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O'Casey, Sean

O'Casey, Sean (1880–1964). Irish playwright and author. His real name was John Casey, but was later changed to the more Gaelic Sean O'Casey. Self-educated, he had a natural talent for the theatre. He worked as a casual labourer until the age of 30 when he became involved in Irish politics as a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Jim Larkin's Union, the Irish Citizen Army, and the Irish Socialist Party respectively. In 1916 he turned to writing plays, but it was not until 1923 that one of his plays was staged. His three early plays, The Shadow of a Gunman (1923), Juno and the Paycock (1924), and The Plough and the Stars (1926), dealt with the impact of the Troubles on ordinary people. He was awarded the Hawthornden prize in 1926 for Juno, after which he moved to England, where he spent the rest of his life. His career began to wane after the production of the play Within the Gates (1934), which was set in London's Hyde Park, and he spent the rest of his life attempting to recapture his former popularity. His genius was particular to his Irish roots and subject-matter, and his inspiration faded once he cut himself off from them. O'Casey died in Torquay.

Sandra M. Dunkin

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