The Playboy of the Western World

by J.M. Synge

Excerpted from “The Playboy of the Western World”

[Old Mahon rushes in, followed by all the crowd, and Widow Quin. He makes a rush at Christy, knocks him down, and begins to beat him.]

PEGEEN — [dragging back his arm.] — Stop that, will you. Who are you at all?

MAHON. His father, God forgive me!

PEGEEN — [drawing back.] — Is it rose from the dead?

MAHON. Do you think I look so easy quenched with the tap of a loy? [Beats Christy again.]

PEGEEN — [glaring at Christy.] — And it’s lies you told, letting on you had him slitted, and you nothing at all.

CHRISTY — [clutching Mahon’s stick.] — He’s not my father. He’s a raving maniac would scare the world. (Pointing to Widow Quin.) Herself knows it is true.

CROWD. You’re fooling Pegeen! The Widow Quin seen him this day, and you likely knew! You’re a liar!

CHRISTY — [dumbfounded.] It’s himself was a liar, lying stretched out with an open head on him, letting on he was dead.

MAHON. Weren’t you off racing the hills before I got my breath with the start I had seeing you turn on me at all?

PEGEEN. And to think of the coaxing glory we had given him, and he after doing nothing but hitting a soft blow and chasing northward in a sweat of fear. Quit off from this.

CHRISTY — [piteously.] You’ve seen my doings this day, and let you save me from the old man; for why would you be in such a scorch of haste to spur me to destruction now?

PEGEEN. It’s there your treachery is spurring me, till I’m hard set to think you’re the one I’m after lacing in my heart-strings half-an-hour gone by. (To Mahon.) Take him on from this, for I think bad the world should see me raging for a Munster liar, and the fool of men.

MAHON. Rise up now to retribution, and come on with me.

CROWD — [jeeringly.] There’s the playboy! There’s the lad thought he’d rule the roost in Mayo. Slate him now, mister.

CHRISTY — [getting up in shy terror.] — What is it drives you to torment me here, when I’d asked the thunders of the might of God to blast me if I ever did hurt to any saving only that one single blow.

MAHON — [loudly.] If you didn’t, you’re a poor good-for-nothing, and isn’t it by the like of you the sins of the whole world are committed?

CHRISTY — [raising his hands.] — In the name of the Almighty God….

MAHON. Leave troubling the Lord God. Would you have him sending down droughts, and fevers, and the old hen and the cholera morbus?

CHRISTY — [to Widow Quin.] — Will you come between us and protect me now?

WIDOW QUIN. I’ve tried a lot, God help me, and my share is done.

CHRISTY — [looking round in desperation.] — And I must go back into my torment is it, or run off like a vagabond straying through the Unions with the dusts of August making mudstains in the gullet of my throat, or the winds of March blowing on me till I’d take an oath I felt them making whistles of my ribs within?

SARA. Ask Pegeen to aid you. Her like does often change.

CHRISTY. I will not then, for there’s torment in the splendour of her like, and she a girl any moon of midnight would take pride to meet, facing southwards on the heaths of Keel. But what did I want crawling forward to scorch my understanding at her flaming brow?

PEGEEN — [to Mahon, vehemently, fearing she will break into tears.] — Take him on from this or I’ll set the young lads to destroy him here.

MAHON — [going to him, shaking his stick.] — Come on now if you wouldn’t have the company to see you skelped.

PEGEEN — [half laughing, through her tears.] — That’s it, now the world will see him pandied, and he an ugly liar was playing off the hero, and the fright of men.

CHRISTY — [to Mahon, very sharply.] — Leave me go!

CROWD. That’s it. Now Christy. If them two set fighting, it will lick the world.

MAHON — [making a grab at Christy.] — Come here to me.

CHRISTY — [more threateningly.] — Leave me go, I’m saying.

MAHON. I will maybe, when your legs is limping, and your back is blue.

CROWD. Keep it up, the two of you. I’ll back the old one. Now the playboy.

CHRISTY — [in low and intense voice.] — Shut your yelling, for if you’re after making a mighty man of me this day by the power of a lie, you’re setting me now to think if it’s a poor thing to be lonesome, it’s worse maybe to go mixing with the fools of earth. [Mahon makes a movement towards him.]

CHRISTY — [almost shouting.] — Keep off… lest I do show a blow unto the lot of you would set the guardian angels winking in the clouds above. [He swings round with a sudden rapid movement and picks up a loy.]

CROWD — [half frightened, half amused.] — He’s going mad! Mind yourselves! Run from the idiot!

CHRISTY. If I am an idiot, I’m after hearing my voice this day saying words would raise the topknot on a poet in a merchant’s town. I’ve won your racing, and your lepping, and…

MAHON. Shut your gullet and come on with me.

CHRISTY. I’m going, but I’ll stretch you first. [He runs at old Mahon with the loy, chases him out of the door, followed by crowd and Widow Quin. There is a great noise outside, then a yell, and dead silence for a moment. Christy comes in, half dazed, and goes to fire.]

WIDOW QUIN — [coming in, hurriedly, and going to him.] — They’re turning again you. Come on, or you’ll be hanged, indeed.

CHRISTY. I’m thinking, from this out, Pegeen’ll be giving me praises the same as in the hours gone by.

WIDOW QUIN — [impatiently.] Come by the back-door. I’d think bad to have you stifled on the gallows tree.

CHRISTY — [indignantly.] I will not, then. What good’d be my life-time, if I left Pegeen?

WIDOW QUIN. Come on, and you’ll be no worse than you were last night; and you with a double murder this time to be telling to the girls.

CHRISTY. I’ll not leave Pegeen Mike.

WIDOW QUIN — [impatiently.] Isn’t there the match of her in every parish public, from Binghamstown unto the plain of Meath? Come on, I tell you, and I’ll find you finer sweethearts at each waning moon.

CHRISTY. It’s Pegeen I’m seeking only, and what’d I care if you brought me a drift of chosen females, standing in their shifts itself, maybe, from this place to the Eastern World?

SARA — [runs in, pulling off one of her petticoats.] — They’re going to hang him. (Holding out petticoat and shawl.) Fit these upon him, and let him run off to the east.

WIDOW QUIN. He’s raving now; but we’ll fit them on him, and I’ll take him, in the ferry, to the Achill boat.

CHRISTY — [struggling feebly.] — Leave me go, will you? when I’m thinking of my luck to-day, for she will wed me surely, and I a proven hero in the end of all. [They try to fasten petticoat round him.]

WIDOW QUIN. Take his left hand, and we’ll pull him now. Come on, young fellow.

CHRISTY — [suddenly starting up.] — You’ll be taking me from her? You’re jealous, is it, of her wedding me? Go on from this. [He snatches up a stool, and threatens them with it.]

WIDOW QUIN — [going.] — It’s in the mad-house they should put him, not in jail, at all. We’ll go by the back-door, to call the doctor, and we’ll save him so. [She goes out, with Sara, through inner room. Men crowd in the doorway. Christy sits down again by the fire.]

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