The Playboy of the Western World

by

J. M. Synge

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Playboy of the Western World can help.

Christopher “Christy” Mahon Character Analysis

Christy Mahon is the central character of the play. He arrives at Michael Flaherty’s village pub on the run from the law, hoping he can find shelter. When he reveals his crime—the murder of his tyrannical father, Old Mahon, with a loy—he quickly wins the respect of the local community, who view him as a kind of heroic and mythic figure. Michael offers him a job as a “penny pot-boy” at the pub, thus placing in front of Christy the promise of a better life, one that the young man is keen to live in the company of Pegeen Mike. As everyone eagerly asks Christy to tell his story, he grows in confidence, his speech shifting from clipped, nervous sentences to more ornate and rich passages of poetic description. When he sees, to his horror, the figure of his father coming into the pub, Christy hides before getting Widow Quin to help him keep the secret that his father isn’t dead. When Widow Quin manages to get rid of Old Mahon, Christy relaxes back into his new life, becoming more of a hero in the villagers’ eyes by competing in and winning their village sports and games and constantly retelling his murderous story. His transformation is complete when he convinces Pegeen Mike to marry him, seducing her with beautiful words and the promise of their future together. This fortune quickly turns, however, when Old Mahon returns again and attacks him. The revelation that Old Mahon is not dead quickly unravels Christy’s heroic status, making the villagers—including Pegeen—try to kill him. He puts up a strong fight, showing that at least part of his transformation is genuine. This is confirmed by the play’s ending, in which he departs with Old Mahon, insisting that now he will be the “captain,” and his father will be “the heathen slave.” He even thanks the villagers for aiding him in finding courage and bravado. The play’s title refers to Christy, with playboy suggesting all at once a kind of trickster/actor, someone who is successful athletically, and someone who has a “playful” spirit.

Christopher “Christy” Mahon Quotes in The Playboy of the Western World

The The Playboy of the Western World quotes below are all either spoken by Christopher “Christy” Mahon or refer to Christopher “Christy” Mahon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heroism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of The Playboy of the Western World published in 1993.
Act 1 Quotes

PEGEEN (with a sign to the men to be quiet). You’re only saying it. You did nothing at all. A soft lad the like of you wouldn’t slit the windpipe of a screeching sow.

CHRISTY (offended). You’re not speaking the truth.

PEGEEN (in mock rage). Not speaking the truth, is it? Would you have me knock the head of you with the butt of the broom?

CHRISTY (twisting round on her with a sharp cry of horror). Don’t strike me. I killed my poor father, Tuesday was a week, for doing the like of that.

PEGEEN (with blank amazement). Is it killed your father?

CHRISTY (subsiding). With the help of God I did surely, and that the Holy Immaculate Mother may intercede for his soul.

PHILLY (retreating with Jimmy). There’s a daring fellow.

JIMMY. Oh, glory be to God!

MICHAEL (with great respect). That was a hanging crime, mister honey. You should have had good reason for doing the like of that.

Page Number: 10-11
Explanation and Analysis:

PEGEEN (standing beside him, watching him with delight). You should have had great people in your family, I’m thinking, with the little, small feet you have, and you with a kind of a quality name, the like of what you’d find on the great powers and potentates of France and Spain.

Related Characters: Pegeen Mike (speaker), Christopher “Christy” Mahon
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY (going over to her, gradually raising his voice). I’ve said it nowhere till this night, I’m telling you, for I’ve seen none the like of you the eleven long days I am walking the world, looking over a low ditch or a high ditch on my north or my south, into stony scattered fields, or scribes of bog, where you’d see young, limber girls, and fine prancing women making laughter with the men.

PEGEEN. If you weren’t destroyed travelling, you’d have as much talk and streeleen, I’m thinking, as Owen Roe O’Sullivan or the poets of the Dingle Bay, and I’ve heard all times it’s the poets are your like, fine fiery fellows with great rages when their temper’s roused.

