports below for racing, leaping, pitching, and the Lord knows what.
Sara Exuberantly. That’s right, Widow Quin. I’ll bet my dowry that he’ll lick the world.
Widow Quin If you will, you’d have a right to have him fresh and nourished in place of nursing a feast. Taking presents. Are you fasting or fed, young fellow?
Christy Fasting, if you please.
Widow Quin Loudly. Well, you’re the lot. Stir up now and give him his breakfast. To Christy. Come here to me She puts him on bench beside her while the girls make tea and get his breakfast. and let you tell us your story before Pegeen will come, in place of grinning your ears off like the moon of May.
Christy Beginning to be pleased. It’s a long story; you’d be destroyed listening.
Widow Quin Don’t be letting on to be shy, a fine, gamey, treacherous lad the like of you. Was it in your house beyond you cracked his skull?
Christy Shy but flattered. It was not. We were digging spuds in his cold, sloping, stony, divil’s patch of a field.
Widow Quin And you went asking money of him, or making talk of getting a wife would drive him from his farm?
Christy I did not, then; but there I was, digging and digging, and “You squinting idiot,” says he, “let you walk down now and tell the priest you’ll wed the Widow Casey in a score of days.”
Widow Quin And what kind was she?
Christy With horror. A walking terror from beyond the hills, and she two score and five years, and two hundredweights and five pounds in the weighing scales, with a limping leg on her, and a blinded eye, and she a woman of noted misbehaviour with the old and young.
Girls Clustering round him, serving him. Glory be!
Widow Quin And what did he want driving you to wed with her? She takes a bit of the chicken.
Christy Eating with growing satisfaction. He was letting on I was wanting a protector from the harshness of the world, and he without a thought the whole while but how he’d have her hut to live in and her gold to drink.
Widow Quin There’s maybe worse than a dry hearth and a widow woman and your glass at night. So you hit him then?
Christy Getting almost excited. I did not. “I won’t wed her,” says I, “when all know she did suckle me for six weeks when I came into the world, and she a hag this day with a tongue on her has the crows and seabirds scattered, the way they wouldn’t cast a shadow on her garden with the dread of her curse.”
Widow Quin Teasingly. That one should be right company.
Sara Eagerly. Don’t mind her. Did you kill him then?
Christy “She’s too good for the like of you,” says he, “and go on now or I’ll flatten you out like a crawling beast has passed under a dray.” “You will not if I can help it,” says I. “Go on,” says he, “or I’ll have the divil making garters of your limbs tonight.” “You will not if I can help it,” says I. He sits up, brandishing his mug.
Sara You were right surely.
Christy Impressively. With that the sun came out between the cloud and the hill, and it shining green in my face. “God have mercy on your soul,” says he, lifting a scythe; “or on your own,” says I, raising the loy.
Susan That’s a grand story.
Honor He tells it lovely.
Christy Flattered and confident, waving bone. He gave a drive with the scythe, and I gave a lep to the east. Then I turned around with my back to the north, and I hit a blow on the ridge of his skull, laid him stretched out, and he split to the knob of his gullet. He raises the chicken bone to his Adam’s apple.
Girls Together. Well, you’re a marvel! Oh, God bless you! You’re the lad surely!
Susan I’m thinking the Lord God sent him this road to make a second husband to the Widow Quin, and she with a great yearning to be wedded, though all dread her here. Lift him on her knee, Sara Tansey.
Widow Quin Don’t tease him.
Sara Going over to dresser and counter very quickly, and getting two glasses and porter. You’re heroes surely, and let you drink a supeen with your arms linked like the outlandish lovers in the sailor’s song. She links their arms and gives them the glasses. There now. Drink a health to the wonders of the western world, the pirates, preachers, poteen-makers, with the jobbing jockies; parching peelers, and the juries fill their stomachs selling judgments of the English law. Brandishing the bottle.
Widow Quin That’s a right toast, Sara Tansey. Now Christy.
They drink with their arms linked, he drinking with his left hand, she with her right. As they are drinking, Pegeen Mike comes in with a milk can and stands aghast. They all spring away from Christy. He goes down left. Widow Quin remains seated.
Pegeen Angrily, to Philly. What is it you’re wanting?
Sara Twisting her apron. An ounce of tobacco.
Pegeen Have you tuppence?
Sara I’ve forgotten my purse.
Pegeen Then you’d best be getting it and not fooling us here. To the Widow Quin, with more elaborate scorn. And what is it you’re wanting, Widow Quin?
Widow Quin Insolently. A penn’orth of starch.
Pegeen Breaking out. And you without a white shift or a shirt in your whole family since the drying of the flood. I’ve no starch for the like of you, and let you walk on now to Killamuck.
Widow Quin Turning to Christy, as she goes out with the girls. Well, you’re mighty huffy this day, Pegeen Mike, and, you young fellow, let you not forget the sports and racing when the noon is by.
They go out.
Pegeen Imperiously. Fling out that rubbish and put them cups away. Christy tidies away in great haste. Shove in the bench by the wall. He does so. And hang that glass on the nail. What disturbed it at all?
Christy Very meekly. I was making myself decent only, and this a fine country for young lovely girls.
Pegeen Sharply. Whisht your talking of girls. Goes to counter right.
Christy Wouldn’t any wish to be decent in a place.⁠ ⁠…
Pegeen Whisht I’m saying.
Christy Looks at her face for a moment with great misgivings, then as a last effort, takes up a loy, and goes towards her, with feigned assurance. It was with a loy the like of that I killed my father.
Pegeen Still sharply. You’ve told me that story six times since the dawn of day.
Christy Reproachfully. It’s a queer thing you wouldn’t care to be hearing it and them girls after walking four miles to be listening to me now.
Pegeen Turning round astonished. Four miles.
Christy Apologetically. Didn’t himself say there were only bona fides living in the place?
Pegeen It’s bona fides by the road they are, but that lot came over the river lepping the stones. It’s not three perches when you go like that, and I was down this morning looking on the papers the post-boy does have in his bag. With meaning and emphasis. For there was great news this day, Christopher Mahon.
She goes into room left.
Christy Suspiciously. Is it news of my murder?
Pegeen Inside. Murder, indeed.
Christy Loudly. A murdered da?
Pegeen Coming in again and crossing right. There was not, but a story filled half a page of the hanging of a man. Ah, that should be a fearful end, young fellow, and it worst of all for a man who destroyed his da, for the like of him would get small mercies, and when it’s dead he is, they’d put him in a narrow grave, with cheap sacking wrapping him round, and pour down quicklime on his head, the way you’d see a woman pouring any frish-frash from a cup.
Christy Very miserably. Oh, God help me. Are you thinking I’m safe? You were saying at the fall of night, I was shut of jeopardy and I here with yourselves.
Pegeen Severely. You’ll be shut of jeopardy no place if you go talking with a pack of wild girls the like of them do be walking abroad with the peelers, talking whispers at the fall of night.
Christy With terror. And you’re thinking they’d tell?
Pegeen With mock sympathy. Who knows, God help you.
Christy Loudly. What joy would they have to bring hanging to the likes of me?
Pegeen It’s queer joys they have, and who knows the thing they’d do, if it’d make the green stones cry itself to think of you swaying and swiggling at the butt of a rope, and you with a fine, stout neck, God bless you! the way you’d be a half an hour, in great anguish, getting your death.
Christy Getting his boots and putting them on. If there’s that terror of them, it’d be best, maybe, I went on wandering like Esau or Cain and Abel on the sides of Neifin or the Erris plain.
