#OTD in 1871 – Birth of poet and playwright, John Millington Synge, in Dublin.

Birth of Irish playwright, poet and author John Millington Synge in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin. Synge was one of the leading lights of what was known as the Irish Literary Revival and along with William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory, founding members of the Abbey Theatre. His most famous work is The Playboy of the Western World, a satirical comedy which exposed some of the flaws at the time not very accepting to Irish society. On opening night, 26 January 1907, an angry crowd rioted during the play at what the Freeman’s Journal referred to as “an unmitigated, protracted libel upon Irish peasant men, and worse still upon Irish girlhood.”

When commenting on riots that occurred after the opening of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, in 1926, Yeats referenced this event. “You have disgraced yourselves again. Is this to be an ever-recurring celebration of the arrival of Irish genius? Synge first and then O’Casey?

Synge developed Hodgkin’s disease, a metastatic cancer that was then untreatable. He died several weeks short of his 38th birthday as he was trying to complete his last play, Deirdre of the Sorrows, which was performed in 1910.

In recent years Synge’s cottage in the Aran Islands has been restored as a tourist attraction. An annual Synge Summer School has been held every summer since 1991 in the village of Rathdrum, Co Wicklow. Synge is the subject of Mac Dara Ó Curraidhín’s 1999 documentary film, Synge agus an Domhan Thiar (Synge and the Western World). Joseph O’Connor wrote a novel, Ghost Light (2010), loosely based on Synge’s relationship with Molly Allgood.

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