“Juno and the Paycock” by Sean O’Casey is set amidst the height of the Irish Civil War. Throughout the play, we can see the titular character’s, Juno Boyle and Jack Boyle, relationship deteriorate , and how dramatic events in their lives and the lives of their children, Johnny and Mary, cause the entire family to collapse. The play is set closely following the signing of the treaty dividing Ireland into sections and features the resulting conflict between the diehards who want a united, free Ireland, and the free-staters, who support the treaty, with this conflict representing the clash of fanatical nationalism and practicality, of idealism and a recognition that what the people truly wanted was peace. The play also explores some of the relevant ideas of the time, including the poverty of the working class in Dublin in the 1920‘s, and how this poverty affected the communities that lived within the tenements of Dublin at this time.
In the first act we see a great deal of conflict between Juno and Boyle. The root of this conflict lies in Boyles inability to accept responsibility for supporting his family, as he refuses to seek work and spends his days drinking with his manipulative, scrounging friend Joxer. Juno is forced to act as wife, mother and sole source of income for the family, the prime motivation for this character being to keep her ragged family unit together
“Who has kep th’ home together for the past few years - only me”
This introduces us very early on to the theme of poverty in the play. The tension in the relationship is directly linked to poverty throughout the play, Boyle’s lack of responsibility causing conflict between him and Juno when their financial situation is bad.
“Your poor wife slavin to keep the bit in your mouth…”
We can see O’Casey present both the positive and negative aspects he perceives in poverty. We see him contrast the strength and ability that destitution can invoke through the character of Juno, and the...
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