Segments in this Video

O'Casey: Genius Playwright (01:38)


Born in Dublin in 1884, Sean O’Casey wrote three plays in three years that transformed him from a laborer to a renowned playwright. His plays about strife in Ireland caused much controversy.

O'Casey: Family and Autobiography (02:29)

While living in England, O’Casey met and married Eileen Carey. They had three children. He began his autobiography in 1939, taking 15 years to complete. He wrote the six volumes in third person.

Early Childhood Dreams (02:33)

O’Casey’s childhood aspirations include being Lord Mayor of Dublin and a painter. He once discovered some Raphael paintings in a Dublin shop. “Red Roses for Me” depicts his dream of being a painter.

O'Casey: Early Life in Dublin (03:46)

Born a Protestant and named John Casey, he lived amongst the Catholic poor in Dublin. He wrote about the oppressed in “The Star Turns Red,” using robust language, universal themes, and politics.

O'Casey: Ireland's Shakespeare (04:06)

O’Casey became involved in Ireland’s nationalist movement, began by Charles Stuart Parnell’s fight for homeland rule. He believed in socialist causes, as depicted in “The Shadow of a Gunman.”

O'Casey's Favorite Authors (03:14)

O’Casey related with the English war poets. As a teen he read Shakespeare, Ibsen, and O’Neil, appreciating their universality, humanity, and emotion. At 14 he started his own personal library.

O'Casey: Socialist Causes (02:00)

O'Casey's friendship with Jim Larkin led him into politics, strikes, and riots. He helped organize food for strikers. He depicted these experiences in “Red Roses for Me,” which, when produced, caused riots.

O'Casey's Introduction to the Theater (01:37)

O’Casey’s older brother was connected with the theater and introduced Sean to theater and Shakespeare. He preferred the concise, brief style of reading plays instead of “overdone” novels.

Habits of a Playwright (03:37)

O’Casey typically wrote at night, even after he no longer had to work as a laborer. Synge's “Playboy of the Western World” caused a riot when it opened at Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats’ Abbey Theatre.

O'Casey's Dublin Trilogy: Part 1 (03:54)

Lady Gregory and Yeats rejected O’Casey’s first three plays. They accepted “Shadow of a Gunman,” the first of his Dublin domestic dramas. The trilogy made him a world-famous playwright.

O'Casey's Dublin Trilogy: Part 2 (03:57)

O’Casey depicted Ireland’s civil war and heavy drinking in the tenements in the trilogy's second play, “Juno and the Paycock.” Seamus Heaney parallels the captain to Shakespeare’s Falstaff.

O'Casey's Dublin Trilogy: Part 3 (06:06)

“The Plough and the Stars” focused on the urban poor and the Easter Uprising, with the major action occurring offstage in the classical tragedy format. Its Abbey Theater production caused riots in Dublin.

O'Casey: Freedom vs. Persecution (02:02)

Exhausted by the upheavals over his plays, O’Casey moved to London. There, he realized how restrictive ideas and opinions were in Ireland. He found more freedom for his plays in London.

Sean O'Casey and Eileen Carey (04:25)

England embraced O'Casey. In London he met his wife, Eileen Carey, who was born in Dublin but raised in genteel poverty in England. She was a promising young actress when she met Sean.

O'Casey: "The Silver Tassie" (03:19)

O’Casey struggled with each new play. “The Silver Tassie,” the first play he wrote in England, uses an impressionistic style and unnamed soldiers who chant. It is a lyrical expression of the futility of war.

Breaking From the Abbey Theater (03:25)

Yeats rejected “The Silver Tassie” for its impressionistic style, so it was staged in London. O’Casey broke with the Abbey Theatre, although he remained loyal to it and Lady Augusta Gregory.

Sean O'Casey and George Bernard Shaw (03:00)

Enraptured while writing a play, O’Casey became depressed afterwards, not knowing if it would support the family. Shaw praised “The Silver Tassie,” cementing the two playwrights’ friendship.

"Within the Gates" and New York City (03:59)

O’Casey wanted to make “Within the Gates” into a film with Hitchcock’s help. Eugene O’Neil praised the play’s poetic beauty. In New York, O’Casey befriended critic George Jean Nathan.

O'Casey: Unexpected Opposition (02:05)

The tour of “Within the Gates” collapsed after Boston clerics opposed it. Arthur Miller tried to prevent picketers, who opposed O’Casey's ideas, from closing down "Cock-a-Doodle-Dandy.”

Life in Devon, England (03:37)

The O’Caseys moved to Devon, England, a place recommended by Shaw for its advanced schooling and charming community. During WWII, Sean and Eileen assisted with the war effort.

O'Casey's Autobiography and Socialist Plays (05:02)

Ireland banned O’Casey’s autobiography. After WWII, he wrote more plays with a socialist vision: “The Star Turns Red,” “Purple Dust,” and “Red Roses for Me,” his most autobiographical play.

O'Casey: A Devastating Period (03:53)

After his son, Niall, died, O’Casey wrote “The Drums of Father Ned.” Samuel Beckett pulled his play from the 1958 Dublin Festival when the archbishop opposed O’Casey’s play in the festival.

O'Casey's Last Years and His Death (04:28)

O’Casey believes plays should encompass all the arts: music, ballet, dialogue, architecture, and painting. Years later, Eileen recalls reading Shakespeare’s sonnets to Sean and his death.

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Under a Coloured Cap: Sean O’Casey, His Life and Work

DVD Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This program paints an intimate and fascinating portrait of Sean O’Casey: a controversial playwright, a prolific memoirist, and one of the great figures of the Irish literary renaissance. Narrated and directed by Shivaun O’Casey, his daughter, the program profiles the renowned writer’s life of hardship and triumph, idealism and disenchantment. Topics under discussion include O’Casey’s grim formative years; his activities in various socialist movements and in the movements for Irish independence; his satiric and often violent tragicomedies The Shadow of a Gunman, Juno and the Paycock, and The Plough and the Stars; and his later years in self-imposed exile in Britain. (82 minutes)

Length: 83 minutes

Item#: BVL34861

ISBN: 978-1-4213-2581-1

Copyright date: ©2004

Closed Captioned

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