The Paycock and Juno is Sean O’Casey’s tragic-comic masterpiece. It is the second play in his “Dublin Trilogy” which also includes The Shadow of a Gunman and The Plough and the Stars. In Greek mythology, Juno is the goddess of the home. She was delivered on the back of a peacock-drawn chariot. Jove, commonly known as Jupiter or Zeus, was Juno’s husband and the chief of the Olympian gods. In O’Casey’s play, he represents Paycock, who is ostentatious and vain. Captain Boyle, Juno’s husband, is an extremely careless and indolent individual. This exemplifies O’Casey’s great talent to caricature. Juno, on the other hand, is known as “Juno” since she was born in June, married in June, and had a kid in June. Captain Boyle, Juno’s spouse, exudes aristocratic airs. He despises manual labour. He enjoys the company of courtiers and a sycophant who adores him in flattery and constantly praises him.
Captain Boyle, Juno Boyle, their son “Johnny,” and their daughter “Mary” make up Boyle’s family in the play. This tragedy narrates the story of the Boyle family, a ragtag group of people living in a tenement in Dublin, Ireland, amid the political upheaval that followed the republic’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1921. Juno wants nothing more than to keep a roof over her family’s heads; she is continuously horrified, however, by her weakling of a husband, Captain Jack Boyle, who frequently complains about his leg aches while drinking and singing all the time. They have two children: Johnny, whose arm was severed as a result of a military altercation he got himself into, which also resulted in a twisted hip, and Mary, a lovely young virgin of twenty-three.
During the conflict, the son was paralysed. The daughter works in a plant, which is currently on strike. She is actively involved in the labour movement. The story’s arc sees Juno and her family’s wealth increase in expectation of an unexpected inheritance, only to plummet in the second half of the play when the inheritance vanishes, along with the devious lawyer who misled them and also beguiled Mary. Mary’s character has depth, which I appreciated, as evidenced by her interest in books. She was usually holding a book and was skillfully represented reading Ibsen, who I am sure influenced O’Casey’s painting.
The context of this tragicomedy is based on the consequences of political struggle in Ireland following the Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish War of Independence from 1919 to 1921, and the Irish Civil War. As the drama begins, son Johnny has already lost an arm in the conflicts, and he has betrayed Robbie Tancred, a neighbour and fellow IRA comrade who was later killed by Free State supporters; Johnny is scared of being executed as retaliation. Despite the turbulence, there were some great humorous moments that were skilfully blended to bring to light the combined impact of poverty and conflict on the family. Mr. Boyle and his friend Joxer Daly are debating books and history in one typical scene. However, their phoney intellectual debate is cut short by the voice of a coal dealer. Joxer flies out the window as he hears Juno’s voice. However, there is a touch of melancholy in this amusing and ridiculous portrayal. For example, Juno tells Boyle at one point, “Here, sit down an’ take your breakfast – it may be the last you’ll get, for I don’t know where the next is going to come from.”
When there is a knock on the door and Boyle asks Joxer to tuck his head out the window to see who is there, Joxer responds, “An, mebbe get a bullet in the kisser?”
This remark appears to be amusing, but beneath it is a grim tragedy… the tragedy of Ireland being destroyed and wasted by civil war.“… the clergy always had too much power over the people in this unfortunate country.”says Boyle. This demonstrates Ireland’s dire predicament once more.
People like Captain Boyle believe that if they work for them, they will further the interests of foreign exploiters. As a result, they degrade even worse. As a result, Juno bears the entire load. Juno is the housekeeper. She also represents “Juno,” the goddess of the home. She is a typical wife. Her marriage to her husband is an intriguing one. She dominates and scolds her husband because she is the breadwinner of the family, but as a good wife, she also regards her husband as a lord and strives to serve him. All of this adds up to a pretty fascinating situation. In some ways, this is a feminist play in which Juno fights to serve her family fairly. She is the one who suffers the most. As a result, women are the weakest of the weak and the most exploited of the exploited. The play’s realistic representation of slum life in Dublin is a standout element.
I had fun. The realistic depiction of tragic situations interspersed with comedic moments. The play is regarded as one of the most powerful works of English literature. O’Casey’s treatment of legendary and contemporary themes is unparalleled. This has amplified the devastating impacts and elevated a seemingly insignificant family narrative to the level of a tremendous tragedy. The play is both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. O’Casey is a virtuoso at turning tragedy into laughter and humour into sorrow. In this regard, he is comparable to Shakespeare. and caricature make this a fantastic drama that has been well-received in Ireland and worldwide since its initial production.