Pegeen Beginning to play with him. It would, maybe, for I’ve heard the Circuit Judges this place is a heartless crew.
Christy Bitterly. It’s more than Judges this place is a heartless crew. Looking up at her. And isn’t it a poor thing to be starting again and I a lonesome fellow will be looking out on women and girls the way the needy fallen spirits do be looking on the Lord?
Pegeen What call have you to be that lonesome when there’s poor girls walking Mayo in their thousands now?
Christy Grimly. It’s well you know what call I have. It’s well you know it’s a lonesome thing to be passing small towns with the lights shining sideways when the night is down, or going in strange places with a dog nosing before you and a dog nosing behind, or drawn to the cities where you’d hear a voice kissing and talking deep love in every shadow of the ditch, and you passing on with an empty, hungry stomach failing from your heart.
Pegeen I’m thinking you’re an odd man, Christy Mahon. The oddest walking fellow I ever set my eyes on to this hour today.
Christy What would any be but odd men and they living lonesome in the world?
Pegeen I’m not odd, and I’m my whole life with my father only.
Christy With infinite admiration. How would a lovely handsome woman the like of you be lonesome when all men should be thronging around to hear the sweetness of your voice, and the little infant children should be pestering your steps I’m thinking, and you walking the roads.
Pegeen I’m hard set to know what way a coaxing fellow the like of yourself should be lonesome either.
Christy Coaxing?
Pegeen Would you have me think a man never talked with the girls would have the words you’ve spoken today? It’s only letting on you are to be lonesome, the way you’d get around me now.
Christy I wish to God I was letting on; but I was lonesome all times, and born lonesome, I’m thinking, as the moon of dawn. Going to door.
Pegeen Puzzled by his talk. Well, it’s a story I’m not understanding at all why you’d be worse than another, Christy Mahon, and you a fine lad with the great savagery to destroy your da.
Christy It’s little I’m understanding myself, saving only that my heart’s scalded this day, and I going off stretching out the earth between us, the way I’ll not be waking near you another dawn of the year till the two of us do arise to hope or judgment with the saints of God, and now I’d best be going with my wattle in my hand, for hanging is a poor thing, Turning to go. and it’s little welcome only is left me in this house today.
Pegeen Sharply. Christy! He turns round. Come here to me. He goes towards her. Lay down that switch and throw some sods on the fire. You’re potboy in this place, and I’ll not have you mitch off from us now.
Christy You were saying I’d be hanged if I stay.
Pegeen Quite kindly at last. I’m after going down and reading the fearful crimes of Ireland for two weeks or three, and there wasn’t a word of your murder. Getting up and going over to the counter. They’ve likely not found the body. You’re safe so with ourselves.
Christy Astonished, slowly. It’s making game of me you were, Following her with fearful joy. and I can stay so, working at your side, and I not lonesome from this mortal day.
Pegeen What’s to hinder you from staying, except the widow woman or the young girls would inveigle you off?
Christy With rapture. And I’ll have your words from this day filling my ears, and that look is come upon you meeting my two eyes, and I watching you loafing around in the warm sun, or rinsing your ankles when the night is come.
Pegeen Kindly, but a little embarrassed. I’m thinking you’ll be a loyal young lad to have working around, and if you vexed me a while since with your leaguing with the girls, I wouldn’t give a thraneen for a lad hadn’t a mighty spirit in him and a gamey heart.
Shawn Keogh runs in carrying a cleeve on his back, followed by the Widow Quin.
Shawn To Pegeen. I was passing below, and I seen your mountainy sheep eating cabbages in Jimmy’s field. Run up or they’ll be bursting surely.
Pegeen Oh, God mend them! She puts a shawl over her head and runs out.
Christy Looking from one to the other. Still in high spirits. I’d best go to her aid maybe. I’m handy with ewes.
Widow Quin Closing the door. She can do that much, and there is Shaneen has long speeches for to tell you now. She sits down with an amused smile.
Shawn Taking something from his pocket and offering it to Christy. Do you see that, mister?
Christy Looking at it. The half of a ticket to the Western States!
Shawn Trembling with anxiety. I’ll give it to you and my new hat; Pulling it out of hamper. and my breeches with the double seat; Pulling it off. and my new coat is woven from the blackest shearings for three miles around; Giving him the coat. I’ll give you the whole of them, and my blessing, and the blessing of Father Reilly itself, maybe, if you’ll quit from this and leave us in the peace we had till last night at the fall of dark.
Christy With a new arrogance. And for what is it you’re wanting to get shut of me?
Shawn Looking to the Widow for help. I’m a poor scholar with middling faculties to coin a lie, so I’ll tell you the truth, Christy Mahon. I’m wedding with Pegeen beyond, and I don’t think well of having a clever fearless man the like of you dwelling in her house.
Christy Almost pugnaciously. And you’d be using bribery for to banish me?
Shawn In an imploring voice. Let you not take it badly, mister honey; isn’t beyond the best place for you where you’ll have golden chains and shiny coats and you riding upon hunters with the ladies of the land. He makes an eager sign to the Widow Quin to come to help him.
Widow Quin Coming over. It’s true for him, and you’d best quit off and not have that poor girl setting her mind on you, for there’s Shaneen thinks she wouldn’t suit you though all is saying that she’ll wed you now. Christy beams with delight.
Shawn In terrified earnest. She wouldn’t suit you, and she with the divil’s own temper the way you’d be strangling one another in a score of days. He makes the movement of strangling with his hands. It’s the like of me only that she’s fit for, a quiet simple fellow wouldn’t raise a hand upon her if she scratched itself.
Widow Quin Putting Shawn’s hat on Christy. Fit them clothes on you anyhow, young fellow, and he’d maybe loan them to you for the sports. Pushing him towards inner door. Fit them on and you can give your answer when you have them tried.
Christy Beaming, delighted with the clothes. I will then. I’d like herself to see me in them tweeds and hat. He goes into room and shuts the door.
Shawn In great anxiety. He’d like herself to see them. He’ll not leave us, Widow Quin. He’s a score of divils in him the way it’s well nigh certain he will wed Pegeen.
Widow Quin Jeeringly. It’s true all girls are fond of courage and do hate the like of you.
Shawn Walking about in desperation. Oh, Widow Quin, what’ll I be doing now? I’d inform again him, but he’d burst from Kilmainham and he’d be sure and certain to destroy me. If I wasn’t so God-fearing, I’d near have courage to come behind him and run a pike into his side. Oh, it’s a hard case to be an orphan and not to have your father that you’re used to, and you’d easy kill and make yourself a hero in the sight of all. Coming up to her. Oh, Widow Quin, will you find me some contrivance when I’ve promised you a ewe?
Widow Quin A ewe’s a small thing, but what would you give me if I did wed him and did save you so?
Shawn With astonishment. You?
Widow Quin Aye. Would you give me the red cow you have and the mountainy ram, and the right of way across your rye path, and a load of dung at Michaelmas, and turbary upon the western hill?
Shawn Radiant with hope. I would surely, and I’d give you the wedding ring I have, and the loan of a new suit, the way you’d have him decent on the wedding-day. I’d give you two kids for your dinner, and a gallon of poteen, and I’d call the piper on the long car to your wedding from Crossmolina or from Ballina. I’d give you.⁠ ⁠…
Widow Quin That’ll do so, and let you whisht, for he’s coming now again.
Christy comes in very natty in the new clothes. Widow Quin goes to him admiringly.
