Juno and the Paycock

Mrs. Tancred: A Foil and A Mirror

Sean O’Casey’s drama Juno and the Paycock details the slow, painful degradation of the Boyle family in war-torn Ireland in the early 1920s. Juno remains strong and calm throughout the course of the play, even though she suffers from a drunkard, good-for-nothing husband, an illegitimately pregnant daughter, and a dead son. The last of these—Johnny’s death—elicits perhaps the most emotional response from Juno, and rightfully so. After learning of her son’s demise, Juno launches into a speech that she borrows from another son-less mother—Mrs. Tancred, a relatively minor character found only in the second act. . These shared words force the reader to consider Juno and Mrs. Tancred in comparison to one another and, when examined closely enough, one discovers that, while Mrs. Tancred foils Juno in appearance and emotional composition, she and Juno share …

When Mrs. Tancred enters the scene (121), she is described as “a very old woman, obviously shaken by the death of her son.” She is obviously defeated by the untimely death of her son and even hints at the probability of her own death, saying “I won’t be long afther him” (122). The death of her son has seeped into her very being and has wreaked havoc on her; she is small and weak and...

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