Summary of Juno and The Paycock
Sean I’Casey (1880-1964) was a prominent Irish modern dramatist. He is one of the few English dramatists who has written so much during the course of a half-century career. With the presentation of his play, he made his presence known at the Abbey. His first drama, The Shadow of a Gunman, was followed by Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars. These three plays, known as his Dublin Trilogy, made O’Casey famous around the world. These three plays are the most frequently staged of all of his works.
The Civil War of 1922 between the Diehard Republicans and the Free Stators serves as the backdrop for the play Juno and the Paycock. With the signing of the pact in 1921, the Republican troops were separated into two parties, and animosity and enmity between them erupted, resulting in a Civil War. The entire country was up in arms. Even persons who had nothing to do with the infighting became victims of its catastrophic repercussions. Juno and the Paycock was well received on the big screen in Dublin, London, and New York. On March 3, 1924, the drama was originally staged in Dublin. The comedy components were emphasised in the Dublin theatre reviews. “It is called a tragedy but it simply bursts its sides with comedy.”
The realism of the portrayal and events was emphasised by the reviewers. The hilarious scenes in the play’s second act received a lot of attention. However, a section of critics objected to the play being treated as a comedy. A.E. Malone, for example, correctly observed of The Shadow of a Gunman and Juno and the Paycock, “They are tragedies of disillusionment which were played, and accepted as comedies of errors.”
The plot of the drama revolves around the Boyle family, which comprises of Captain Boyle, his wife, Juno, their disabled son, Johnny, and their daughter, Maty. Captain Boyle, the family’s head, is a slacker who does not care about his family, which is the root of the family’s plight. Johnny, the family’s sole son, has been disabled as a result of a combat accident. Because she is on strike against her employers, the daughter is not earning anything. As a result, Juno bears the whole burden of running the family, and she works tirelessly to keep the family afloat. Despite her best efforts, the family is facing financial difficulties. Later, a ray of hope appears when Bentham, an outsider, informs Captain Boyle that he will inherit a legacy left by one of his distant cousins. The revelation of the Boyles’ impending legacy dramatically alters their way of life. Everyone in the family becomes excessive; they buy expensive items on credit even before the money arrives. Mary rejects Jerry, a worker and her actual lover, in favour of Bentham, who ‘loves’ Mary solely for the sake of the upcoming legacy. However, the legacy news turns out to be fake, and the Boyle family is brought to utter wretchedness. All creditors seize their unpaid-for products. Meanwhile, Mary, who is expecting a child from Bentham, is betrayed by him. The disabled son, Johnny, is then shot dead by his buddies for tricking one of his comrades who was killed in the struggle. Juno finally gets her strength and leaves her house with her pregnant daughter to settle somewhere else where she and her daughter can care for the newly born baby.
The play’s initial direction regarding its locale establishes O’Casey’s ongoing interest in naturalism. It is “the living room of a two-room tenancy occupied by the Boyle family in a tenement house in Dublin.” “a dresser” “a picture of the Virgin” “a crimson bowl in which a floating votive light is burning” “a small bed” “a fire place” beside which “is a box containing coal and (there is an) alarm clock lying on its face on the mantelshelf” “a galvanised bath,” “a teapot” “frying pan” “few books on the dresser” “a long-handled shovel” and so on. The first stage direction shows us a life in squalor, as a member of the working class with aspirations for intellectual refinement (a few books on the dresser). The votive light represents the family’s clinging to some insignificant support in an impoverished and disaster-threatened life. Later in the play, when the symbol is no longer just a superstition but serves as a structural element to make the tragedy more impactful, the symbol’s full implication is revealed. The authorial introduction of a character as a prelude for the audience’s response to him or her is a feature of O’Casey’s dramaturgy. For example, Mary Boyle has been described as a lovely “girl of twenty-two….Two forces are at work in her mind.” One, as a result of her life circumstances, is pulling her back; the other, as a result of the effect of books she has read, is pushing her ahead. The competing forces are visible in her speech and manners, both of which are harmed by her surroundings and helped by her brief experience with literature.” The above-mentioned Mary qualities are developed throughout the play, and her attitudes and train of thought are first revealed in her contact with her mother, Juno. She is discovered while reading a piece of news from a local daily about the discovery of a deceased person. This piece of news builds suspense and is related to occurrences of agony that occur during the course of the action. The elaboration of the news article is halted due to Juno’s enquiry concerning Captain Boyle’s homecoming. The first discussion between mother and daughter reveals a lot of points that will be developed more as the play progresses- The first item in this context is Captain Boyle’s “struttin’ about the town like a paycock with Joxer” and the second is “about Mrs. Tancred’s son” the news of whose death was in the morning