Widow Quin If you seen yourself now, I’m thinking you’d be too proud to speak to us at all, and it’d be a pity surely to have your like sailing from Mayo to the Western World.
Christy As proud as a peacock. I’m not going. If this is a poor place itself, I’ll make myself contented to be lodging here. Widow Quin makes a sign to Shawn to leave them.
Shawn Well, I’m going measuring the racecourse while the tide is low, so I’ll leave you the garments and my blessing for the sports today. God bless you! He wriggles out.
Widow Quin Admiring Christy. Well, you’re mighty spruce, young fellow. Sit down now while you’re quiet till you talk with me.
Christy Swaggering. I’m going abroad on the hillside for to seek Pegeen.
Widow Quin You’ll have time and plenty for to seek Pegeen, and you heard me saying at the fall of night the two of us should be great company.
Christy From this out I’ll have no want of company when all sorts is bringing me their food and clothing, He swaggers to the door, tightening his belt. the way they’d set their eyes upon a gallant orphan cleft his father with one blow to the breeches belt. He opens door, then staggers back. Saints of glory! Holy angels from the throne of light!
Widow Quin Going over. What ails you?
Christy It’s the walking spirit of my murdered da!
Widow Quin Looking out. Is it that tramper?
Christy Wildly. Where’ll I hide my poor body from that ghost of hell?
The door is pushed open, and old Mahon appears on threshold. Christy darts in behind door.
Widow Quin In great amazement. God save you, my poor man.
Mahon Gruffly. Did you see a young lad passing this way in the early morning or the fall of night?
Widow Quin You’re a queer kind to walk in not saluting at all.
Mahon Did you see the young lad?
Widow Quin Stiffly. What kind was he?
Mahon An ugly young streeler with a murderous gob on him, and a little switch in his hand. I met a tramper seen him coming this way at the fall of night.
Widow Quin There’s harvest hundreds do be passing these days for the Sligo boat. For what is it you’re wanting him, my poor man?
Mahon I want to destroy him for breaking the head on me with the clout of a loy. He takes off a big hat, and shows his head in a mass of bandages and plaster, with some pride. It was he did that, and amn’t I a great wonder to think I’ve traced him ten days with that rent in my crown?
Widow Quin Taking his head in both hands and examining it with extreme delight. That was a great blow. And who hit you? A robber maybe?
Mahon It was my own son hit me, and he the divil a robber, or anything else, but a dirty, stuttering lout.
Widow Quin Letting go his skull and wiping her hands in her apron. You’d best be wary of a mortified scalp, I think they call it, lepping around with that wound in the splendour of the sun. It was a bad blow surely, and you should have vexed him fearful to make him strike that gash in his da.
Mahon Is it me?
Widow Quin Amusing herself. Aye. And isn’t it a great shame when the old and hardened do torment the young?
Mahon Raging. Torment him is it? And I after holding out with the patience of a martyred saint till there’s nothing but destruction on, and I’m driven out in my old age with none to aid me.
Widow Quin Greatly amused. It’s a sacred wonder the way that wickedness will spoil a man.
Mahon My wickedness, is it? Amn’t I after saying it is himself has me destroyed, and he a liar on walls, a talker of folly, a man you’d see stretched the half of the day in the brown ferns with his belly to the sun.
Widow Quin Not working at all?
Mahon The divil a work, or if he did itself, you’d see him raising up a haystack like the stalk of a rush, or driving our last cow till he broke her leg at the hip, and when he wasn’t at that he’d be fooling over little birds he had⁠—finches and felts⁠—or making mugs at his own self in the bit of glass we had hung on the wall.
Widow Quin Looking at Christy. What way was he so foolish? It was running wild after the girls maybe?
Mahon With a shout of derision. Running wild, is it? If he seen a red petticoat coming swinging over the hill, he’d be off to hide in the sticks, and you’d see him shooting out his sheep’s eyes between the little twigs and the leaves, and his two ears rising like a hare looking out through a gap. Girls, indeed!
Widow Quin It was drink maybe?
Mahon And he a poor fellow would get drunk on the smell of a pint. He’d a queer rotten stomach, I’m telling you, and when I gave him three pulls from my pipe a while since, he was taken with contortions till I had to send him in the ass cart to the females’ nurse.
Widow Quin Clasping her hands. Well, I never till this day heard tell of a man the like of that!
Mahon I’d take a mighty oath you didn’t surely, and wasn’t he the laughing joke of every female woman where four baronies meet, the way the girls would stop their weeding if they seen him coming the road to let a roar at him, and call him the looney of Mahon’s.
Widow Quin I’d give the world and all to see the like of him. What kind was he?
Mahon A small low fellow.
Widow Quin And dark?
Mahon Dark and dirty.
Widow Quin Considering. I’m thinking I seen him.
Mahon Eagerly. An ugly young blackguard.
Widow Quin A hideous, fearful villain, and the spit of you.
Mahon What way is he fled?
Widow Quin Gone over the hills to catch a coasting steamer to the north or south.
Mahon Could I pull up on him now?
Widow Quin If you’ll cross the sands below where the tide is out, you’ll be in it as soon as himself, for he had to go round ten miles by the top of the bay. She points to the door. Strike down by the head beyond and then follow on the roadway to the north and east.
Mahon goes abruptly.
Widow Quin Shouting after him. Let you give him a good vengeance when you come up with him, but don’t put yourself in the power of the law, for it’d be a poor thing to see a judge in his black cap reading out his sentence on a civil warrior the like of you.
She swings the door to and looks at Christy, who is cowering in terror, for a moment, then she bursts into a laugh.
Widow Quin Well, you’re the walking Playboy of the Western World, and that’s the poor man you had divided to his breeches belt.
Christy Looking out; then, to her. What’ll Pegeen say when she hears that story? What’ll she be saying to me now?
Widow Quin She’ll knock the head of you, I’m thinking, and drive you from the door. God help her to be taking you for a wonder, and you a little schemer making up the story you destroyed your da.
Christy Turning to the door, nearly speechless with rage, half to himself. To be letting on he was dead, and coming back to his life, and following after me like an old weazel tracing a rat, and coming in here laying desolation between my own self and the fine women of Ireland, and he a kind of carcase that you’d fling upon the sea.⁠ ⁠…
Widow Quin More soberly. There’s talking for a man’s one only son.
Christy Breaking out. His one son, is it? May I meet him with one tooth and it aching, and one eye to be seeing seven and seventy divils in the twists of the road, and one old timber leg on him to limp into the scalding grave. Looking out. There he is now crossing the strands, and that the Lord God would send a high wave to wash him from the world.
Widow Quin Scandalised. Have you no shame? Putting her hand on his shoulder and turning him round. What ails you? Near crying, is it?
Christy In despair and grief. Amn’t I after seeing the love-light of the star of knowledge shining from her brow, and hearing words would put you thinking on the holy Brigid speaking to the infant saints, and now she’ll be turning again, and speaking hard words to me, like an old woman with a spavindy ass she’d have, urging on a hill.
Widow Quin There’s poetry talk for a girl you’d see itching and scratching, and she with a stale stink of poteen on her from selling in the shop.
Christy Impatiently. It’s her like is fitted to be handling merchandise in the heavens above, and what’ll I be doing now, I ask you, and I a kind of wonder was jilted by the heavens when a day was by.
There is a distant noise of girls’ voices. Widow Quin looks from window and comes to him, hurriedly.