Related Characters: Christopher “Christy” Mahon (speaker), Pegeen Mike (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY. […] Well, it’s a clean bed and soft with it, and it’s great luck and company I’ve won me in the end of time— two fine women fighting for the likes of me— till I’m thinking this night wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by.

Related Characters: Christopher “Christy” Mahon (speaker), Pegeen Mike , Widow Quin
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

CHRISTY (impressively). With that the sun came out between the cloud and the hill, and it shining green in my face. “God have mercy on your soul,” says he, lifting a scythe; “or on your own,” says I, raising the loy.

SUSAN. That’s a grand story.

HONOR. He tells it lovely.

CHRISTY (flattered and confident, waving bone). He gave a drive with the scythe, and I gave a lep to the east. Then I turned around with my back to the north, and I hit a blow on the ridge of his skull, laid him stretched out, and he split to the knob of his gullet.

[He raises the chicken bone to his Adam’s apple.]

GIRLS (together). Well, you’re a marvel! Oh, God bless you! You’re the lad surely!

Related Symbols: The Loy
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY. I wish to God I was letting on; but I was lonesome all times, and born lonesome, I’m thinking, as the moon of dawn.

[Going to door.]

PEGEEN (puzzled by his talk). Well, it’s a story I’m not understanding at all why you’d be worse than another, Christy Mahon, and you a fine lad with the great savagery to destroy your da.

CHRISTY. It’s little I’m understanding myself, saving only that my heart’s scalded this day, and I going off stretching out the earth between us, the way I’ll not be waking near you another dawn of the year till the two of us do arise to hope or judgment with the saints of God.

Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

WIDOW QUIN (jeeringly). It’s true all girls are fond of courage and do hate the like of you.

SHAWN (walking about in desperation). Oh, Widow Quin, what’ll I be doing now? I’d inform again him, but he’d burst from Kilmainham and he’d be sure and certain to destroy me. If I wasn’t so God-fearing, I’d near have courage to come behind him and run a pike into his side. Oh, it’s a hard case to be an orphan and not to have your father that you’re used to, and you’d easy kill and make yourself a hero in the sight of all.

Related Characters: Widow Quin (speaker), Shawn Keogh (speaker), Christopher “Christy” Mahon
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY. From this out I’ll have no want of company when all sorts is bringing me their food and clothing (he swaggers to the door, tightening his belt), the way they’d set their eyes upon a gallant orphan cleft his father with one blow to the breeches belt. (He opens door, then staggers back.) Saints of glory! Holy angels from the throne of light!

WIDOW QUIN (going over). What ails you?

CHRISTY. It’s the walking spirit of my murdered da!

Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

MAHON. I’d take a mighty oath you didn’t surely, and wasn’t he the laughing joke of every female woman where four baronies meet, the way the girls would stop their weeding if they seen him coming the road to let a roar at him, and call him the looney of Mahon’s.

Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3 Quotes

WIDOW QUIN (taking men to the right stealthily). Do you know what? That mans raving from his wound to-day, for I met him a while since telling a rambling tale of a tinker had him destroyed. Then he heard of Christy’s deed, and he up and says it was his son had cracked his skull. O isn’t madness a fright, for he’ll go killing someone yet, and he thinking it’s the man has struck him so?

JIMMY (entirely convinced). It’s a fright, surely. I knew a party was kicked in the head by a red mare, and he went killing horses a great while, till he eat the insides of a clock and died after.

PHILLY (with suspicion). Did he see Christy?

Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

MAHON (putting his hands to his ears). What in the name of God do they want roaring below?

WIDOW QUIN (with the shade of a smile). They’re cheering a young lad, the champion Playboy of the Western World.

[More cheering.]

MAHON (going to window). It’d split my heart to hear them, and I with pulses in my brain-pan for a week gone by. Is it racing they are?

