Synge was born near Dublin in 1871 and died in 1909. He received
his degree from Trinity College, Dublin, then went to Germany
to study music and later to Paris, where he lived for several
years working at literary criticism. Here, he met a compatriot,
William Butler Yeats, who persuaded Synge to live for a while
in the Aran Islands and then return to Dublin and devote himself
to creative work. The Aran Islands (1907) is the journal
of Synge's retreat among these primitive people.
The plays of Irish peasant life on which his fame rests were
written in the last six years of his life. The first two one-act
plays, In the Shadow of the Glen, (1903), a comedy, and
Riders to the Sea (1904), considered one of the finest
tragedies ever written, were produced by the Irish National Theatre
Society. This group, with Synge, Yeats and Lady Gregory as co-directors,
organized in 1904 the famous Abbey Theatre. Two comedies, The
Well of the Saints (1905) and The Playboy of the Western
World (1907), were presented by the Abbey players. The latter
play created a furor of resentment among Irish patriots stung
by Synge's bitter humor.
Synge's later works included The Tinker's Wedding,
published in 1908 but not produced for fear of further riots,
and Deirdre of the Sorrows, a tragedy unfinished at the
time of his death but presented by the Abbey players in 1910.