Widow Quin You’ll be doing like myself, I’m thinking, when I did destroy my man, for I’m above many’s the day, odd times in great spirits, abroad in the sunshine, darning a stocking or stitching a shift; and odd times again looking out on the schooners, hookers, trawlers is sailing the sea, and I thinking on the gallant hairy fellows are drifting beyond, and myself long years living alone.
Christy Interested. You’re like me, so.
Widow Quin I am your like, and it’s for that I’m taking a fancy to you, and I with my little houseen above where there’d be myself to tend you, and none to ask were you a murderer or what at all.
Christy And what would I be doing if I left Pegeen?
Widow Quin I’ve nice jobs you could be doing, gathering shells to make a whitewash for our hut within, building up a little goose-house, or stretching a new skin on an old curragh I have, and if my hut is far from all sides, it’s there you’ll meet the wisest old men, I tell you, at the corner of my wheel, and it’s there yourself and me will have great times whispering and hugging.⁠ ⁠…
Voices Outside, calling far away. Christy! Christy Mahon! Christy!
Christy Is it Pegeen Mike?
Widow Quin It’s the young girls, I’m thinking, coming to bring you to the sports below, and what is it you’ll have me to tell them now?
Christy Aid me for to win Pegeen. It’s herself only that I’m seeking now. Widow Quin gets up and goes to window. Aid me for to win her, and I’ll be asking God to stretch a hand to you in the hour of death, and lead you shortcuts through the Meadows of Ease, and up the floor of Heaven to the Footstool of the Virgin’s Son.
Widow Quin There’s praying.
Voices Nearer. Christy! Christy Mahon!
Christy With agitation. They’re coming. Will you swear to aid and save me for the love of Christ?
Widow Quin Looks at him for a moment. If I aid you, will you swear to give me a right of way I want, and a mountainy ram, and a load of dung at Michaelmas, the time that you’ll be master here?
Christy I will, by the elements and stars of night.
Widow Quin Then we’ll not say a word of the old fellow, the way Pegeen won’t know your story till the end of time.
Christy And if he chances to return again?
Widow Quin We’ll swear he’s a maniac and not your da. I could take an oath I seen him raving on the sands today.
Girls run in.
Susan Come on to the sports below. Pegeen says you’re to come.
Sara The lepping’s beginning, and we’ve a jockey’s suit to fit upon you for the mule race on the sands below.
Honor Come on, will you?
Christy I will then if Pegeen’s beyond.
Sara She’s in the boreen making game of Shaneen Keogh.
Christy Then I’ll be going to her now. He runs out followed by the girls.
Widow Quin Well, if the worst comes in the end of all, it’ll be great game to see there’s none to pity him but a widow woman, the like of me, has buried her children and destroyed her man. She goes out.


Scene as before. Later in the day. Jimmy comes in, slightly drunk.

Jimmy Calls. Pegeen! Crosses to inner door. Pegeen Mike! Comes back again into the room. Pegeen! Philly comes in in the same state. To Philly. Did you see herself?
Philly I did not; but I sent Shawn Keogh with the ass cart for to bear him home. Trying cupboards which are locked. Well, isn’t he a nasty man to get into such staggers at a morning wake; and isn’t herself the divil’s daughter for locking, and she so fussy after that young gaffer, you might take your death with drought and none to heed you?
Jimmy It’s little wonder she’d be fussy, and he after bringing bankrupt ruin on the roulette man, and the trick-o’-the-loop man, and breaking the nose of the cockshot-man, and winning all in the sports below, racing, lepping, dancing, and the Lord knows what! He’s right luck, I’m telling you.
Philly If he has, he’ll be rightly hobbled yet, and he not able to say ten words without making a brag of the way he killed his father, and the great blow he hit with the loy.
Jimmy A man can’t hang by his own informing, and his father should be rotten by now.
Old Mahon passes window slowly.
Philly Supposing a man’s digging spuds in that field with a long spade, and supposing he flings up the two halves of that skull, what’ll be said then in the papers and the courts of law?
Jimmy They’d say it was an old Dane, maybe, was drowned in the flood.
Old Mahon comes in and sits down near door listening.
Did you never hear tell of the skulls they have in the city of Dublin, ranged out like blue jugs in a cabin of Connaught?
Philly And you believe that?
Jimmy Pugnaciously. Didn’t a lad see them and he after coming from harvesting in the Liverpool boat? “They have them there,” says he, “making a show of the great people there was one time walking the world. White skulls and black skulls and yellow skulls, and some with full teeth, and some haven’t only but one.”
Philly It was no lie, maybe, for when I was a young lad there was a graveyard beyond the house with the remnants of a man who had thighs as long as your arm. He was a horrid man, I’m telling you, and there was many a fine Sunday I’d put him together for fun, and he with shiny bones, you wouldn’t meet the like of these days in the cities of the world.
Mahon Getting up. You wouldn’t is it? Lay your eyes on that skull, and tell me where and when there was another the like of it, is splintered only from the blow of a loy.
Philly Glory be to God! And who hit you at all?
Mahon Triumphantly. It was my own son hit me. Would you believe that?
Jimmy Well, there’s wonders hidden in the heart of man!
Philly Suspiciously. And what way was it done?
Mahon Wandering about the room. I’m after walking hundreds and long scores of miles, winning clean beds and the fill of my belly four times in the day, and I doing nothing but telling stories of that naked truth. He comes to them a little aggressively. Give me a supeen and I’ll tell you now.
Widow Quin comes in and stands aghast behind him. He is facing Jimmy and Philly, who are on the left.
Jimmy Ask herself beyond. She’s the stuff hidden in her shawl.
Widow Quin Coming to Mahon quickly. You here, is it? You didn’t go far at all?
Mahon I seen the coasting steamer passing, and I got a drought upon me and a cramping leg, so I said, “The divil go along with him,” and turned again. Looking under her shawl. And let you give me a supeen, for I’m destroyed travelling since Tuesday was a week.
Widow Quin Getting a glass, in a cajoling tone. Sit down then by the fire and take your ease for a space. You’ve a right to be destroyed indeed, with your walking, and fighting, and facing the sun. Giving him poteen from a stone jar she has brought in. There now is a drink for you, and may it be to your happiness and length of life.
Mahon Taking glass greedily and sitting down by fire. God increase you!
Widow Quin Taking men to the right stealthily. Do you know what? That man’s raving from his wound today, for I met him a while since telling a rambling tale of a tinker had him destroyed. Then he heard of Christy’s deed, and he up and says it was his son had cracked his skull. Oh isn’t madness a fright, for he’ll go killing someone yet, and he thinking it’s the man has struck him so?
Jimmy Entirely convinced. It’s a fright, surely. I knew a party was kicked in the head by a red mare, and he went killing horses a great while, till he eat the insides of a clock and died after.
Philly With suspicion. Did he see Christy?
Widow Quin He didn’t. With a warning gesture. Let you not be putting him in mind of him, or you’ll be likely summoned if there’s murder done. Looking round at Mahon. Whisht! He’s listening. Wait now till you hear me taking him easy and unravelling all. She goes to Mahon. And what way are you feeling, mister? Are you in contentment now?
Mahon Slightly emotional from his drink. I’m poorly only, for it’s a hard story the way I’m left today, when it was I did tend him from his hour of birth, and he a dunce never reached his second book, the way he’d come from school, many’s the day, with his legs lamed under him, and he blackened with his beatings like a tinker’s ass. It’s a hard story, I’m saying, the way some do have their next and nighest raising up a hand of murder on them, and some is lonesome getting their death with lamentation in the dead of night.
