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Quare Fellow, The

characters condemned

a play by Brendan Behan, first performed in 1956. It is set in an Irish prison on the night before, and morning of, the hanging of a murderer. Though the atmosphere is carefully and often humorously evoked, the conversation of the characters never wanders far from an execution. Even the ‘quare fellow's’ last trip from the condemned cell to the gallows comes in the form of a parody horse race, with a prisoner providing a breezy commentary from a window. The characters include the alcoholic old lags, Dunlavin and Neighbour; the hangman, a convivial publican brought over from England; the governor, who is anxious the condemned man should get a good last breakfast; and Regan, a warder notorious among his harder colleagues for his dislike of ‘neck breaking and throttling’ and for his habit of asking murderers to pray for him. The impression finally given is of a macabre ritual somehow made worse by everybody's determination to carry it out with humane efficiency.

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