The Plough and the Stars

Sean O’ Casey was born John Casey on the 30th March 1880. A committed nationalist and socialist he was the first major Irish playwright to write about the working class people of Dublin. He was born in Dorset Street, in Dublin’s inner city to an impoverished Protestant family. As a young man he was very active in the Church of Ireland but he drifted from the chruch in the twenties.

When he was a child O’ Casey contracted tracoma which permanently damaged his eyesight and interrupted his education. He left school at fourteen and worked worked in a series of menial jobs such as labouring. He was introduced to the theatre by his older brother who was working as an actor. At fifteen he played Henry VI in an amateur production in what was to become the Abbey Theatre. This was O’ Casey’s first association with the Abbey which would later play a major role in his life.

In his early 20’s O’ Casey beacme in intereseted in Ireland and its politics. In 1906 he joined the Gaelic League, learned Irish and changed his name to Seán O’ Cathsaig, which he later changed to Seán O’ Casey. He learned the uileann pipes and was a founder and secretary general of the St Laurence O’ Toole Pipe Band. In 1913, while working as a railwayman, he joined Jim Larkin’s Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union. It was at this time that the Union was involved in the strike/lock out with Dublin’s employers. In March 1914 he became Secretary General of the Irish Citizen Army but he resigned in July of the same year folloing a disagreement, with its leaders, over class interaction.

O’ Casey’s relationship with the Abbey began properly in the 1923 with the staging of his play ‘The Shadow of   Gunman’. Though some of his earlier plays were rejected by the theatre, Lady Gregory, one of the theatre’s directors, encouraged o’ Casey to keep submitting his work. O’ Casey’s Dublin trilogy, comprising of ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’, ‘Juno and the Paycock’ and ‘The plogh and the Stars’, helped resuce the...