J. M. Synge

Synge, John Millington

John Millington Synge (sĬng), 1871–1909, Irish poet and dramatist, b. near Dublin, of Protestant parents. He was an important figure in the Irish literary renaissance. As a young man he studied music in Germany and later lived in Paris, where he wrote literary criticism. In Paris he met his compatriot W. B. Yeats, who persuaded Synge to live for a while in the Aran Islands and then return to Dublin and devote himself to creative work. All of Synge's plays reflect his experiences in the Aran Islands. Intense and poetic in style, his works depict the bleak and tragic lives of Irish peasants and fisherfolk. His first two one-act plays—In the Shadow of the Glen (1903), a comedy, and Riders to the Sea (1904), a tragedy—were presented by the Irish National Theatre Society. In 1904 this group, with Synge, Yeats, and Lady Augusta Gregory as codirectors, organized the famous Abbey Theatre. Two of Synge's comedies, The Well of the Saints (1905) and The Playboy of the Western World (1907), were presented by the Abbey players. The latter play created a furor of resentment among Irish patriots stung by Synge's spoof of heroic ideals and nationalism. His later works were The Tinker's Wedding, published in 1908 but not produced for fear of further riots, and Deirdre of the Sorrows, a tragedy unfinished at the time of his death but presented by the Abbey players in 1910. The Aran Islands (1907) is Synge's journal of his stay on the islands.

See biographies by D. H. Greene and E. M. Stephens (1959) and D. Gerstenberger (1964); studies by D. Corkery (1931, repr. 1965), M. Bourgeois (1913, repr. 1969), W. B. Yeats (1911, repr. 1971), R. Skelton (1971), and M. C. King (1985).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

J. M. Synge: Selected full-text books and articles

The Aran Islands By J. M. Synge; Robin Skelton Oxford University Press, 1979
FREE! In the Shadow of the Glen By J. M. Synge John W. Luce, 1911
FREE! J. M. Synge and the Irish Dramatic Movement By Francis Bickley Houghton, Mifflin, 1912
J. M. Synge and Lady Gregory By Elizabeth Coxhead Longmans, Green, 1962
Modern Irish Literature: Sources and Founders By Vivian Mercier; Eilís Dillon Clarendon Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "John Millington Synge: Devil or Saint?"
Modernism and the Celtic Revival By Gregory Castle Cambridge University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Staging Ethnography: Synge's 'The Playboy of the Western World'"
European Lyric Folkdrama: A Definition By Robert M. Farrington Peter Lang, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Myth as Dramatic Setting in Lorca and Synge"
More Real Than Reality: The Fantastic in Irish Literature and the Arts By Donald E. Morse; Csilla Bertha Greenwood Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "Interrogating Boundaries: Fantasy in the Plays of J. M. Synge" begins on p. 137
The Irish Dramatic Movement By Una Ellis-Fermor Methuen, 1954 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "John Millington Synge"
Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing since 1790 By Seamus Deane Clarendon Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Synge: The Mob, the Community, the Hero" begins on p. 140
FREE! Deirdre of the Sorrows By J. M. Synge John W. Luce & Co., 1911
FREE! The Well of the Saints: A Comedy in Three Acts By J. M. Synge John W. Luce & Company, 1911
Irish Playwrights, 1880-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook By Bernice Schrank; William W. Demastes Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "John Millington Synge (1871-1909)" begins on p. 356
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