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The Plough and the Stars is a play by the Irish writer Seán O'Casey first performed in 1926 by the Abbey Theatre in the writer's native Dublin.

Contents

Plot

It is set in Dublin around the time of the 1916 Easter Rising. The title of the play comes from the flag of the Irish Citizen Army. The play consists of four acts, the first two set in the period leading up to the rising, and the last two set during the rising. The second act was originally conceived as a stand-alone one-act play.

The play shows little of the leaders of the rising, but instead concentrates on a cast of ordinary working-class Dubliners. Among them are a young married couple called Jack and Nora Clitheroe. Jack is a member of the Irish Citizen Army, but Nora would prefer that he focuses on climbing the social ladder. Jack learns that Nora has burned a notification that he has been promoted Commandant and he is to lead a reconnaissance attack on Dublin Castle. Jack is furious and leaves the house.

Reaction

W. B. Yeats famously declared to rioters against Seán O'Casey's pacifist drama The Plough and the Stars, in reference to the "Playboy Riots" (The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge):  "You have disgraced yourself again, is this to be the recurring celebration of the arrival of Irish genius?".

Film adaption

In 1936, it was made into a film by American director John Ford, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Preston Foster.

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