Widow Quin Not knowing what to say. To hear you talking so quiet, who’d know you were the same fellow we seen pass today?
Mahon I’m the same surely. The wrack and ruin of three score years; and it’s a terror to live that length, I tell you, and to have your sons going to the dogs against you, and you wore out scolding them, and skelping them, and God knows what.
Philly To Jimmy. He’s not raving. To Widow Quin. Will you ask him what kind was his son?
Widow Quin To Mahon, with a peculiar look. Was your son that hit you a lad of one year and a score maybe, a great hand at racing and lepping and licking the world?
Mahon Turning on her with a roar of rage. Didn’t you hear me say he was the fool of men, the way from this out he’ll know the orphan’s lot with old and young making game of him and they swearing, raging, kicking at him like a mangy cur.
A great burst of cheering outside, someway off.
Mahon Putting his hands to his ears. What in the name of God do they want roaring below?
Widow Quin With the shade of a smile. They’re cheering a young lad, the champion Playboy of the Western World.
More cheering.
Mahon Going to window. It’d split my heart to hear them, and I with pulses in my brainpan for a week gone by. Is it racing they are?
Jimmy Looking from door. It is then. They are mounting him for the mule race will be run upon the sands. That’s the playboy on the winkered mule.
Mahon Puzzled. That lad, is it? If you said it was a fool he was, I’d have laid a mighty oath he was the likeness of my wandering son. Uneasily, putting his hand to his head. Faith, I’m thinking I’ll go walking for to view the race.
Widow Quin Stopping him, sharply. You will not. You’d best take the road to Belmullet, and not be dillydallying in this place where there isn’t a spot you could sleep.
Philly Coming forward. Don’t mind her. Mount there on the bench and you’ll have a view of the whole. They’re hurrying before the tide will rise, and it’d be near over if you went down the pathway through the crags below.
Mahon Mounts on bench, Widow Quin beside him. That’s a right view again the edge of the sea. They’re coming now from the point. He’s leading. Who is he at all?
Widow Quin He’s the champion of the world, I tell you, and there isn’t a hop’orth isn’t falling lucky to his hands today.
Philly Looking out, interested in the race. Look at that. They’re pressing him now.
Jimmy He’ll win it yet.
Philly Take your time, Jimmy Farrell. It’s too soon to say.
Widow Quin Shouting. Watch him taking the gate. There’s riding.
Jimmy Cheering. More power to the young lad!
Mahon He’s passing the third.
Jimmy He’ll lick them yet!
Widow Quin He’d lick them if he was running races with a score itself.
Mahon Look at the mule he has, kicking the stars.
Widow Quin There was a lep! Catching hold of Mahon in her excitement. He’s fallen! He’s mounted again! Faith, he’s passing them all!
Jimmy Look at him skelping her!
Philly And the mountain girls hooshing him on!
Jimmy It’s the last turn! The post’s cleared for them now!
Mahon Look at the narrow place. He’ll be into the bogs! With a yell. Good rider! He’s through it again!
Jimmy He’s neck and neck!
Mahon Good boy to him! Flames, but he’s in! Great cheering, in which all join.
Mahon With hesitation. What’s that? They’re raising him up. They’re coming this way. With a roar of rage and astonishment. It’s Christy, by the stars of God! I’d know his way of spitting and he astride the moon.
He jumps down and makes for the door, but Widow Quin catches him and pulls him back.
Widow Quin Stay quiet, will you. That’s not your son. To Jimmy. Stop him, or you’ll get a month for the abetting of manslaughter and be fined as well.
Jimmy I’ll hold him.
Mahon Struggling. Let me out! Let me out, the lot of you, till I have my vengeance on his head today.
Widow Quin Shaking him, vehemently. That’s not your son. That’s a man is going to make a marriage with the daughter of this house, a place with fine trade, with a license, and with poteen too.
Mahon Amazed. That man marrying a decent and a moneyed girl! Is it mad yous are? Is it in a crazy-house for females that I’m landed now?
Widow Quin It’s mad yourself is with the blow upon your head. That lad is the wonder of the Western World.
Mahon I seen it’s my son.
Widow Quin You seen that you’re mad. Cheering outside. Do you hear them cheering him in the zigzags of the road? Aren’t you after saying that your son’s a fool, and how would they be cheering a true idiot born?
Mahon Getting distressed. It’s maybe out of reason that that man’s himself. Cheering again. There’s none surely will go cheering him. Oh, I’m raving with a madness that would fright the world! He sits down with his hand to his head. There was one time I seen ten scarlet divils letting on they’d cork my spirit in a gallon can; and one time I seen rats as big as badgers sucking the life blood from the butt of my lug; but I never till this day confused that dribbling idiot with a likely man. I’m destroyed surely.
Widow Quin And who’d wonder when it’s your brainpan that is gaping now?
Mahon Then the blight of the sacred drought upon myself and him, for I never went mad to this day, and I not three weeks with the Limerick girls drinking myself silly, and parlatic from the dusk to dawn. To Widow Quin, suddenly. Is my visage astray?
Widow Quin It is then. You’re a sniggering maniac, a child could see.
Mahon Getting up more cheerfully. Then I’d best be going to the union beyond, and there’ll be a welcome before me, I tell you, With great pride. and I a terrible and fearful case, the way that there I was one time, screeching in a straightened waistcoat, with seven doctors writing out my sayings in a printed book. Would you believe that?
Widow Quin If you’re a wonder itself, you’d best be hasty, for them lads caught a maniac one time and pelted the poor creature till he ran out, raving and foaming, and was drowned in the sea.
Mahon With philosophy. It’s true mankind is the divil when your head’s astray. Let me out now and I’ll slip down the boreen, and not see them so.
Widow Quin Showing him out. That’s it. Run to the right, and not a one will see.
He runs off.
Philly Wisely. You’re at some gaming, Widow Quin; but I’ll walk after him and give him his dinner and a time to rest, and I’ll see then if he’s raving or as sane as you.
Widow Quin Annoyed. If you go near that lad, let you be wary of your head, I’m saying. Didn’t you hear him telling he was crazed at times?
Philly I heard him telling a power; and I’m thinking we’ll have right sport, before night will fall. He goes out.
Jimmy Well, Philly’s a conceited and foolish man. How could that madman have his senses and his brainpan slit? I’ll go after them and see him turn on Philly now.
He goes; Widow Quin hides poteen behind counter. Then hubbub outside.
Voices There you are! Good jumper! Grand lepper! Darlint boy! He’s the racer! Bear him on, will you!
Christy comes in, in Jockey’s dress, with Pegeen Mike, Sara, and other girls and men.
Pegeen To crowd. Go on now and don’t destroy him and he drenching with sweat. Go along, I’m saying, and have your tug-of-warring till he’s dried his skin.
Crowd Here’s his prizes! A bagpipes! A fiddle was played by a poet in the years gone by! A flat and three-thorned blackthorn would lick the scholars out of Dublin town!
Christy Taking prizes from the men. Thank you kindly, the lot of you. But you’d say it was little only I did this day if you’d seen me a while since striking my one single blow.
Town Crier Outside, ringing a bell. Take notice, last event of this day! Tug-of-warring on the green below! Come on, the lot of you! Great achievements for all Mayo men!
Pegeen Go on, and leave him for to rest and dry. Go on, I tell you, for he’ll do no more. She hustles crowd out; Widow Quin following them.
Men Going. Come on then. Good luck for the while!
