chapter  6
13 Pages

The Sons of Cuchulainn: Violence, the Family, and the Irish


I once sat in the Abbey Theatre at a performance of “The Playboy,” and beside me was a German Jew who lived in New York. His English was not suffi ciently competent to allow him to follow the action of the play, and he asked me to instruct him. This I did, to the understandable annoyance of people in the adjacent seats. I took advantage of excitement on the stage and laughter in the audience to whisper, “He is telling them that he has killed his father.” My neighbor’s spectacles lit up. “Ah,” he exclaimed, “in Ireland it is a joke when you kill your father, it is funny, hein?” I did my best afterwards to correct this impression, but I am afraid that this was, for him, the signifi cant message of the play.1