JIMMY (looking from door). It is then. They are mounting him for the mule race will be run upon the sands. That’s the playboy on the winkered mule.

MAHON (puzzled). That lad, is it? If you said it was a fool he was, I’d have laid a mighty oath he was the likeness of my wandering son (uneasily, putting his hand to his head).

Related Characters: Widow Quin (speaker), Old Mahon / Christy’s Father (speaker), Jimmy Farrell (speaker), Christopher “Christy” Mahon
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY. It’s little you’ll think if my love’s a poachers, or an earl’s itself, when you’ll feel my two hands stretched around you, and I squeezing kisses on your puckered lips, till I’d feel a kind of pity for the Lord God is all ages sitting lonesome in his golden chair.

PEGEEN. That’ll be right fun, Christy Mahon, and any girl would walk her heart out before she’d meet a young man was your like for eloquence, or talk, at all.

CHRISTY (encouraged). Let you wait, to hear me talking, till we’re astray in Erris, when Good Friday’s by, drinking a sup from a well, and making mighty kisses with our wetted mouths, or gaming in a gap or sunshine, with yourself stretched back unto your necklace, in the flowers of the earth.

Related Characters: Christopher “Christy” Mahon (speaker), Pegeen Mike (speaker)
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

MICHAEL. It’s many would be in dread to bring your like into their house for to end them, maybe, with a sudden end; but I’m a decent man of Ireland, and I liefer face the grave untimely and I seeing a score of grandsons growing up little gallant swearers by the name of God, than go peopling my bedside with puny weeds the like of what you’d breed, I’m thinking, out of Shaneen Keogh. (He joins their hands.) A daring fellow is the jewel of the world, and a man did split his father’s middle with a single clout, should have the bravery of ten, so may God and Mary and St. Patrick bless you, and increase you from this mortal day.

Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY (in low and intense voice). Shut your yelling, for if you’re after making a mighty man of me this day by the power of a lie, you’re setting me now to think if it’s a poor thing to be lonesome, it’s worse maybe to go mixing with the fools of earth.

[Mahon makes a movement towards him.]

CHRISTY (almost shouting). Keep off…lest I do show a blow unto the lot of you would set the guardian angels winking in the clouds above.

[He swings round with a sudden rapid movement and picks up a loy.]

CROWD (half frightened, half amused). He’s going mad! Mind yourselves! Run from the idiot!

CHRISTY. If I am an idiot, I’m after hearing my voice this day saying words would raise the topknot on a poet in a merchant’s town.

Related Symbols: The Loy
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

PEGEEN. I’ll say, a strange man is a marvel, with his mighty talk; but what’s a squabble in your back-yard, and the blow of a loy, have taught me that there’s a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed. (To Men.) Take him on from this, or the lot of us will be likely put on trial for his deed to-day.

CHRISTY (with horror in his voice). And it’s yourself will send me off, to have a horny-fingered hangman hitching his bloody slip-knots at the butt of my ear.

Related Characters: Christopher “Christy” Mahon (speaker), Pegeen Mike (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Loy
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

CHRISTY. Ten thousand blessings upon all that’s here, for you’ve turned me a likely gaffer in the end of all, the way I’ll go romancing through a romping lifetime from this hour to the dawning of the judgment day.

[He goes out.]

MICHAEL. By the will of God, we’ll have peace now for our drinks. Will you draw the porter, Pegeen?

SHAWN (going up to her). It’s a miracle Father Reilly can wed us in the end of all, and we’ll have none to trouble us when his vicious bite is healed.

PEGEEN (hitting him a box on the ear). Quit my sight. (Putting her shawl over her head and breaking out into wild lamentations.) Oh my grief, I’ve lost him surely. I’ve lost the only Playboy of the Western World.

Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Playboy of the Western World LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Playboy of the Western World PDF

Christopher “Christy” Mahon Character Timeline in The Playboy of the Western World

The timeline below shows where the character Christopher “Christy” Mahon appears in The Playboy of the Western World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Authority Theme Icon
Christy Mahon comes in, “tired and frightened and dirty.” He addresses the pub: “God save all... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Michael, Jimmy, and Philly continue to eagerly question Christy, wondering if he had “followed after a young woman on a lonesome night” or killed... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Christy explains that his father was “a dirty man…old and crusty, the way I couldn’t put... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Pegeen, Philly, and Jimmy all agree that Christy would make an excellent pot-boy for the pub. Jimmy thinks the bravery of “a lad... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Pegeen, feeling that Christy must be tired, insists that he stays the night. Jimmy is happy that she will... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
As Christy looks at his blistered feet, Pegeen wonders if he had “great people” in his family.... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy insists that this is the first time he’s spoken about killing his father, telling Pegeen... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy asks Pegeen if she is single, and she pretends that she is not engaged to... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
As Pegeen brings him milk and bread, Christy gives her more of a sense of the drudgery of his life, which was full... (full context)
Authority Theme Icon
There’s a knock on the door. Christy is frightened that it’s the peelers, but it’s Widow Quin. Shawn had bumped into her... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Widow Quin is intrigued by Christy. She says, “it should have been great and bitter torments did rouse your spirits to... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Widow Quin again insists on taking with Christy with her, pointing out that it’s “the like of you and me you’d hear the... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...she, as a widow who has also “buried her children,” is a better companion for Christy than “a girl the like of you [Pegeen] who’d go helter-skeltering after any man would... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Christy timidly insists that he will stay at the pub, as it is his duty as... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...a bishop came walking for to join us here.” She makes up a bed for Christy and wishes him a good night rest and goes to another room. Christy lies down,... (full context)
Act 2
Heroism Theme Icon
It’s the morning after. Christy is cheerfully going about his duties as pub-boy, cleaning boots and counting up the glasses.... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Four young village girls—Susan Brady, Nelly McLaughlin, Sara Tansey and Honor Blake—arrive at the pub. Christy gathers his coat and the looking-glass and hides in the inner room while the village... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The girls notice Christy’s boots by the door, which Sara mischievously tries on. Just then, Honor looks inside the... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The girls quiz Christy enthusiastically about whether he is the man who killed his father. Christy confirms this, while... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
As Christy dutifully admires the breast of Nelly’s hen, Nelly notices the looking-glass behind his back. She... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Widow Quin comes in, having just entered Christy into all of the village’s sports events taking place later that day. Surprised to see... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy describes how his father had recently ordered him to marry a hideous widow, whom he... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy concludes the story: his father had lifted his scythe up above his head and wished... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Sara says that both Christy and Widow Quin are heroes, and that they should get married. She pours them a... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Now alone with Christy, Pegeen “imperiously” orders him to complete tasks around the pub. Trying to soften her mood,... (full context)
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Pegeen purposefully teases Christy, scaring him that that the village girls might tell his story to the “peelers,” who... (full context)
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Pegeen calls Christy an “odd man.” He says anyone would be odd “living lonesome”; Pegeen points out that... (full context)
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Pegeen suspects Christy of pretending to be “lonesome” to win her affection, but he insists that “I was... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Pegeen finally lets on that Christy is safe at the pub and that there’s been nothing in the newspapers about his... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...out of the door to stop them. Having got rid of Pegeen, Shawn anxiously offers Christy a one-way ticket on a ship to the U.S.A, also offering up his best clothes.... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Widow Quin also tries to convince Christy, letting slip the rumor that Pegeen intends to marry him. This makes Christy “beam with... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Widow Quin makes a deal with Shawn: she will contrive to marry Christy if Shawn will provide her with a cow, a ram, right of way across his... