Though he completed only five plays in his short lifetime, J. M. Synge, co-founder of the Abbey Theater, ranks as one of Ireland’s greatest playwrights. Rescuing the Irish peasant from a romanticized stereotype, his plays capture the essence of the Irish spirit in both his realistic characters and his unique language.
In the Shadow of the Glen
Synge’s first play (1903), based on an Irish folktale, combines the macabre with broad comedy, as an elderly husband fakes his death to test his discontented young wife’s fidelity.
Rider to the Sea
The greatest short tragedy in modern drama, this moving one-act play from 1904 depicts a peasant woman who has lost her husband and sons, one by one, to the raging sea.
The Playboy of the Western World
Synge’s satirical masterpiece, produced in 1907, is one of the great comedies of Irish life. A young stranger enraptures villagers with claims of killing his father. In classic Synge style it combines the real versus the fanciful, the traditional versus the individual.