John Millington Synge was a playwright, dramatist and poet who was a native of Dublin, Ireland. Though born in Dublin his most famous play, The Playboy of the Western World, is based on his travels in the west of Ireland. Synge was also a travel writer and collector of Irish folklore. He was one of the co-founders of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
Edmund John Millington Synge was born in Rathfarnham, County Dublin, Ireland in 1871. At the age of 19 he entered Trinity College Dublin (TCD). He graduated from TCD with BA in Irish and Hebrew in 1892. He was a talented musician and studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Following graduation Synge moved to Germany to study music but by 1895 he abandoned his plan to become a musician. He moved to Paris to study literature and languages at the Sorbonne.
In 1896 W. B. Yeats was in Paris to establish a branch of the Irish League. He met with Synge and encouraged him to move to The Arran Islands to ‘express a life that has never found expression’. He returned to Ireland and with Yeats and others formed the Irish National Theatre Society, which later established the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The following year in 1897 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and underwent surgery.
Synge first arrived on the Arran Islands, off the coast of Galway in 1898, settling eventually on Inishmaan (Inish Meáin). He lived on the Islands during the summer of each year from 1898 to 1902. Plays such as Riders to the Sea and The Well of the Saints were based on his observations while living there. Synge also travelled to other parts of the West coast and his most famous play, The Playboy of the Western World is said to be set in County Mayo close to Achill Island. The main character in the play, Christy Mahon is said to be based on Achill man, James Lynchehaun.
When the Playboy of the Western World was first performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1907 it caused riots. Riots also occurred when the play opened in New York in 1911. The writings of Synge brought things like the language and life of the people of the West of Ireland to the stage. It had a huge impact on the Irish literary scene. Synge died in Dublin at the age of 37 on March 24th 1909.
John Millington Synge, playwright and poet, was born in Dublin in the year 1871 On This Day.
Image from page 9 of “The works of John M. Synge ..” (1912) by Internet Archive Book Images