John Millington Synge

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John Millington Synge
Plaque in Saint Patrick's Park, Dublin

John Millington Synge (born April 16, 1871 in Rathfarnham near Dublin , † March 24, 1909 in Dublin) was an Irish playwright .


John Millington Synge came from a not very wealthy family of the Protestant Ascendancy , the Protestant Anglo-Irish upper class. Appropriately, he attended Trinity College , the traditional Protestant university. He studied languages ​​and music and lived in Paris for a few years . He did not want to pursue a conventional or middle-class career; He also found it difficult to choose between a musical and a literary career. In Paris he met Yeats , who advised him, instead of an aimless bohemian life in Paris, to visit the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland in order to get to know a way of life there that had not yet found any literary expression. His years on Inis Meáin , one of the Aran Islands, where life was in some ways still archaic, spontaneous and untouched by civilization, were decisive for his work and at the same time quite epoch-making for Irish drama . There he developed into a poetic realist , because “ you can only find real, pure joy in wild, gorgeous reality ”. But " Realism alone is not enough, the stage has to radiate reality and happiness "; he said programmatically.

In his semi-autobiographical prose volume The Aran Islands (1907), Synge describes in no way romanticized the nature-loving but at the same time brutal living conditions of the people on the Aran Islands. His numerous visits and wanderings in remote areas of Ireland were also reflected in his dramatic works, all of which are set in locations remote from civilization. Likewise, non-sedentary characters such as migrant workers or tinkerers ( tramps and tinkers ) are the focus. Synge had personally experienced their way of life and preferred them to bourgeois values ​​and ways of life.

Poster of the performance of The Shadow of the Glen at the Abbey Theater in 1904

His first drama The Shadow of the Glen (1903, original title In the Shadow of the Glen ) is set in a lonely canyon in the Wicklow Mountains. The secure, but joyless existence “in the shadow of the valley” is contrasted with the unsecured existence at the side of a tramp “on the heights of life”, with the latter favored as in Synge's best-known work The Playboy of the Western World (1907) and determines the outcome.

Synge liked to start from folk tales in his works and made his version of the Hiberno-English dialect fit for the stage. His works are an important part of Irish national poetry and are usually included in what is known as the Irish Renaissance . With the establishment of the Abbey Theater in 1904, Synge also became one of the directors. Up to his untimely death, Synge wrote six dramas that are rooted in specifically Irish living conditions, but have a more universal claim to validity. His works have therefore also become effective on the stages of other countries at various times.

In Ireland itself, his dramas and the undogmatic view of the world they express were received with mixed reactions by critics and theater audiences. His plays were attacked as immoral or anti-religious and un-Irish. The premiere of The Playboy of the Western World in Dublin in 1907 sparked one of the first major theater scandals in Irish theater history, as the play was viewed as an abuse of morality, the image of women and the religious values ​​of Ireland. Synge works were considered unplayable in Ireland for a long time until well after his death. His last work, Deirdre of the Sorrows , was not performed posthumously until 1910 , despite his turning to Deirdre , one of the most impressive figures in Irish mythology .

Synge was buried in the Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.


John Millington Synge's love for Molly Allgood tells Joseph O'Connor in his novel Ghost Light (2010), in German translation: Irrlicht (2012).


  • The Aran Islands (prose)
  • Tinker wedding (The Tinker's Wedding)
  • Deirdre of the Sorrows
  • The source of the saints (The Well of the Saints)
  • Riders to the Sea (Riders to the Sea)
  • The fog gorge (The Shadow of the Glen)
  • The Hero of the Western World or Der Held des Westerlands or A true hero or Juggler of Mayo (The Playboy of the Western World)

German radio play productions


  • WJ McCormack: Fool of the family: a life of JM Synge . London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000, ISBN 0-297-64612-5
  • Jan Setterquist: Ibsen and the beginnings of Anglo-Irish drama: Part 1: John Millington Synge , Uppsala: A.-B. Lundequistska Bokhandeln [u. a.], 1951

Web links

Wikisource: John Millington Synge  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Heinz Kosok: History of Anglo-Irish Literature . Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 190, ISBN 3-503-03004-2 , p. 153.
  2. Cf. Heinz Kosok: History of Anglo-Irish Literature . Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 190, ISBN 3-503-03004-2 , p. 153.
  3. Cf. Heinz Kosok: History of Anglo-Irish Literature . Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 190, ISBN 3-503-03004-2 , pp. 153f.