Pegeen Radiantly, wiping his face with her shawl. Well, you’re the lad, and you’ll have great times from this out when you could win that wealth of prizes, and you sweating in the heat of noon!
Christy Looking at her with delight. I’ll have great times if I win the crowning prize I’m seeking now, and that’s your promise that you’ll wed me in a fortnight, when our banns is called.
Pegeen Backing away from him. You’ve right daring to go ask me that, when all knows you’ll be starting to some girl in your own townland, when your father’s rotten in four months, or five.
Christy Indignantly. Starting from you, is it? He follows her. I will not, then, and when the airs is warming in four months, or five, it’s then yourself and me should be pacing Neifin in the dews of night, the times sweet smells do be rising, and you’d see a little shiny new moon, maybe, sinking on the hills.
Pegeen Looking at him playfully. And it’s that kind of a poacher’s love you’d make, Christy Mahon, on the sides of Neifin, when the night is down?
Christy It’s little you’ll think if my love’s a poacher’s, or an earl’s itself, when you’ll feel my two hands stretched around you, and I squeezing kisses on your puckered lips, till I’d feel a kind of pity for the Lord God is all ages sitting lonesome in his golden chair.
Pegeen That’ll be right fun, Christy Mahon, and any girl would walk her heart out before she’d meet a young man was your like for eloquence, or talk, at all.
Christy Encouraged. Let you wait, to hear me talking, till we’re astray in Erris, when Good Friday’s by, drinking a sup from a well, and making mighty kisses with our wetted mouths, or gaming in a gap or sunshine, with yourself stretched back unto your necklace, in the flowers of the earth.
Pegeen In a lower voice, moved by his tone. I’d be nice so, is it?
Christy With rapture. If the mitred bishops seen you that time, they’d be the like of the holy prophets, I’m thinking, do be straining the bars of Paradise to lay eyes on the Lady Helen of Troy, and she abroad, pacing back and forward, with a nosegay in her golden shawl.
Pegeen With real tenderness. And what is it I have, Christy Mahon, to make me fitting entertainment for the like of you, that has such poet’s talking, and such bravery of heart?
Christy In a low voice. Isn’t there the light of seven heavens in your heart alone, the way you’ll be an angel’s lamp to me from this out, and I abroad in the darkness, spearing salmons in the Owen, or the Carrowmore?
Pegeen If I was your wife, I’d be along with you those nights, Christy Mahon, the way you’d see I was a great hand at coaxing bailiffs, or coining funny nicknames for the stars of night.
Christy You, is it? Taking your death in the hailstones, or in the fogs of dawn.
Pegeen Yourself and me would shelter easy in a narrow bush, With a qualm of dread. but we’re only talking, maybe, for this would be a poor, thatched place to hold a fine lad is the like of you.
Christy Putting his arm round her. If I wasn’t a good Christian, it’s on my naked knees I’d be saying my prayers and paters to every jackstraw you have roofing your head, and every stony pebble is paving the laneway to your door.
Pegeen Radiantly. If that’s the truth, I’ll be burning candles from this out to the miracles of God that have brought you from the south today, and I, with my gowns bought ready, the way that I can wed you, and not wait at all.
Christy It’s miracles, and that’s the truth. Me there toiling a long while, and walking a long while, not knowing at all I was drawing all times nearer to this holy day.
Pegeen And myself, a girl, was tempted often to go sailing the seas till I’d marry a Jew-man, with ten kegs of gold, and I not knowing at all there was the like of you drawing nearer, like the stars of God.
Christy And to think I’m long years hearing women talking that talk, to all bloody fools, and this the first time I’ve heard the like of your voice talking sweetly for my own delight.
Pegeen And to think it’s me is talking sweetly, Christy Mahon, and I the fright of seven townlands for my biting tongue. Well, the heart’s a wonder; and, I’m thinking, there won’t be our like in Mayo, for gallant lovers, from this hour, today. Drunken singing is heard outside. There’s my father coming from the wake, and when he’s had his sleep we’ll tell him, for he’s peaceful then. They separate.
Michael Singing outside.

The jailor and the turnkey
They quickly ran us down,
And brought us back as prisoners
Once more to Cavan town.

He comes in supported by Shawn.

There we lay bewailing
All in a prison bound.⁠ ⁠…

He sees Christy. Goes and shakes him drunkenly by the hand, while Pegeen and Shawn talk on the left.
Michael To Christy. The blessing of God and the holy angels on your head, young fellow. I hear tell you’re after winning all in the sports below; and wasn’t it a shame I didn’t bear you along with me to Kate Cassidy’s wake, a fine, stout lad, the like of you, for you’d never see the match of it for flows of drink, the way when we sunk her bones at noonday in her narrow grave, there were five men, aye, and six men, stretched out retching speechless on the holy stones.
Christy Uneasily, watching Pegeen. Is that the truth?
Michael It is then, and aren’t you a louty schemer to go burying your poor father unbeknownst when you’d a right to throw him on the crupper of a Kerry mule and drive him westwards, like holy Joseph in the days gone by, the way we could have given him a decent burial, and not have him rotting beyond, and not a Christian drinking a smart drop to the glory of his soul?
Christy Gruffly. It’s well enough he’s lying, for the likes of him.
Michael Slapping him on the back. Well, aren’t you a hardened slayer? It’ll be a poor thing for the household man where you go sniffing for a female wife; and Pointing to Shawn. look beyond at that shy and decent Christian I have chosen for my daughter’s hand, and I after getting the gilded dispensation this day for to wed them now.
Christy And you’ll be wedding them this day, is it?
Michael Drawing himself up. Aye. Are you thinking, if I’m drunk itself, I’d leave my daughter living single with a little frisky rascal is the like of you?
Pegeen Breaking away from Shawn. Is it the truth the dispensation’s come?
Michael Triumphantly. Father Reilly’s after reading it in gallous Latin, and “It’s come in the nick of time,” says he; “so I’ll wed them in a hurry, dreading that young gaffer who’d capsize the stars.”
Pegeen Fiercely. He’s missed his nick of time, for it’s that lad, Christy Mahon, that I’m wedding now.
Michael Loudly with horror. You’d be making him a son to me, and he wet and crusted with his father’s blood?
Pegeen Aye. Wouldn’t it be a bitter thing for a girl to go marrying the like of Shaneen, and he a middling kind of a scarecrow, with no savagery or fine words in him at all?
Michael Gasping and sinking on a chair. Oh, aren’t you a heathen daughter to go shaking the fat of my heart, and I swamped and drownded with the weight of drink? Would you have them turning on me the way that I’d be roaring to the dawn of day with the wind upon my heart? Have you not a word to aid me, Shaneen? Are you not jealous at all?
Shaneen In great misery. I’d be afeard to be jealous of a man did slay his da.
Pegeen Well, it’d be a poor thing to go marrying your like. I’m seeing there’s a world of peril for an orphan girl, and isn’t it a great blessing I didn’t wed you, before himself came walking from the west or south?
Shawn It’s a queer story you’d go picking a dirty tramp up from the highways of the world.
Pegeen Playfully. And you think you’re a likely beau to go straying along with, the shiny Sundays of the opening year, when it’s sooner on a bullock’s liver you’d put a poor girl thinking than on the lily or the rose?
Shawn And have you no mind of my weight of passion, and the holy dispensation, and the drift of heifers I am giving, and the golden ring?
