‘I’m thinking this night wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in years gone by.’ – Christy Mahon On the first night of J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (1907) the audience began protesting in the theatre; by the third night the protests had spilled onto the streets of Dublin. How did one play provoke this? Christopher Collins addresses The Playboy ’s satirical treatment of illusion and realism in light of Ireland’s struggle for independence, as well as Synge’s struggle for artistic expression. By exploring Synge’s unpublished diaries, drafts and notebooks, he seeks to understand how and why the play came to be. This volume invites the reader behind the scenes of this inflammatory play and its first performances, to understand how and why Synge risked everything in the name of art.