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Brendan Behan Biography

(1923–64), Borstal Boy, The Hostage, The Quare Fellow, Playboy of the Western World

hostage dublin quare fellow

Irish playwright, born in Dublin, son of a housepainter with strong republican sympathies. Behan, too, joined the IRA and was arrested and incarcerated after an unsuccessful bombing mission to Liverpool, a period he described in his entertaining memoir Borstal Boy (1958). His best-known plays are The Hostage (1958) and The Quare Fellow (1959); both combine ebullient, anarchic humour with an undeniable seriousness of purpose. The Hostage concerns an English soldier held in a Dublin brothel; it shows Behan's own political disillusion, mocking and deglamorizing patriotic pretence in the tradition of Synge's Playboy of the Western World and O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars. The Quare Fellow, set in a prison in the hours before a hanging, mounts a robust case against capital punishment, and left the critic Kenneth Tynan feeling ‘overwhelmed, and thanking the powers that be’ for Sydney Silverman, the leading abolitionist of the day.

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