The Well of the Saints
Edited, with an Introduction and Notes, by Nicholas Grene
J.M. Synge’s The Well of the Saints, to some extent overshadowed by his better-known plays Riders to the Sea and The Playboy of the Western World, well deserves an individual edition. A rich and complex tragicomic study of the conflict between imagination and reality, The Well centers on an old, blind couple, disillusioned by a miraculous cure, who finally prefer blindness to sight.
Nicholas Grene’s full introduction provides the historical background to the play and the reasons its first audiences, at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, received it with a hostility prefiguring the Playboy riots a few years later. He shows how Synge embeds his parable-like story in the reality of the Irish countryside, and how the theme of the play is developed through a skilful dramatic control of audience response. The Well of the Saints, with its striking affinities to Beckett, can thus be recognized as a play before its time.
The play is fully annotated, with an explanatory note on the language and a glossary for those unfamiliar with Synge’s poetic-peasant dialect. And with access (denied previous editors) to the Abbey Theatre prompt-book in which Synge made important theatrical alterations, Prof. Grene has been able to supply an edition with new textual authority.