newspaper mentioned by Mary earlier. The implication of Johnny in Tancred’s son’s affairs, which becomes evident only at the end of the play, is also hinted at in Johnny’s uneasiness at the news and his angry disapproval of Mary’s discussion of the news items in the opening scene. Mary is perplexed by Johnny’s “gettin’ very sensitive, all of a sudden” but Juno dispels any fears about the family’s consequences as a result of Tancred’s son’s death. “Everybody’s sayin’ that he was a Die-hard- thanks be to God that Johnny had nothin’ to do with hin this long time….” she continues. Juno’s explication of Captain Boyle’s carelessness, sloth, and lack of a sense of propriety and proportion overshadows the news’s forebodings and Johnny’s apprehensive discomfiture. In the midst of Juno’s rant on Captain Boyle’s attitude toward work and life, Mary expresses concern over the ribbon she should wear on her head. Mary is on strike against her bosses, we learn. She speaks about trade unionism and is steadfast in her opposition to bosses’ economic victimisation of employees. Mary’s argument on the ‘idea’ of going on strike to preserve the right of one worker is countered by her mother’s practical insight, based on the survival principle: “Wan victim was not enough. When the bosses sacrifice one victim, the Trade Unions must sacrifice a hundred.” Juno’s viewpoint should not be interpreted as “she is against trade unions but that she is for the workers earning their daily bread” as their first priority. Juno’s oblique message is that talking about and fighting for principles is a matter of financial means: The entire conversation between the mother and daughter contrasts the daughter’s immaturity with the mother’s practical wisdom obtained through survival experience. The dramatist’s camera quickly shifts to another branch of the Juno family, Johnny. Johnny has been on a mental tangent since his participation rendered him ineligible. “The bullet he got in the hip in Easter Week was bad enough, but the bomb that shattered his arm in the fight in O’Connell Street put the finishing touch on him,” said one of the Free Stators. I could tell he was making a fool of himself. I fell down on my knees and begged him not to go agent for the Free State.” Mary protects her brother because he, like her, believes in “principles being principles.” Here’s a family where the spouse is a slacker who is uninterested in working. The daughter has gone on strike without giving a thought to how the family’s food will be provided. The son is a virtual invalid, requiring not only nourishment but also the constant presence of someone nearby to shield him from his uneasiness, claustrophobia, and some hazy terror. As a result, the sole duty for maintaining the family rests on the mother, who has already acquired enough debts to buy food for the family and is still frantically striving to make ends meet on a daily basis. However, Jerry Devine, a unionist and Hary fan, arrives with the news that he has arranged for Boyle to work in Rathmines through the good offices of Father Farrell. Father Farrell has been interested in assisting the family out of their current poverty because he sympathises with Johnny, who has become disabled while fighting for Ireland. Captain Boyle is to be found immediately to take up the job, and Juno believes he is in one of the neighbouring cheap pubs, Ryan’s or Foley’s. After being properly introduced, the Captain appears in a joyful and relaxed mood, conversing with his parasitical buddy, Joxer. Boyle and Joxer, believing Juno is not present, talk freely about jobs and Juno’s tyranny, which they claim is designed to limit their freedom and enjoyment. While Boyle and his butty prepare to brew a cup of tea to relax and continue talking, “Joxer’s rhapsody” is stopped short by the sight of Juno approaching and confronting the two pals. Both are taken aback.” O’Casey creates a stunning visual effect with this composition. To save his and Joxer’s faces, Boyle convinces Juno that his butty has connections with a foreman at Killesther who will soon get him a job. First, Joxer is perplexed because he was not expecting this deception. But soon after, he gets the hint from Boyle and begins elaborating on the possibility of securing a job for Boyle, which will help the family’s financial situation. Boyle, too, asserts that he is now physically prepared to take on any demanding job since he is genuinely interested in working. Juno sees right through her husband’s pretence, deceit, and laziness: “If you think you’re able to come it over me with them fairy tales, you’re in the wrong shop.” Juno is all too familiar with him. Boyle’s leg pain diminishes as soon as Juno leaves the house, and he regains his romantic cheerfulness. Juno is “flurried and excited” therefore she is not interested in exposing Boyle’s lies to him right now. She had cut her workday short in order to return and inform Boyle that “there’s a visitor comin’ with Mary in a minute, an’ he has great news for you.” Boyle is encouraged to change in Johnny’s room in order to appear presentable to the visitor. Finally, he appears at the room where Bentham is comfortably sitting, courtesy of Juno’s complete verbal kindness. Boyle jokes that the “great news” is possibly related to a job that his wife has gotten for him. As a result, he begins his arrival with a complaint about “terrible pain” in his leg. However, the sufferings are forgotten when he receives “great news” about a big inheritance given to him by a distant relative. Bentham drafted the will, thus its veracity is unquestionable. The entire family is happy and ecstatic about the potential of “a fortune” coming to the family.
