Juno and the Paycock

Juno and the Paycock Summary and Analysis of Act II


The second act takes place two days after the first. The setting is the same tenement apartment, but it is now full of gaudy furniture, pictures, huge vases with artificial flowers, and paper chains stretching across the ceiling. Boyle lies sprawled along the sofa smoking a pipe until he hears Joxer, at which point he jumps up and busies himself with papers.

Joxer enters and delivers money from Mrs. Madigan, which she raised by selling some blankets and a table. They talk about Father Farrell, the priest who had arranged a job for Boyle in Act I and prompted Boyle to complain about the clergy; Boyle now defends him and, contrary to what he had said before, asserts that the priests were always on the side of Ireland's people. The two complain about Bentham (who is giving up his job as a teacher to become a lawyer) and Jerry, Mary's two suitors, and Joxer leaves.

Johnny enters from the bedroom, and Juno and Mary arrive with a gramophone. Juno is concerned about how much debt they are accruing. She asks Johnny if he has looked at the gramophone, but he responds irritably that he cannot think of such things. He has been sleeping at different houses each night and is unable to get any rest.

Bentham arrives and Juno makes him comfortable. He is now engaged to Mary. Boyle notes that Consols (a type of government security) are down by a half percent, showing what a state of chaos the country is in. When Juno asks for an explanation, Boyle responds that it's no use explaining such a thing to women.

Mary comes in the room, Bentham gives her a compliment, and the conversation shifts to religion. Juno complains that the world is no better with religion since people do not follow them well enough. Bentham explains his own belief system, Theosophism, based on the eastern Vedas. Boyle chimes in throughout with worldly-sounding comments, even though it is clear he doesn't know anything about what Bentham is talking about.

The topic of ghosts arises, and Bentham proposes a scientific explanation for their existence. Johnny gets upset and rushes into the room on the left; a moment later a scream is heard. Johnny comes back, trembling. He has seen the ghost of Robbie Tancred, the young man who had been shot, kneeling in front of the statue. Juno comforts him and Johnny asks her to check if the light is still illuminated in front of the statue. Juno, Boyle, and Mary are all hesitant to go in the room, but Bentham goes in and reassures him that it is still burning.

There is a knock at the door and Joxer and their neighbor Mrs. Madigan enter. Introductions ensue, Mrs. Madigan drinks some whiskey, and Boyle calls for singing. Mary and Juno comply, followed by Mrs. Madigan and Joxer, who keeps forgetting the words. In response, Johnny and Boyle ask for the gramophone instead.

Just then Mrs. Tancred walks by, accompanied by several neighbors. They mourn the passing of her son, a Die-hard. Juno explains the story to Bentham, noting that he and Johnny used to be inseparable; Johnny, though, emphatically denies being his friend. Juno regrets disturbing the funeral procession with song. Boyle argues that it is the government's business, not theirs, but Juno ennumerates all those who in the tenement who have lost a relative. However, she acquiesces that perhaps Mrs. Tancred deserved her fate for allowing the Die-hards into the tenement. Johnny irritably asks them to stop talking of such things, and Mary and Bentham go out for a walk.

Upon urging, Boyle recites a humorous poem he wrote, then puts on the gramophone. As it plays, the door opens and Needle Nugent, a tailor, walks in. He chastises the family for blasting music as the funeral procession of Mrs. Tancred's son passes the house. Mrs. Madigan counters that he doesn't look particularly grief-striken himself and accuses him of supporting both the Republicans and the Free Staters.

There is noise outside the street, and everyone but Johnny looks out. Part of the crowd is singing, and the observers comment on the funeral procession. Everyone but Johnny goes downstairs for a better look.

When Johnny is alone, the "Mobilizer," an officer charged with calling soldiers to action, enters and tells Johnny he must attend a Battalion Staff meeting in two nights. The staff think he may know something about how Robbie Tancred was found. Johnny denies knowing anything about the matter and says he refuses to go.


Act II illustrates the transformation that money can make. Boyle is now a respected member of the community. His neighbors are eager to lend him money, and the priest, Father Farrell, is now a close supporter. Mrs. Madigan, a comical female counterpart to Joxer, attaches herself to the family to join in their celebration.

Once again, O'Casey uses clever stagecraft to reinforce his message. In contrast to the bare setting of Act I, every available spot in Act II is ornamented with huge vases with artificial flowers, symbolic of the extravagance of the Boyles' hopes for the future. In addition, Boyle's attache case serves as a prop which lets him play the part of a man of means.

The transformation is only superficial, however. Boyle is still a poser, pretending to be busy with paperwork and supposing himself an investor in the stock market, yet in actuality spending his free time lounging on the sofa. The flowers adorning the room are artificial, and all the belongings have been purchased on credit.

The general tone of the act is light and humorous, with much singing and merry-making. Audience members familiar with cultural references may laugh when Boyle mistakes J.L. Sullivan, an Irish-American boxer, for A.M. Sullivan, author of The Story of Ireland. We laugh, too, when Boyle pretends to know about the Prawna and Yogi, chiming in to Bentham's explanation of Theosophism. At the same time, the tragic elements become more pronounced. Johnny is more fearful than ever, sleeping at different people's houses each night, and we shiver with him when he sees the ghost of Robbie Tancred. The scene with the Mobilizer foreshadows his death, yet perhaps even more tragic is his cowardice and refusal to take responsibility for his role in Robbie Tancred's murder.

The play's language continues to bring us into the heart of lower-class Dublin. Joxer often sings a refrain from a popular comic song to announce his arrival: "Me pipe I'll smoke, as I dhrive me moke - are you there, Mor...eee...ar...i...teee!" (31.) Other sayings, too, reinforce the audience's cultural identity. When Boyle tells Joxer that Father Farrell shook his hand, he replies "I met with Napper Tandy, an' he shuk me be' the han!" (32.) The reference, while little known to many of today's readers, would have been familiar to the audience of the time, coming from a patriotic song about the 1798 rebellion.