BORN: April 16, 1871, Rathfarnham, county Dublin, Ireland
DIED: March 24, 1909, Dublin, Ireland
IDENTIFICATION: Irish dramatist, poet, and essayist who is especially noted for the use of a dramatic language that is both poetic and realistic, even violent.
SIGNIFICANCE: John Millington Synge was the most controversial dramatist in Ireland during the first decade of the twentieth century. The one-act tragedy Riders to the Sea (1903) invests the life of a common family in the Aran Islands with tragic nobility, but three other Synge plays produced during his lifetime—the comedies The Shadow of the Glen (1904), The Well of the Saints (1905), and The Playboy of the Western World (1907)—were criticized for their complex and often unflattering portrayals of the Irish peasantry. Both a controversial figure and a conscientious artist, Synge set the standards for modern Irish drama.