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Juno and the Paycock is a play by Sean O'Casey, the second of his well known "Dublin Trilogy" and one of the most highly regarded and oft-performed plays in Ireland. It was first staged at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1924. It is set in the working class tenements of Dublin in the early 1920s, during the Irish Civil War period.

Contents

Plot

Juno and the Paycock concerns the Boyle family, who live in the Dublin tenements. The father, "Captain" Jack Boyle (so called because of his status as a retired merchant seaman, his propensity for telling colourful stories of the sea, and his incessant wearing of his nautical-looking hat) constantly tries to evade work by pretending to have pains in his legs, and spends all his money at the pub with his ne'er-do-well "butty", Joxer Daly. The mother, Juno, is the only member of the family working, as the daughter Mary is on strike, and the son, Johnny, lost his arm in the War of Independence. Johnny betrayed Tancred, a neighbour and fellow comrade in the IRA, and is afraid that he will be executed as punishment. A distant relative dies, and an English solicitor, Mr Bentham, brings news that the family has come into an inheritance. The family buys goods on credit, and borrows money from neighbours with the intent of paying them back when the fortune arrives. They hold a party during Tancred's funeral procession, halting it only when Tancred's aged mother passes by their door.

In the third act tragedy befalls the Boyle family. Mr Bentham, who had been courting Mary, ceases all contact with the family, and it becomes apparent that no money will be forthcoming. As the goods bought with the borrowed money are being taken back, Mr and Mrs Boyle learn that Mary has been impregnated by Mr Bentham. "Captain" Boyle goes with Joxer to a pub to spend the last of his money and take his mind off of the situation. While he is gone, Mrs Boyle learns that her son, Johnny, has been killed, presumably by the IRA. Mary and Juno leave to live with Juno's sister. Captain Boyle and Joxer return to the stage drunk.

Quotes

"I ofen looked up at the sky an' assed meself the question - what is the moon, what is the stars?" - 'Captain Boyle, Act I

"Th' whole worl's in a terrible state o' chassis" - Captain Boyle, Act III

“Never tired o’ lookin’ for a rest" - Juno Boyle, Act I

"it's nearly time we had a little less respect for the dead, an' a little more regard for the living." - Juno Boyle, Act II

"Isn't all religions curious?-if they weren't you wouldn't get anyone to believe in them" - Captain Boyle, Act II

“It’ll have what’s far better- it’ll have two mothers" - Juno Boyle, Act III

"A darlin' (noun), a daarlin' (repeat noun)!" (Joxer's habitual exclamation throughout the play.)

Adaptations

In 1930, a British film adaptation of the play was produced. It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and featured Edward Chapman and Sara Allgood. In the United States, it was also known by the title "The Shame of Mary Boyle."

A musical adaptation of the play, titled Juno, was created by Marc Blitzstein (music, lyrics) and Joseph Stein (book) and opened on Broadway in 1959. Shirley Booth starred as Juno Boyle and Melvyn Douglas as the Captain. The musical version was a flop, closing after 16 performances, but Blitzstein's score was preserved on the original cast album and is today considered one of the composer's masterpieces. O'Casey gave his blessing to the project, but never saw the production.

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