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Shadow and Substance


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A: Paul Vincent Carroll Pf: 1937, Dublin Pb: 1937 G: Drama in 4 acts S: Parochial house, Ardmahone, County Louth, 1930s C: 6m, 4fThe Very Reverend Thomas Canon Skerritt, an intellectual priest of Irish-Spanish ancestry, lives unhappily amongst the small-minded populace of a town in the south of Ireland. His one consolation is his 20-year-old housekeeper Brigid, who has visions of her namesake St Brigid, and aspires to become a nun. The Canon's ‘dumpling’ niece Thomasina seeks his help in becoming a teacher, and the next day a spinster makes the same request on behalf of her brainless nephew Francis O'Connor. Two curates, whom Skerritt earlier humiliated, head a delegation wishing to take action against an anonymous book criticizing the Irish Catholic Church's domination of education, but Skerritt, having some sympathy with its views, prevents them. When Skerritt discovers that the book has been written by Dermot O'Flingsley, the local teacher, he confronts him, has a row, removes him from his post, gives his job to the ‘spineless imbecile’ nephew, and arranges for Thomasina to marry Francis. A mob arrives, intent on attacking O'Flingsley for his anticlerical book. Attempting to protect him, Brigid is struck down by a stone and dies. Skerritt, prepared now to believe in her visions, tries to befriend O'Flingsley, but the latter leaves to ‘work this out’ on his own.

A: Paul Vincent Carroll Pf: 1937, Dublin Pb: 1937 G: Drama in 4 acts S: Parochial house, Ardmahone, County Louth, 1930s C: 6m, 4f

The Catholic-driven Censorship of Publications Act of 1929 had lead to a dearth of good contemporary plays about Ireland. Carroll, by using considerable wit, and by exploring the complexities of faith and clerical practice rather than attacking them, managed to get past the censor and win over audiences at home and abroad. The hilariously drawn local characters and the Canon's sardonic comments help to lighten the polemic against the Church's domination of education, which caused Carroll himself to leave his native Dundalk to teach in Glasgow.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Paul Vincent Carroll (1900—1968)


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