The Well of the Saints

Author: John Millington Synge

Act II

[Village roadside, on left the door of a forge, with broken wheels, etc., lying about. A well near centre, with board above it, and room to pass behind it. Martin Doul is sitting near forge, cutting sticks.]

TIMMY — [heard hammering inside forge, then calls.] — Let you make haste out there. . . . I’ll be putting up new fires at the turn of day, and you haven’t the half of them cut yet.

MARTIN DOUL — [gloomily.] — It’s destroyed I’ll be whacking your old thorns till the turn of day, and I with no food in my stomach would keep the life in a pig. (He turns towards the door.) Let you come out here and cut them yourself if you want them cut, for there’s an hour every day when a man has a right to his rest.

TIMMY — [coming out, with a hammer, impatiently.] — Do you want me to be driving you off again to be walking the roads? There you are now, and I giving you your food, and a corner to sleep, and money with it; and, to hear the talk of you, you’d think I was after beating you, or stealing your gold.

MARTIN DOUL. You’d do it handy, maybe, if I’d gold to steal.

TIMMY — [throws down hammer; picks up some of the sticks already cut, and throws them into door.) There’s no fear of your having gold — a lazy, basking fool the like of you.

MARTIN DOUL. No fear, maybe, and I here with yourself, for it’s more I got a while since and I sitting blinded in Grianan, than I get in this place working hard, and destroying myself, the length of the day.

TIMMY — [stopping with amazement.] — Working hard? (He goes over to him.) I’ll teach you to work hard, Martin Doul. Strip off your coat now, and put a tuck in your sleeves, and cut the lot of them, while I’d rake the ashes from the forge, or I’ll not put up with you another hour itself.

MARTIN DOUL — [horrified.] — Would you have me getting my death sitting out in the black wintry air with no coat on me at all?

TIMMY — [with authority.] — Strip it off now, or walk down upon the road.

MARTIN DOUL — [bitterly.] — Oh, God help me! (He begins taking off his coat.) I’ve heard tell you stripped the sheet from your wife and you putting her down into the grave, and that there isn’t the like of you for plucking your living ducks, the short days, and leaving them running round in their skins, in the great rains and the cold. (He tucks up his sleeves.) Ah, I’ve heard a power of queer things of yourself, and there isn’t one of them I’ll not believe from this day, and be telling to the boys.

TIMMY — [pulling over a big stick.] — Let you cut that now, and give me rest from your talk, for I’m not heeding you at all.

MARTIN DOUL — [taking stick.] — That’s a hard, terrible stick, Timmy; and isn’t it a poor thing to be cutting strong timber the like of that, when it’s cold the bark is, and slippy with the frost of the air?

TIMMY — [gathering up another armful of sticks.] — What way wouldn’t it be cold, and it freezing since the moon was changed? [He goes into forge.]

MARTIN DOUL — [querulously, as he cuts slowly.] — What way, indeed, Timmy? For it’s a raw, beastly day we do have each day, till I do be thinking it’s well for the blind don’t be seeing them gray clouds driving on the hill, and don’t be looking on people with their noses red, the like of your nose, and their eyes weeping and watering, the like of your eyes, God help you, Timmy the smith.

TIMMY — [seen blinking in doorway.] — Is it turning now you are against your sight?

MARTIN DOUL — [very miserably.] — It’s a hard thing for a man to have his sight, and he living near to the like of you (he cuts a stick and throws it away), or wed with a wife (cuts a stick); and I do be thinking it should be a hard thing for the Almighty God to be looking on the world, bad days, and on men the like of yourself walking around on it, and they slipping each way in the muck.

TIMMY — [with pot-hooks which he taps on anvil.] — You’d have a right to be minding, Martin Doul, for it’s a power the Saint cured lose their sight after a while. Mary Doul’s dimming again, I’ve heard them say; and I’m thinking the Lord, if he hears you making that talk, will have little pity left for you at all.

MARTIN DOUL. There’s not a bit of fear of me losing my sight, and if it’s a dark day itself it’s too well I see every wicked wrinkle you have round by your eye.

TIMMY — [looking at him sharply.] — The day’s not dark since the clouds broke in the east.

MARTIN DOUL. Let you not be tormenting yourself trying to make me afeard. You told me a power of bad lies the time I was blind, and it’s right now for you to stop, and be taking your rest (Mary Doul comes in unnoticed on right with a sack filled with green stuff on her arm), for it’s little ease or quiet any person would get if the big fools of Ireland weren’t weary at times. (He looks up and sees Mary Doul.) Oh, glory be to God, she’s coming again.

[He begins to work busily with his back to her.]