Pegeen I’m thinking you’re too fine for the like of me, Shawn Keogh of Killakeen, and let you go off till you’d find a radiant lady with droves of bullocks on the plains of Meath, and herself bedizened in the diamond jewelleries of Pharaoh’s ma. That’d be your match, Shaneen. So God save you now! She retreats behind Christy.
Shawn Won’t you hear me telling you⁠ ⁠… ?
Christy With ferocity. Take yourself from this, young fellow, or I’ll maybe add a murder to my deeds today.
Michael Springing up with a shriek. Murder is it? Is it mad yous are? Would you go making murder in this place, and it piled with poteen for our drink tonight? Go on to the foreshore if it’s fighting you want, where the rising tide will wash all traces from the memory of man. Pushing Shawn towards Christy.
Shawn Shaking himself free, and getting behind Michael. I’ll not fight him, Michael James. I’d liefer live a bachelor, simmering in passions to the end of time, than face a lepping savage the like of him has descended from the Lord knows where. Strike him yourself, Michael James, or you’ll lose my drift of heifers and my blue bull from Sneem.
Michael Is it me fight him, when it’s father-slaying he’s bred to now? Pushing Shawn. Go on you fool and fight him now.
Shawn Coming forward a little. Will I strike him with my hand?
Michael Take the loy is on your western side.
Shawn I’d be afeard of the gallows if I struck him with that.
Christy Taking up the loy. Then I’ll make you face the gallows or quit off from this.
Shawn flies out of the door.
Christy Well, fine weather be after him, Going to Michael, coaxingly. and I’m thinking you wouldn’t wish to have that quaking blackguard in your house at all. Let you give us your blessing and hear her swear her faith to me, for I’m mounted on the spring-tide of the stars of luck, the way it’ll be good for any to have me in the house.
Pegeen At the other side of Michael. Bless us now, for I swear to God I’ll wed him, and I’ll not renege.
Michael Standing up in the centre, holding on to both of them. It’s the will of God, I’m thinking, that all should win an easy or a cruel end, and it’s the will of God that all should rear up lengthy families for the nurture of the earth. What’s a single man, I ask you, eating a bit in one house and drinking a sup in another, and he with no place of his own, like an old braying jackass strayed upon the rocks? To Christy. It’s many would be in dread to bring your like into their house for to end them, maybe, with a sudden end; but I’m a decent man of Ireland, and I liefer face the grave untimely and I seeing a score of grandsons growing up little gallant swearers by the name of God, than go peopling my bedside with puny weeds the like of what you’d breed, I’m thinking, out of Shaneen Keogh. He joins their hands. A daring fellow is the jewel of the world, and a man did split his father’s middle with a single clout, should have the bravery of ten, so may God and Mary and St. Patrick bless you, and increase you from this mortal day.
Christy and Pegeen Amen, O Lord!
Hubbub outside. Old Mahon rushes in, followed by all the crowd, and Widow Quin. He makes a rush at Christy, knocks him down, and begins to beat him.
Pegeen Dragging back his arm. Stop that, will you. Who are you at all?
Mahon His father, God forgive me!
Pegeen Drawing back. Is it rose from the dead?
Mahon Do you think I look so easy quenched with the tap of a loy? Beats Christy again.
Pegeen Glaring at Christy. And it’s lies you told, letting on you had him slitted, and you nothing at all.
Christy Clutching Mahon’s stick. He’s not my father. He’s a raving maniac would scare the world. Pointing to Widow Quin. Herself knows it is true.
Crowd You’re fooling Pegeen! The Widow Quin seen him this day, and you likely knew! You’re a liar!
Christy Dumbfounded. It’s himself was a liar, lying stretched out with an open head on him, letting on he was dead.
Mahon Weren’t you off racing the hills before I got my breath with the start I had seeing you turn on me at all?
Pegeen And to think of the coaxing glory we had given him, and he after doing nothing but hitting a soft blow and chasing northward in a sweat of fear. Quit off from this.
Christy Piteously. You’ve seen my doings this day, and let you save me from the old man; for why would you be in such a scorch of haste to spur me to destruction now?
Pegeen It’s there your treachery is spurring me, till I’m hard set to think you’re the one I’m after lacing in my heartstrings half-an-hour gone by. To Mahon. Take him on from this, for I think bad the world should see me raging for a Munster liar, and the fool of men.
Mahon Rise up now to retribution, and come on with me.
Crowd Jeeringly. There’s the playboy! There’s the lad thought he’d rule the roost in Mayo. Slate him now, mister.
Christy Getting up in shy terror. What is it drives you to torment me here, when I’d asked the thunders of the might of God to blast me if I ever did hurt to any saving only that one single blow.
Mahon Loudly. If you didn’t, you’re a poor good-for-nothing, and isn’t it by the like of you the sins of the whole world are committed?
Christy Raising his hands. In the name of the Almighty God.⁠ ⁠…
Mahon Leave troubling the Lord God. Would you have him sending down droughts, and fevers, and the old hen and the cholera morbus?
Christy To Widow Quin. Will you come between us and protect me now?
Widow Quin I’ve tried a lot, God help me, and my share is done.
Christy Looking round in desperation. And I must go back into my torment is it, or run off like a vagabond straying through the unions with the dusts of August making mudstains in the gullet of my throat, or the winds of March blowing on me till I’d take an oath I felt them making whistles of my ribs within?
Sara Ask Pegeen to aid you. Her like does often change.
Christy I will not then, for there’s torment in the splendour of her like, and she a girl any moon of midnight would take pride to meet, facing southwards on the heaths of Keel. But what did I want crawling forward to scorch my understanding at her flaming brow?
Pegeen To Mahon, vehemently, fearing she will break into tears. Take him on from this or I’ll set the young lads to destroy him here.
Mahon Going to him, shaking his stick. Come on now if you wouldn’t have the company to see you skelped.
Pegeen Half laughing, through her tears. That’s it, now the world will see him pandied, and he an ugly liar was playing off the hero, and the fright of men.
Christy To Mahon, very sharply. Leave me go!
Crowd That’s it. Now Christy. If them two set fighting, it will lick the world.
Mahon Making a grab at Christy. Come here to me.
Christy More threateningly. Leave me go, I’m saying.
Mahon I will maybe, when your legs is limping, and your back is blue.
Crowd Keep it up, the two of you. I’ll back the old one. Now the playboy.
Christy In low and intense voice. Shut your yelling, for if you’re after making a mighty man of me this day by the power of a lie, you’re setting me now to think if it’s a poor thing to be lonesome, it’s worse maybe to go mixing with the fools of earth.
Mahon makes a movement towards him.
Christy Almost shouting. Keep off⁠ ⁠… lest I do show a blow unto the lot of you would set the guardian angels winking in the clouds above. He swings round with a sudden rapid movement and picks up a loy.
Crowd Half frightened, half amused. He’s going mad! Mind yourselves! Run from the idiot!
Christy If I am an idiot, I’m after hearing my voice this day saying words would raise the topknot on a poet in a merchant’s town. I’ve won your racing, and your lepping, and.⁠ ⁠…
Mahon Shut your gullet and come on with me.
Christy I’m going, but I’ll stretch you first.
He runs at old Mahon with the loy, chases him out of the door, followed by crowd and Widow Quin. There is a great noise outside, then a yell, and dead silence for a moment. Christy comes in, half dazed, and goes to fire.
Widow Quin Coming in, hurriedly, and going to him. They’re turning again you. Come on, or you’ll be hanged, indeed.
Christy I’m thinking, from this out, Pegeen’ll be giving me praises the same as in the hours gone by.