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Widow Quin compliments Christy’s appearance as he comes back in: “it’d be a pity surely to have your like... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Suddenly, Christy staggers back, thinking he’s seen the “walking spirit” of his father. Widow Quin looks out,... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...bandaged head. She’s impressed with the wound, which Mahon said was done by his “ own son .” She says that Mahon must have “vexed” and “tormented” his son greatly to make... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Widow Quin, with one eye on Christy, asks Mahon why his son was “so foolish”—was it because he “was running wild after... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...coast. Mahon goes out to follow her directions. She swings the door and looks at Christy, who is cowering in fear. Laughing, she calls him the “walking playboy of the western... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Christy frets about what Pegeen will say when she hears about his father’s visit. Widow Quin... (full context)
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy despairs to Widow Quin about the prospect of losing Pegeen’s affection, who he says has... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Christy and Widow Quin hear people approaching the pub. Widow Quin hurriedly puts her proposition to... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Widow Quin suggests that she and Christy pretend Old Mahon is a “maniac” and not Christy’s father. Susan, Sara, Honor and Nelly... (full context)
Act 3
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...Jimmy and Philly converse drunkenly in the pub with nobody else around. They talk about Christy’s decisive victories in the village games and sports. As they complain about Christy’s constant bragging... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...injured by “a tinker;” he then changed his story, she says, when he heard about Christy’s deed. Jimmy buys the story but Philly is more suspicious. (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...is “a great hand at racing and lepping and licking the world.” Mahon insists that Christy is “the fool of men.” He hears cheering outside and goes to look out the... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
...go out and watch the mule race about to commence on the sands, in which Christy is participating. Widow Quin tries to get him to leave, but Philly settles Mahon on... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
As Christy is carried on the villagers’ shoulders towards the pub, Mahon is astonished to realize that... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Christy comes in, dressed in jockey’s garb, surrounded by admirers who include Pegeen and the village... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
As Pegeen wipes the sweat off Christy’s face, he tells her that the prize he really wants is for her to agree... (full context)
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Pegeen, won over by Christy’s “talk,” asks why a man like him, with “such poet’s talking, and such bravery of... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Michael comes in drunk, supported by Shawn. He heaps praise on Christy but also chastises him for not giving his father a “decent” Christian burial. Michael slaps... (full context)
Authority Theme Icon
Michael announces to Christy that Father Reilly has given Shawn and Pegeen permission to marry, asking if Christy thought... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
As Shawn continues to try to persuade Pegeen, Christy intervenes aggressively. Michael is afraid of “murder in this place,” and tells Shawn and Christy... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Christy appeals to Michael to let him marry Pegeen, asking why he would want a “quaking... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...Mahon rushes into the pub, followed by the crowd (including Widow Quin). He runs at Christy and strikes him down. Pegeen drags Mahon off, asking who he is. Mahon reveals that... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Pegeen is shocked that Christy has been lying: “and to think of the coaxing glory we had given him, and... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Christy becomes increasingly desperate, realizing that no one will help him—not even Widow Quin. Mahon tries... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Christy chases Mahon out of the pub with the loy. After a great noise and “a... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Widow Quin implores Christy to go, saying there are plenty of other girls in the world. Christy replies stubbornly,... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Sara runs in and tries to disguise Christy in her petticoat to help him escape. Christy threatens the two women with a stool,... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
...his community in trouble with the law, gives Shawn a rope to try and ensnare Christy so that they can then hang him. He’s too scared to do it, so Pegeen... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Michael explains to Christy that hanging him is “an easy and speedy end,” necessary to keep the “peelers” away.... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Christy tussles with the villagers, insisting that if they take him to the gallows he’ll “shed... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Mahon, still alive, crawls back into the pub. Christy, also on his knees, asks his father if he wants to be “killed a third... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Authority Theme Icon
Mahon loosens the rope around Christy, insisting that they will be “going on our own way and we’ll have great times... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
On his way out, Christy turns to the villagers, offering them “ten thousand blessings” for turning him into “a likely... (full context)