Sean O'Casey

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Seán O'Casey, or Seán Ó Cathasaigh in Irish (March 30, 1880 to September 18, 1964) was an important Irish playwright.

Born John Casey to a middle class family, he suffered from childhood eye trouble. O'Casey left school at 14 and worked for many years as a manual laborer.[1] As a young man he was involved in nationalist and socialist causes, at various times being a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. For part of 1914 he was secretary of the Irish Citizen Army, created by Jim Larkin to advance the interests of the working class.[2]

Much of O'Casey's work, particularly his early plays, focuses on nationalist themes. He made his public debut when The Shadow of a Gunman was performed at Dublin's Abbey Theater in 1923. This was followed by his two most critically acclaimed plays, Juno and the Paycock in 1924 and The Plough and the Stars in 1926, both also put on by the Abbey. The latter was misunderstood by audiences as being anti-nationalist, and generated unrest similar to Synge's Playboy of the Western World 19 years earlier.

Upset at the rejection of his next play, The Silver Tassie, in 1929 O'Casey broke with the Abbey and moved to England, where he lived until his death. His plays during this time were more explicitly socialist but did not meet with the same critical or box office success as his early works. O'Casey died of a heart attack at the age of 84.[3]


  • The Shadow of a Gunman, 1923
  • Juno and the Paycock, 1924
  • The Plough and the Stars, 1926
  • The Silver Tassie, 1929
  • The Star Turns Red, 1940
  • Purple Dust, 1942
  • Red Roses for Me, 1943
  • Cock-a-Doodle Dandy, 1949
  • The Bishop's Bonfire, 1955
  • The Drums of Father Ned, 1958

External links


  1. O'Connnor, G. (1988). Seán O'Casey: A Life. New York: Atheneum.
  2. ibid
  3. Obituary in the New York Times