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Synge, J. M.

Synge, J. M. (1871–1909). Most gifted of the dramatists in the early days of the Abbey theatre. After studying Irish in his native Dublin and music in Germany he gravitated towards Paris, but a meeting with Yeats in 1896 helped persuade him of the literary possibilities of his own country and language. Visits to the Aran Islands encouraged the development of a poetic prose based on the patterns of native speech. In Riders to the Sea (1904) he invested the life of the islands with something of the dignity of Greek tragedy and The Playboy of the Western World (1907) better embodied the spirit of the new literature than the more academic efforts of Yeats and Lady Gregory. Like In the Shadow of the Glen (1903) it angered bigoted nationalists, reluctant to see Ireland's dirty linen washed in public; the use of the word ‘shift’ was found particularly offensive.

John Saunders

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