Juno and the Paycock

Juno and the Paycock Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is Juno's attitude towards religion?

    Juno is a traditional Catholic who believes in the redeeming power of religion. She thinks Boyle should be praying novenas for a job, that bad things happen due to men's stupidity rather than the absence of God, and that the world would be a better place if people followed their religions more faithfully. When Johnny is killed, she prays not for vengeance, but rather for Jesus to take away people's murdering hatred and bring them eternal love.

  2. 2

    How are the female characters contrasted with the male characters?

    The female characters demonstrate a capacity for love, altruism, and wisdom, while the men are self-centered and delusional. When her son dies, Mrs. Tancred prays for eternal love; Mary feels intense passion towards Bentham; and Juno provides for and comforts her family. On the other hand, Johnny betrays his former comrade and causes his death, Jerry Devine and Bentham abandon Mary in her time of need, and Boyle refuses to work. Johnny fearfully hides from the world, and Boyle also escape from reality through fanciful stories and alcohol.

  3. 3

    In what ways does O'Casey use religious symbolism?

    There are frequent references to the Virgin Mary, who, like Juno and Mrs. Tancred, has lost a beloved son. Her likeness hangs in the apartment above a votive light, which is extinguished when Johnny is dragged away. Johnny relies on the Virgin's candle to keep him safe, just as he relies on his actual mother Juno to protect him.

  4. 4

    How does O’Casey combine tragedy and comedy through the characters of Boyle of Joxer?

    The play is full of comic elements. Boyle and Joxer's antics make us laugh: Boyle's obvious lies about his drinking and the pains in his legs, Joxer's hurried escape to the roof to escape Juno, the pair's reference to great literature (which they often quote incorrectly). At the same time, there is an undercurrent of tragedy to their lives. The final scene, which depicts their drunken delusions, might be funny were it not for the backdrop: Johnny is dead, Juno and Mary have left Boyle, and, as bad as his life has become, he doesn't even know of these latest tragedies to befall him.

  5. 5

    Analyze the title of the play and its relation to underlying oppositions.

    There are a number of oppositions in the play personified by Juno and Boyle (the paycock). These include the divine versus animality, work versus leisure, female versus male, war versus peace, and free will versus environmental determinism. The conflict between these polarities stress the need for constructive synthesis. Unfortunately, Juno and Boyle are unable to see past their own points of view to find a middle ground, and as a result the family is destroyed.

  6. 6

    What is O’Casey’s message about war and violence?

    O'Casey is against war, noting the exorbitant cost in terms of ordinary people's lives. Through the play, he condemns the violence of man against man, showing the effect it has on families (such as Mrs. Tancred, Juno, and Mary) and on the psychology of survivors (such as Johnny). The character of Johnny demonstrates the senselessness of the civil war. While he may have acted heroically in the fight against England, he has turned into a coward after betraying his former comrade, a fellow Irishman.

  7. 7

    What is O'Casey's view of motherhood as depicted in Juno and the Paycock?

    O'Casey's depiction of mothers reflects a great love and admiration. Since his father died when he was just six years old, his own mother raised him and nursed him through a number of debilitating childhood illnesses. It is perhaps for this reason that the mothers in the play, particularly Juno and Mrs. Tancred, are represented as loving and altruistic. Juno sacrifices her own comfort for the needs of her children, taking care of her invalid son and promising to help her daughter raise her unborn child. Mrs. Tancred and Juno both invoke the Virgin Mary, herself a mother who has lost a son, to bring peace and love to people's hearts instead of the hatred which has resulted in so much pain.

  8. 8

    What is the role of Joxer Daly?

    Joxer Daly is a source of humor, bringing many of the comic moments into the tragicomedy. He is always ready with a quote to fit any occasion, drawing on O'Casey's rich knowledge of Irish literature and folklore. His use of these quotations is satirical, however. Encouraging Boyle to stand up to his wife, he quotes from "Horatius": "How can a man die betther than facin' fearful odds, For th' ashes of his fathers an' the temples of his gods?" (24.) A moment later, however, the two men flee comically as they hear a woman's voice. Joxer's inappropriate invocation of past heroes is juxtaposed with the actual heroism of Juno.

  9. 9

    How do economics contribute to people's actions in O'Casey's world?

    Poverty has a dehumanizing effect on the majority of characters. Boyle is respected when people think he will be inheriting money, then suffers the dispossession of all of his things as soon as the truth about the legacy becomes known. Boyle behaves differently as well, imagining himself to be an important and educated man when he thinks he will be wealthy, but escaping reality through alcohol when he learns he is not. O'Casey underscores this dehumanization through the use of animal references.

  10. 10

    How does O'Casey use stagecraft to support the play's themes?

    O'Casey uses a variety of objects in symbolic ways. In Act I, a shovel leans against the dresser, unused due to Boyle's avoidance of work. The mirror and the books by Ibsen on the table represent two opposing forces influencing Mary, her vanity and her desire to better herself through education. In Act II, every available spot is ornamented with huge vases with artificial flowers, symbolic of the extravagance of the Boyles' hopes for the future. The extinguishing of the votive candle is a powerful foreshadowing of Johnny's death in Act III. The removal of the furniture results in an empty room in the last scene, powerfully symbolic of the chaos to which Boyle so often refers.