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Synge

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SYNGE, sing, John Millington, Irish dramatist : b. Newtown Little, near Rath farnham, 1871; d. 24 March 1909. He received his education at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was graduated in 1892. For about seven years he studied music in Germany and lan guages in Germany, Italy and France. He spent several years in the Latin Quarter of Paris where he gave his attention to the study of decadent French literature, especially to Baudelaire. He accomplished little in Paris but being meanwhile interested in Ireland, in 1899 William Butler Yeats persuaded him to aban don his efforts as a French literary critic and study the social types, manners and customs of the inhabitants of the Aran Islands, a people who still retained their primitive Celtic culture. He finally settled in Dublin where he became one of the literary advisers to the Abbey Thea tre and where he produced his dramas. These are remarkable for the angry protests and dis cussions which they provoked when produced in Ireland and in the United States. His first play was 'In the Shadow of the Glen' (1903); followed by 'Riders to the Sea.' 'The Tink er's Wedding,' although written in 1902, was not produced until 1909. ''The Will of the Saints,' a tragic-comedy (1905), was performed in German at Berlin in 1906. In 1907 appeared 'The Playboy of the Western World,' about which there arose violent discussion and pro test. Some critics hail it as the best comedy in English since Sheridan, while in Ireland it is regarded as a savagely ironical treatment of a situation more frequently found in Baudelaire than in contemporary peasant life in Ireland. These plays have a wonderful diction and set the fashion for that peasant drama which be came the most prominent feature of the Abbey Theatre. In design and substance, however, Synge's dramas are of the Gallic decadence. 'Riders to the Sea,' perhaps the least objection able, is, mutat° nomine, Pierre Loti's ‘Picheurs d'Islande,' in an Irish setting. The dominant

idea of 'The Well of the Saints' (1905) is from a play of Clemenceau's. The story of 'The Shadow of the Glen' is found in Vol taire's (Zadig,) and the notorious 'Playboy of the Western World' is merely a dramatization of a work of Baudelaire. The form and tone of the plays of Synge are no less foreign than the substance; there are frequent sneers at the morals and religious practices of the Irish, and in 'The Playboy' are several blasphemous ut terances; the characters of the latter are devoid of all semblance of good, and their sole moral motive is "fear of Father Reilly.° In short, Synge is °much Maeterlincked, Baudelaired and Ibsenized, but Gaelicized not at all.° As regards their dramatic and literary value, how ever, it is admitted tjiat these plays possess a certain beauty. The talk of the Irish peasant is at times shot through with a queer poetic imaginativeness. It abounds in quaint terms, idioms and images unknown to English. These peculiarities Synge has reproduced and accen tuated. And it is little wonder that to audi ences strangers to the Gaedhaltacht his work should appeal with a sense of delighttul fresh ness and originality. Synge's peasants are viewed through a distorted medium. He him self had admitted in private life that the Con nacht peasant whom he put upon the stage was not the peasant as he existed in real life, but the writer's own literary fancies set amid Connacht surroundings. Consult article by D. J. O'Donoghue (in Irish Daily Independent, 21 Aug. 1911) in which he points out the for eign sources of Synge's plots; O'Neill, George (in Irish Catholic, 23 Dec. 1911) ; America (New York, issues September-October 1911) ; Yeats, J. B., 'J. M. Synge and the Ireland of His Time) (New York 1912). See IRISH LIT