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John Bull's Other Island is a comedy about Ireland, written by G. Bernard Shaw in 1904. Shaw himself was born in Dublin, yet this is the only play of his where he thematically returned to his homeland.
The play deals with Larry Doyle, originally from Ireland, but who has turned his back on his heritage to fit in with the English and Tom Broadbent, his English (and very Machiavellian) business partner. They are civil engineers who run a firm in London. They go to Roscullen, where Doyle was born, to develop some land.
Doyle has no illusions about Ireland while Broadbent is taken with the romance of the place. Broadbent, a lively man who seemingly is not always aware of the impression he makes, becomes a favourite of the people. Before the play is over, it is clear he will marry Nora Reilly, the woman waiting for Doyle (who is more than happy to let her go) and become the area's candidate for Parliament after Doyle refuses to stand, but has also 'called in' all his loans given "so easily" to the locals against their homes and intends (as he had planned all along) to make the village into an amusement park.
Another major character is the defrocked priest Peter (Father) Keegan, the political and temperamental opposite of Broadbent, who sees through him from the beginning and warns the locals against him.
The play was commissioned by W.B. Yeats for the opening of Dublin's Abbey Theatre, but Yeats rejected it as too long, too controversial and too difficult to produce.
The play premiered in London at the Royal Court Theatre on November 1, 1904, under the Vedrenne-Barker management. Due to its length, Barker, with Shaw's consent but not approval, cut the play somewhat. The role of Tom Broadbent was created by Louis Calvert.
This play explores stereotypes of the Irishman and the Englishman. Typically the Irishman was thought of as the wishy-washy, comical, romantic, emotional character but this play makes the Englishman that character. Broadbent, the Englishman, who goes to Ireland for business ends up falling in love with the women who is Doyle's, the Irishman, childhood sweetheart. Broadbent ends up making a fool of himself and being quite ridiculous. This play was a political statement against the stereotypes of the Irishman found in many British plays. This is the only play that Shaw wrote set in his homeland of Ireland. It was written for the opening of Dublin's Abbey Theatre but was rejected as being too contentious. This play is rather interesting to read and explores the stereotypes well. The characters are extremely entertaining and somewhat frustrating at times but it all makes for an interesting read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.