Sean O'Casey: A Life

Garry O'Connor, Author Atheneum Books $25 (448p) ISBN 978-0-689-11886-9
O'Casey (1888-1964), the feisty Irish dramatist best known for his early plays Juno and the Paycock and The Plough and the Stars, is for the first time the subject of a full-length biography. It is a lively, insightful study (by a former director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and author of Ralph Richardson) that illuminates a man whose inconsistencies matched his talent but made him a richer character than any he portrayed for the stage. Reared in the Dublin slums, O'Casey spent the latter half of his life in exile in England and was violently anticlerical, a Communist, touchy, obsessive and always spoiling for a fight; but he also had a sense of comedy that transcended his anger. His early plays, performed at the Abbey Theatre in its heyday, won him international fame while causing near riots; his later, more experimental work received mixed reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. O'Connor, who covers the playwright's quarrel with Yeats and his notable friendships with Shaw and Harold Macmillan, praises him above all for his humanity, which in his best work expressed itself in a ""truly Elizabethan breadth of language and emotion.'' Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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