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Have You Heard This about “The Plough and the Stars”?

  • Posted by: Gerald Dierkes
  • Posted Date: March 15, 2016
  • Filed Under: Library News

What do The Easter Rising, The Big Dipper (the prominent group of seven stars in the constellation Ursa Major), and a play, The Plough and the Stars, have in common?

The Easter Rising event occurred 100 years ago: a group of Irish nationalists rebelled against the British government in Ireland. British troops quashed the rebellion within a week, leaving more than 2,000 dead or injured. The rebellion’s leaders were later executed.

Falvey’s Special Collections staff have assembled an exhibit: “1916 Easter Rising: To Strike for Freedom (Images from the Joseph McGarrity Collection)” displaying artifacts to commemorate this event’s centennial.

What about “The Big Dipper”? That moniker is used in the U.S. for that set of stars in Ursa Major.

In the United Kingdom, however, that asterism is called “Plough.” The Irish Citizen Army had adopted the Plough for their flag, The Starry Plough:

The Plough and the Stars—Irish playwright Seán O’Casey’s play, depicts the Irish side of the Easter Rising. First performed on February 8, 1926, less than 10 years after the Easter Rising, this play reveals a personal dimension to the 1916 Rising. O’Casey introduces his audience to the Dublin residents, many of whom lived in tenements and experienced penury, who staged this rebellion. He shows us how this assembly of citizens would rather fight against well-trained, well-equipped professional soldiers than live under British oppression.

Ten years after O’Casey’s play came out, RKO Radio Pictures released its film version.

The Plough and the Stars has been described as “O’Casey’s greatest play”: “No other play invokes the desperation and hopes of poor Dubliners during the 1916 rising.



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Last Modified: March 15, 2016

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