TIMMY — [amused, to Mary Doul, as she is going by without looking at them.] — Look on him now, Mary Doul. You’d be a great one for keeping him steady at his work, for he’s after idling and blathering to this hour from the dawn of day.

MARY DOUL — [stiffly.] — Of what is it you’re speaking, Timmy the smith?

TIMMY — [laughing.] — Of himself, surely. Look on him there, and he with the shirt on him ripping from his back. You’d have a right to come round this night, I’m thinking, and put a stitch into his clothes, for it’s long enough you are not speaking one to the other.

MARY DOUL. Let the two of you not torment me at all.

[She goes out left, with her head in the air.]

MARTIN DOUL — [stops work and looks after her.] — Well, isn’t it a queer thing she can’t keep herself two days without looking on my face?

TIMMY — [jeeringly.] — Looking on your face is it? And she after going by with her head turned the way you’d see a priest going where there’d be a drunken man in the side ditch talking with a girl. (Martin Doul gets up and goes to corner of forge, and looks out left.) Come back here and don’t mind her at all. Come back here, I’m saying, you’ve no call to be spying behind her since she went off, and left you, in place of breaking her heart, trying to keep you in the decency of clothes and food.

MARTIN DOUL — [crying out indignantly.] — You know rightly, Timmy, it was myself drove her away.

TIMMY. That’s a lie you’re telling, yet it’s little I care which one of you was driving the other, and let you walk back here, I’m saying, to your work.

MARTIN DOUL — [turning round.] — I’m coming, surely.

[He stops and looks out right, going a step or two towards centre.]

TIMMY. On what is it you’re gaping, Martin Doul?

MARTIN DOUL. There’s a person walking above. . . . It’s Molly Byrne, I’m thinking, coming down with her can.

TIMMY. If she is itself let you not be idling this day, or minding her at all, and let you hurry with them sticks, for I’ll want you in a short while to be blowing in the forge. [He throws down pot-hooks.]

MARTIN DOUL — [crying out.] — Is it roasting me now you’d be? (Turns back and sees pot-hooks; he takes them up.) Pot-hooks? Is it over them you’ve been inside sneezing and sweating since the dawn of day?

TIMMY — [resting himself on anvil, with satisfaction.] — I’m making a power of things you do have when you’re settling with a wife, Martin Doul; for I heard tell last night the Saint’ll be passing again in a short while, and I’d have him wed Molly with myself. . . . He’d do it, I’ve heard them say, for not a penny at all.

MARTIN DOUL — [lays down hooks and looks at him steadily.] — Molly’ll be saying great praises now to the Almighty God and He giving her a fine, stout, hardy man the like of you.

TIMMY — [uneasily.] — And why wouldn’t she, if she’s a fine woman itself?

MARTIN DOUL — [looking up right.] — Why wouldn’t she, indeed, Timmy? . . . . The Almighty God’s made a fine match in the two of you, for if you went marrying a woman was the like of yourself you’d be having the fearfullest little children, I’m thinking, was ever seen in the world.

TIMMY — [seriously offended.] — God forgive you! if you’re an ugly man to be looking at, I’m thinking your tongue’s worse than your view.

MARTIN DOUL — [hurt also.] — Isn’t it destroyed with the cold I am, and if I’m ugly itself I never seen anyone the like of you for dreepiness this day, Timmy the smith, and I’m thinking now herself’s coming above you’d have a right to step up into your old shanty, and give a rub to your face, and not be sitting there with your bleary eyes, and your big nose, the like of an old scarecrow stuck down upon the road.

TIMMY — [looking up the road uneasily.] She’s no call to mind what way I look, and I after building a house with four rooms in it above on the hill. (He stands up.) But it’s a queer thing the way yourself and Mary Doul are after setting every person in this place, and up beyond to Rathvanna, talking of nothing, and thinking of nothing, but the way they do be looking in the face. (Going towards forge.) It’s the devil’s work you’re after doing with your talk of fine looks, and I’d do right, maybe, to step in and wash the blackness from my eyes.

[He goes into forge. Martin Doul rubs his face furtively with the tail of his coat. Molly Byrne comes on right with a water-can, and begins to fill it at the well.]

MARTIN DOUL. God save you, Molly Byrne.

MOLLY BYRNE — [indifferently.] — God save you.

MARTIN DOUL. That’s a dark, gloomy day, and the Lord have mercy on us all.

MOLLY BYRNE. Middling dark.

MARTIN DOUL. It’s a power of dirty days, and dark mornings, and shabby-looking fellows (he makes a gesture over his shoulder) we do have to be looking on when we have our sight, God help us, but there’s one fine thing we have, to be looking on a grand, white, handsome girl, the like of you . . . . and every time I set my eyes on you I do be blessing the saints, and the holy water, and the power of the Lord Almighty in the heavens above.

