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Shadow of a Gunman, The

The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock, The Plough and the Stars

a play by Sean O'Casey, first performed in 1923. It is set in a Dublin slum three years earlier, at a time when conflict between the Irish Republican Army and the British ‘Black and Tans’ was tearing apart the populace. The self-professed poet Donal Davoren, harassed by his landlord for his rent, allows himself to be mistaken for an IRA gunman on the run both by a pretty young neighbour, Minnie Powell, and by other tenement-dwellers, some of whom seek his help in pursuing their petty grievances. ‘What danger can there be in being a shadow of a gunman?’, he asks himself at the end of Act One, after kissing Minnie; he receives his answer in Act Two. A bag left in his room by a friend of his pious fellow-lodger, Seumas Shields, turns out to be full of bombs; Minnie takes it out to conceal it from the Black and Tans, who are raiding the tenement; she is arrested, and shot while trying to escape. Donal ends self-indulgently lamenting his guilt: ‘Oh Davoren, Donal Davoren, poet and poltroon, poltroon and poet!’ The Shadow of a Gunman was the first of O'Casey's plays to be staged; and like those that followed it, Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars, deromanticizes twentieth-century Irish history by looking at major events in wry, tragi-comic style, from the stance of the city poor.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Seven Against Thebes (Hepta epi Thēbas; Septem contra Thebas) to Sir Walter Scott and Scotland