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Beauty Queen of Leenane


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A: Martin McDonagh Pf: 1996, Galway Pb: 1996 G: Trag. in 9 scenes S: Living room/kitchen of rural cottage, west of Ireland, and bedsit in England, 1990s C: 2m, 2fMaureen Folan, a spinster in her forties, reluctantly cares for her chattering mother Mag, a widow in her seventies. At a neighbour's leaving party Maureen dances with Pato Dooley. Calling her ‘the beauty queen of Leenane’, Pato stays the night with her. Mag is horrified, especially when Maureen talks shamelessly of her night of passion (in fact, she has remained a virgin). Mag tries to drive Pato away by revealing Maureen had spent a month in a mental institution. Pato returns to England but writes to Maureen, asking her to come with him to America, where his uncle has offered him work. Ray, Pato's brother, is under strict instructions to hand the letter personally to Maureen, but he entrusts it to Mag, who reads it and burns it. On the night of Pato's leaving party before he goes – alone – to Boston, Maureen scalds Mag with boiling oil, and Mag blurts out the truth about the letter. Maureen dashes off to find Pato, and catches him at the station just in time. He says he will wait for her in Boston until she has solved the problem of her mother. Maureen strikes Mag dead with a poker, and persuades the coroner that Mag tripped on a stile. Ray tells Maureen that Pato was disappointed not to see her before he left (she had only imagined the leave-taking at the station), and is now engaged to another woman. Maureen passes on the message: ‘The beauty queen of Leenane says goodbye,’ and leaves the house.

A: Martin McDonagh Pf: 1996, Galway Pb: 1996 G: Trag. in 9 scenes S: Living room/kitchen of rural cottage, west of Ireland, and bedsit in England, 1990s C: 2m, 2f

This play was a brilliant debut for English-born McDonagh, a modern-day version of Synge, combining a remarkable ear for Galway speech, a masterful blending of comedy with violence, and an awareness of the alienation of the rural Irish, discontented with the narrowness of their home communities and their traditional obligations to parents, and mocked strangers in the countries to which they emigrate.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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