As the second Act begins, we can see that the legacy announced in the previous Act has significantly altered the appearance of Boyle’s tenement. “The furniture is more plentiful” and “every available spot is ornamented with huge vases filled with artificial flowers.” Other accessories in the room, such as a table lamp, are symbolic of economic status. Boyle’s attitude toward other people and views exemplifies his new way of life. From a higher vantage point, he now patronises his old butty.
The rumour of Boyle’s legacy has altered society’s perception of him. In acknowledgement of his social standing, the clergy and feudals now show him respect. To reciprocate their respects, Boyle also changes his attitude of disdain at the clerics and the nationalists: he says, “I don’t like any one to talk disrespectful of Father Farrell.” It is the same Father Farrell who was presented as a deceptive and conniving exploiter by Boyle in the previous Act. Boyle’s high-flown language of nationalism and religious reverence rings laughably hollow because of his own ignorance about Ireland’s overall condition of affairs, for which he has always had only one cliche’ expression- Ireland is in a state of flux.
Act II begins with a celebration party during which Bentham will be the main guest. Bentham eventually arrives, to acclaim from the Boyles. People with higher social rank must talk about things of more interest or complex philosophical ideas in order to conform to traditional social conventions of etiquette and gossip. Boyle, completely unaware of his stupidity, discusses inflation, the function of religion in improving people’s lives, and so on. Bentham’s theosophical development of life values and the philosophy of the “Life-Breath” in a language that validates his intellectual and linguistic sophistry contrasts with Boyle’s ill-digested notions. While these discussions are taking place, Johnny is disturbed by Bentham’s remark of killing a person in the context of a discussion about the reality of spirits. Johnny’s conscience is shockingly shocked, and he runs into his chamber, only to find, to his utter horror, the spirit of Tancred with him “His breast is bleedin’. Oh, why was he staring at me like that?” The group collected there tries to reject Johnny’s vision as an illusion of “an over-wrought imagination” but only Johnny knows the truth of Tancred’s ghost’s inquisitive stare at him. The votive light near the monument is his only source of protection.
Acts II and III have been separated by two months. Bentham is said to have gone to England, and we have not heard anything from him since we met him at the celebration party in the previous Act. Mary maintains her sincerity in her love for him and assumes that Bentham’s sudden departure is due to his dislike of the Boyles’ informality and links with lower class people, such as Joxer and Mrs. Madigan, who did not exhibit any sophisticated behaviour during the carousing party. Juno criticises her husband for promoting such a business. The action is now picking up speed till the last catastrophe. Mary is feeling a little sad, so her mother decides to get her checked by a doctor. They are deeply in debt as a result of the family’s spending frenzy, which has continued in the absence of the legacy. Juno, in her complacent attitude toward her situation, did not believe it was appropriate to keep a check on her husband’s free spending on luxury products and drinks. It is discovered that Mary is expecting a child fathered immorally by Bentham. A lot of troublesome water has already passed under the bridge before this news is brought home. People have validated the rumour that the legacy will not be delivered at all. As a result, creditors have begun to come to the Boyles to collect their debts. Nugent, the tailor, removes the unpaid-for suit he created for Boyle for formal use.
