Synge, John Millington

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

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).

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