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    The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Absurd: Satire on Political Violence

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    The play The Lieutenant of Inishmore, by Martin McDonagh, is pervaded with satirical subject matter. Fueled by pacifist rage this play can be described as a violent play that is anti-violence by using farcical and grotesque elements to expose the darker side of human nature and the political unrest in Northern Ireland. This play intentionally lacks any compassion which could be translated into the argument that it disregards the real tragedy of people who died and can be interpreted as disrespect to the victims. However, because the audience can not sympathize, they viewer is forced to be more critical and use intellectual involvement over emotional involvement. Being more critical allows the audience to consider the real consequences of terrorism and extremist ideologies.

    McDonagh makes direct as well as indirect references to some of these consequences through IRA and INLA events and the terrorist atrocities around the 1990s through qualities of symbolism and allusions to actual historical events. For instance, In scene 2 Padraic makes a reference to the IRA’s chip shop bombing in 1993 which killed 9 civilians (Lonergan 82) when he says ”I put bombs in a couple of chip shops, but they didn’t go off. (Pause.) Because chip shops aren’t as well guarded as army barracks” (McDonagh 13). Moreover, when Joey says ““I’d’ve never joined the INLA in the first place if I’d known the battering of cats was to be on the agenda. The INLA has gone down in my estimation today. Same as when we blew up Airey Neave. You can’t blow up a fella just because he has a funny name. It wasn’t his fault” (29), it is a reference to the Northern Ireland Secretary, Airey Neave, who died in a INLA installed car bomb (Lonergan 82-83).

    However, Padraic on the other hand represents the unwavering loyalty to the IRA and the terrorist actions within some members of the army, which is clear throughout the play, but also when he snaps at Mairead and says, “Even if they didn’t do it, they should’ve took the blame and been proud. But no, they did nothing but whine” (McDonagh 33). Another allusion to an historical event is when Padraic is upset that Wee Thomas is dead and that the cat will not be able to cheer on his terrorist actions on any more, “‘This is for me and for Ireland, Padraic. Remember that,’ as I’d lob a bomb at a pub, or be shooting a builder’” (44). Which is in reference to the IRA’s terrorist attack in 1992 that killed 8 Protestant builders working a job connected with a military base (Lonergan 82).

    The historical allusions and symbolism of tragic terrorist events reinforces the idea that the play is not funny for comedy’s sake. McDonagh, by using satire, is able to influence the audience to critically analyze the political unrest instead of getting wrapped up in the emotion of the devastating incidents. This play, in turn, does not disregard the victims but focuses more on exposing the cruelty of the terrorists.

    Works cited

    1. Lonergan, Patrick. The Theatre and Films of Martin McDonagh. Methuen Drama, 2012.
    2. McDonagh, Martin., and Lonergan, Patrick. The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Methuen Drama, 2009.

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    The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Absurd: Satire on Political Violence. (2022, Nov 27). Retrieved from

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