Joxer, the Captain’s butty, takes wicked pleasure in Boyle’s discomfort and humiliation. Despite being a demon himself, Joxer preaches to Boyle, “Ah, him that goes a borrovrin’ goes a sorrowin!” Joxer’s attitude toward the tree (Boyle) on which he was a parasite is genuinely vicious and sadistic, and his laboured comicality just adds to his awful personality. Mrs. Madigan, too, is unsympathetic to Boyle once he finds himself in financial trouble. She takes away the unpaid-for gramophone in exchange for the money she lent Boyle to spend on drinks and entertainment for himself and his neighbours, including herself, after the news of the legacy became public. Mrs. Madigan, as she walks away with the phonograph, displays malevolent satisfaction at the Boyles’ impending demise. After the humiliation described above, Boyle will be shocked even more when Juno informs him that Mary has been betrayed by Bentham in the most dishonourable manner. Boyle’s first reaction to Mary’s ruin is both fatherly and human. He says that he will get Bentham back from England and force him to do Mary justice by marrying her. Immediately, he reverses his position and disowns Mary, abandoning her to whatever fate awaits her. Johnny, too, ignoring his own immorality, criticises Mary: “She should be driven out o’ th’ house she’s brought disgrace on!” There is just one glimmer of hope that keeps Juno going: the money from the legacy may allow her to go to a place where Mary’s humiliation will not be a public scandal. But Juno’s problems are not going away so simply. Boyle says that he knew the will was “a wash-out” a long time ago and that “The Boyo that’s after doin’ it to Mary done it to me as well.” Boyle’s recklessness, along with his cruelty to Mary, renders his character absolutely loathsome. Even though he was aware of the legacy’s actuality, he continued to borrow for boozing. And the biggest blow thus far has been the inheritance, which was both their economic demise and Mary’s undoing. Before the last disaster, O’Casey introduces a situation that entices the family into some fresh optimism. Jerry Devine, believing that Mary has been abandoned by Bentham because to the economic devastation, comes forward to accept Mary’s hand as a revival of his prior love for her. However, his “humanity is just as narrow as the humanity of the others.” When he discovers that Mary “has fallen as low as that.” he withdraws his offer. Mary exposes Jerry by recalling the sentences he once delivered while teaching on “Humanity’s Strife with Nature.” But the poems’ words fall flat on his ears, and he walks away. “The votive light flickers for a moment and goes out.” as the rest of the furniture is being taken due to nonpayment. The furniture dealer’s men casually explain the foreboding implications of the votive light dying out, “The oil’s all gone, that’s all.” It looks like some mysterious force of nemesis has visited the area where the redeeming divine grace has been removed. Johnny moans anguishfully, “feelin’ a pain in his breast like the tearin’ by of a bullet.” The paraphernalia of total devastation seemed to have been perfected, and only the ultimate doom is to be declared. There is total deprivation on all levels: economic, personal, and supernatural. The fates of Johnny and Mary, as well as Boyle’s sheer cruel carelessness, appear to be the strokes meant to wreck Juno. However, Juno, like a heroic figure, rises to the situation to face the ultimate fiasco in her life with courage and mental balance. Mrs. Madigan’s difficulty in breaking the news of Johnny’s death prompts Mrs. Boyle to make the following statement: Mrs. Madigan, do not keep me waiting; I have been through so much lately that I feel ready for anything. Juno now understands the anguish of losing a son, which she tried to explain away when Mrs. Tancred was mournfully following her son’s procession. In a sincerely regretful tone, she recalls Mrs. Tancred’s lines: “Perhaps I did not feel sorry enough for Mrs. Tancred when her poor son was found as Johnny’s been found now because he was a Die-hard!” Oh, I did not realise he was neither a Die-hard or a Stater, but just a miserable deceased son! It is a good thing I remember everything she said, for now it is my turn to say it: “What was the pain I suffered, Johnny, bringing you into the world to carry you to your cradle, to the pains I will suffer carrying you out of the world to carry you to your grave!” Mother of God, Mother of God, has compassion on all of us! Where were you when my darling kid was pierced with bullets, Blessed Virgin? Sacred Heart of Jesus, take away our stone hearts and give us flesh hearts! Take this murdherin’ hatred away, and give us Thine own eternal love! Juno’s props have been removed, but she is determined to survive for the sake of the new life that will be born in the form of Mary’s baby. Although the kid will be born without a father, Juno states that “it’ll have what’s far better- it’ll have two mothers.” Juno embarks on a journey for a new life in a better world after the family’s final and complete destruction. She treads on the debris of her ruin. The play concludes with Joxer and Boyle, completely inebriated, wandering on an empty stage and moaning incoherently about the “terrible state o’ Chassis.” “The empty room is a product of the play’s realistic action. However, it also serves as a visual representation of the impact of political and social upheaval on the family and the larger community.” However, as our examination of the play above has shown, Juno and the Paycock is a storey of pain caused more by “human stupidity,” cruelty, and even bestiality than anything else.