Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



For J. M. Synge what Francis Bickley calls the "hard light" of reality and the "passion" of imagination are combined in the character of the Irish peasant. As Bickley again observes, "in this people, as he saw it--and he had no sentimentality to mar his vision--the god and the beast were mixed in just proportions; corresponding to that juxtaposition of exaltation and brutality which figures in his theory of poetry." It is the poetic richness of Synge's language, too, that juxtaposes the potential of language and the potential of life. It is a rhythmic language that pulsates with the fullness of physical nature, and yet it too retains the somberness to be acknowledged upon witnessing transient life. H. S. Canby suggests that the poetic style of Synge was a needed stimulus in an ailing English drama. "Indeed, here is a new rhythm for English prose, as beautiful perhaps as the rhythms of the seventeenth century. Its flexible beauty gives just that impression of reality elevated into art which blank verse permitted to the Elizabethans." The critic L. A. G. Strong writes that The Playboy of the Western World "has a laughter and violence and overwhelming love of life which no other dramatist has recaptured since the Elizabethans…” As if describing Synge himself, Strong characterizes the Playboy as "the poet, the man of imagination. The world was too much with him. He got drunk on the smell of a pint." It is a wild and passionate love of life that provides Synge's characters with their primary motivations. C. A. Bennett reminds the reader that "the presence of something incalculable warns us that we are among a people where the forces of life have not been subdued." In a faithful glance at the elemental fabric of Synge's character and technique, Bennett maintains that "if his plays live it will be because they are the work of a man who sought his materials in the primitive and the simple and the strong, in laughter and sorrow, passion and joy. And these are the things that endure.” In the drama of Synge exists an exhilaration proclaiming the vastness of life's potential, a potential not dimmed by the certainty of death and decay." Whatever other quality may be dominant at any moment in Synge there is always along with it, exaltation."

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Synge, J.M. (John Millington). 1871-1909



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University