Widow Quin Impatiently. Come by the backdoor. I’d think bad to have you stifled on the gallows tree.
Christy Indignantly. I will not, then. What good’d be my lifetime, if I left Pegeen?
Widow Quin Come on, and you’ll be no worse than you were last night; and you with a double murder this time to be telling to the girls.
Christy I’ll not leave Pegeen Mike.
Widow Quin Impatiently. Isn’t there the match of her in every parish public, from Binghamstown unto the plain of Meath? Come on, I tell you, and I’ll find you finer sweethearts at each waning moon.
Christy It’s Pegeen I’m seeking only, and what’d I care if you brought me a drift of chosen females, standing in their shifts itself, maybe, from this place to the Eastern World?
Sara Runs in, pulling off one of her petticoats. They’re going to hang him. Holding out petticoat and shawl. Fit these upon him, and let him run off to the east.
Widow Quin He’s raving now; but we’ll fit them on him, and I’ll take him, in the ferry, to the Achill boat.
Christy Struggling feebly. Leave me go, will you? when I’m thinking of my luck today, for she will wed me surely, and I a proven hero in the end of all.
They try to fasten petticoat round him.
Widow Quin Take his left hand, and we’ll pull him now. Come on, young fellow.
Christy Suddenly starting up. You’ll be taking me from her? You’re jealous, is it, of her wedding me? Go on from this. He snatches up a stool, and threatens them with it.
Widow Quin Going. It’s in the madhouse they should put him, not in jail, at all. We’ll go by the backdoor, to call the doctor, and we’ll save him so.
She goes out, with Sara, through inner room. Men crowd in the doorway. Christy sits down again by the fire.
Michael In a terrified whisper. Is the old lad killed surely?
Philly I’m after feeling the last gasps quitting his heart. They peer in at Christy.
Michael With a rope. Look at the way he is. Twist a hangman’s knot on it, and slip it over his head, while he’s not minding at all.
Philly Let you take it, Shaneen. You’re the soberest of all that’s here.
Shawn Is it me to go near him, and he the wickedest and worst with me? Let you take it, Pegeen Mike.
Pegeen Come on, so. She goes forward with the others, and they drop the double hitch over his head.
Christy What ails you?
Shawn Triumphantly, as they pull the rope tight on his arms. Come on to the peelers, till they stretch you now.
Christy Me?
Michael If we took pity on you, the Lord God would, maybe, bring us ruin from the law today, so you’d best come easy, for hanging is an easy and a speedy end.
Christy I’ll not stir. To Pegeen. And what is it you’ll say to me, and I after doing it this time in the face of all?
Pegeen I’ll say, a strange man is a marvel, with his mighty talk; but what’s a squabble in your backyard, and the blow of a loy, have taught me that there’s a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed. To men. Take him on from this, or the lot of us will be likely put on trial for his deed today.
Christy With horror in his voice. And it’s yourself will send me off, to have a horny-fingered hangman hitching his bloody slipknots at the butt of my ear.
Men Pulling rope. Come on, will you? He is pulled down on the floor.
Christy Twisting his legs round the table. Cut the rope, Pegeen, and I’ll quit the lot of you, and live from this out, like the madmen of Keel, eating muck and green weeds, on the faces of the cliffs.
Pegeen And leave us to hang, is it, for a saucy liar, the like of you? To men. Take him on, out from this.
Shawn Pull a twist on his neck, and squeeze him so.
Philly Twist yourself. Sure he cannot hurt you, if you keep your distance from his teeth alone.
Shawn I’m afeard of him. To Pegeen. Lift a lighted sod, will you, and scorch his leg.
Pegeen Blowing the fire, with a bellows. Leave go now, young fellow, or I’ll scorch your shins.
Christy You’re blowing for to torture me His voice rising and growing stronger. That’s your kind, is it? Then let the lot of you be wary, for, if I’ve to face the gallows, I’ll have a gay march down, I tell you, and shed the blood of some of you before I die.
Shawn In terror. Keep a good hold, Philly. Be wary, for the love of God. For I’m thinking he would liefest wreak his pains on me.
Christy Almost gaily. If I do lay my hands on you, it’s the way you’ll be at the fall of night, hanging as a scarecrow for the fowls of hell. Ah, you’ll have a gallous jaunt I’m saying, coaching out through Limbo with my father’s ghost.
Shawn To Pegeen. Make haste, will you? Oh, isn’t he a holy terror, and isn’t it true for Father Reilly, that all drink’s a curse that has the lot of you so shaky and uncertain now?
Christy If I can wring a neck among you, I’ll have a royal judgment looking on the trembling jury in the courts of law. And won’t there be crying out in Mayo the day I’m stretched upon the rope with ladies in their silks and satins snivelling in their lacy kerchiefs, and they rhyming songs and ballads on the terror of my fate? He squirms round on the floor and bites Shawn’s leg.
Shawn Shrieking. My leg’s bit on me. He’s the like of a mad dog, I’m thinking, the way that I will surely die.
Christy Delighted with himself. You will then, the way you can shake out hell’s flags of welcome for my coming in two weeks or three, for I’m thinking Satan hasn’t many have killed their da in Kerry, and in Mayo too.
Old Mahon comes in behind on all fours and looks on unnoticed.
Men To Pegeen. Bring the sod, will you?
Pegeen Coming over. God help him so. Burns his leg.
Christy Kicking and screaming. O, glory be to God! He kicks loose from the table, and they all drag him towards the door.
Jimmy Seeing old Mahon. Will you look what’s come in? They all drop Christy and run left.
Christy Scrambling on his knees face to face with old Mahon. Are you coming to be killed a third time, or what ails you now?
Mahon For what is it they have you tied?
Christy They’re taking me to the peelers to have me hanged for slaying you.
Michael Apologetically. It is the will of God that all should guard their little cabins from the treachery of law, and what would my daughter be doing if I was ruined or was hanged itself?
Mahon Grimly, loosening Christy. It’s little I care if you put a bag on her back, and went picking cockles till the hour of death; but my son and myself will be going our own way, and we’ll have great times from this out telling stories of the villainy of Mayo, and the fools is here. To Christy, who is freed. Come on now.
Christy Go with you, is it? I will then, like a gallant captain with his heathen slave. Go on now and I’ll see you from this day stewing my oatmeal and washing my spuds, for I’m master of all fights from now. Pushing Mahon. Go on, I’m saying.
Mahon Is it me?
Christy Not a word out of you. Go on from this.
Mahon Walking out and looking back at Christy over his shoulder. Glory be to God! With a broad smile. I am crazy again! Goes.
Christy Ten thousand blessings upon all that’s here, for you’ve turned me a likely gaffer in the end of all, the way I’ll go romancing through a romping lifetime from this hour to the dawning of the judgment day. He goes out.
Michael By the will of God, we’ll have peace now for our drinks. Will you draw the porter, Pegeen?
Shawn Going up to her. It’s a miracle Father Reilly can wed us in the end of all, and we’ll have none to trouble us when his vicious bite is healed.
Pegeen Hitting him a box on the ear. Quit my sight. Putting her shawl over her head and breaking out into wild lamentations. Oh my grief, I’ve lost him surely. I’ve lost the only Playboy of the Western World.


The Standard Ebooks logo.

The Playboy of the Western World
was published in 1907 by
J. M. Synge.

This ebook was produced for
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B. Timothy Keith,
and is based on a transcription produced in 1998 by
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The Bell Inn,
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