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Juno and the Paycock

The Shadow of a Gunman, Two Plays

boyle jack family play

a play by Sean O'Casey, performed in 1924, published with The Shadow of a Gunman in Two Plays (1925). The plot, set in a Dublin tenement during the civil war of 1922, involves the disintegration of the Boyle family. Jack Boyle, the ‘paycock’, is the wastrel father told he has inherited £2,000. The family gets heavily into debt, only to discover that a fault in the will's wording means it will receive nothing. The new furniture is repossessed. Bentham, the clerk responsible for the bad will, abandons Boyle's daughter, Mary, whom he has made pregnant. Boyle's son Johnny, an IRA quartermaster who has betrayed the commandant of his battalion, is shot. Mary and her mother, Juno, then leave Jack, who ends the play obliviously drunk with his crony, Joxer Daly. At root, this is a painful tale of destruction inflicted from outside and inside, by political nemesis, sexual exploitation, and paternal fecklessness. It also contains a memorable portrait of the self-sacrificial matriarch in Juno Boyle. Yet, as often with O'Casey, an unsentimental humour is everywhere, and notably in the depiction of the ingratiating Joxer and the shiftless, self-important Jack Boyle, at once a callous, greedy liar, a flamboyant dreamer, and the victim of a poverty-stricken environment.

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