Can You Discuss The Relevance Of The "Playboy Of The Western World" Drama Today?


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Dan Banks Profile
Dan Banks answered

The playboy of The Western World, first written and performed just over one hundred years ago still addresses many themes that are relevant in today's society. The play is set in rural western Ireland, still under British rule and still in relative poverty, the play is set over just one day. The general themes that are addressed in the play are; feelings of community, the importance of fantasy and reality, Heroism, love, authority and morality. All of which can be applied to today's society.

When Christy Mahon first walks into Flaherty's tavern boasting eloquently of how he has killed his father, the townspeople do not berate him for committing an immoral and evil deed. Instead, his story of rising up and destroying his father (a figure of authority) inspires the people in the pub and Christy becomes an unlikely hero. This singular act signifies the importance of fantasy and storytelling, the people in the tavern have not seen the deed and they do not know if its necessarily true but it creates a great deal of excitement in their rather mundane and boring lives. Storytelling, embellishment and stories of "heroism" are still just as important today, but expressed through different mediums such as the mass media rather than in the setting of a tavern.  When Christy attempts to kill his father again in front of the villagers they turn against him, because seeing this immoral act in reality betrays the fantasy they had envisaged in their heads about Christy and his challenging of authority. In the end when Christy is banished from the Village with his father, Pegeen then laments betraying and losing Christy, The Playboy of the Western World. The ending signifies that language, fantasy and love is superior to mundane, boring and oppressive lives.

Will Martin Profile
Will Martin answered
Here are a few ideas that might help:

At first glance Playboy seems wholly of its time - set in a bygone rural Ireland under English rule. But in fact its themes of authority and rebellion, self-reinvention and the power of language are timeless.

When Christy boasts of "killing" his father, the locals at the shebeen are thrilled and admiring, not because they are full of bloodthirsty dreams, but because in their drab and oppressed lives, Christy's tale represents an attack on authority; a way of changing the world through a single, decisive act (and also through poetic and narrative power - they never really believe he has killed his father, only through language he can let them believe that he might be wild enough, "gallous" enough to do something like that.) His tales are part of the same pattern in the play as Pegeen's dream of a "yellow gown" or his prowess in the Games - something special, thrilling and potentially liberating. When he "kills" his father again, and this time they witness the violent act, the villagers turn from him in disgust.

In the end, though, Christy has the last laugh - by "daring to dream" that he could destroy authority, he starts a chain of events that lead to his genuinely managing to destroy his father's power over him - I believe that the play's ending asserts the triumph of fantasy, imagination and language over convention and repression. In the end Pegeen and the others are stuck with their old lives, while the father and son go off to start a new one - based on storytelling.

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