MOLLY BYRNE. I’ve heard the priests say it isn’t looking on a young girl would teach many to be saying their prayers. [Bailing water into her can with a cup.]

MARTIN DOUL. It isn’t many have been the way I was, hearing your voice speaking, and not seeing you at all.

MOLLY BYRNE. That should have been a queer time for an old, wicked, coaxing fool to be sitting there with your eyes shut, and not seeing a sight of girl or woman passing the road.

MARTIN DOUL. If it was a queer time itself it was great joy and pride I had the time I’d hear your voice speaking and you passing to Grianan (beginning to speak with plaintive intensity), for it’s of many a fine thing your voice would put a poor dark fellow in mind, and the day I’d hear it it’s of little else at all I would be thinking.

MOLLY BYRNE. I’ll tell your wife if you talk to me the like of that. . . . You’ve heard, maybe, she’s below picking nettles for the widow O’Flinn, who took great pity on her when she seen the two of you fighting, and yourself putting shame on her at the crossing of the roads.

MARTIN DOUL — [impatiently.] — Is there no living person can speak a score of words to me, or say "God speed you," itself, without putting me in mind of the old woman, or that day either at Grianan?

MOLLY BYRNE — [maliciously.] — I was thinking it should be a fine thing to put you in mind of the day you called the grand day of your life.

MARTIN DOUL. Grand day, is it? (Plaintively again, throwing aside his work, and leaning towards her.) Or a bad black day when I was roused up and found I was the like of the little children do be listening to the stories of an old woman, and do be dreaming after in the dark night that it’s in grand houses of gold they are, with speckled horses to ride, and do be waking again, in a short while, and they destroyed with the cold, and the thatch dripping, maybe, and the starved ass braying in the yard?

MOLLY BYRNE — [working indifferently.] — You’ve great romancing this day, Martin Doul. Was it up at the still you were at the fall of night?

MARTIN DOUL — [stands up, comes towards her, but stands at far (right) side of well.] — It was not, Molly Byrne, but lying down in a little rickety shed. . . . Lying down across a sop of straw, and I thinking I was seeing you walk, and hearing the sound of your step on a dry road, and hearing you again, and you laughing and making great talk in a high room with dry timber lining the roof. For it’s a fine sound your voice has that time, and it’s better I am, I’m thinking, lying down, the way a blind man does be lying, than to be sitting here in the gray light taking hard words of Timmy the smith.

MOLLY BYRNE — [looking at him with interest.] — It’s queer talk you have if it’s a little, old, shabby stump of a man you are itself.

MARTIN DOUL. I’m not so old as you do hear them say.

MOLLY BYRNE. You’re old, I’m thinking, to be talking that talk with a girl.

MARTIN DOUL — [despondingly.] — It’s not a lie you’re telling, maybe, for it’s long years I’m after losing from the world, feeling love and talking love, with the old woman, and I fooled the whole while with the lies of Timmy the smith.

MOLLY BYRNE — [half invitingly.] — It’s a fine way you’re wanting to pay Timmy the smith. . . . And it’s not his LIES you’re making love to this day, Martin Doul.

MARTIN DOUL. It is not, Molly, and the Lord forgive us all. (He passes behind her and comes near her left.) For I’ve heard tell there are lands beyond in Cahir Iveraghig and the Reeks of Cork with warm sun in them, and fine light in the sky. (Bending towards her.) And light’s a grand thing for a man ever was blind, or a woman, with a fine neck, and a skin on her the like of you, the way we’d have a right to go off this day till we’d have a fine life passing abroad through them towns of the south, and we telling stories, maybe, or singing songs at the fairs.

MOLLY BYRNE — [turning round half amused, and looking him over from head to foot.] — Well, isn’t it a queer thing when your own wife’s after leaving you because you’re a pitiful show, you’d talk the like of that to me?

MARTIN DOUL — [drawing back a little, hurt, but indignant.] — It’s a queer thing, maybe, for all things is queer in the world. (In a low voice with peculiar emphasis.) But there’s one thing I’m telling you, if she walked off away from me, it wasn’t because of seeing me, and I no more than I am, but because I was looking on her with my two eyes, and she getting up, and eating her food, and combing her hair, and lying down for her sleep.

MOLLY BYRNE — [interested, off her guard.] — Wouldn’t any married man you’d have be doing the like of that?

MARTIN DOUL — [seizing the moment that he has her attention.] — I’m thinking by the mercy of God it’s few sees anything but them is blind for a space (with excitement.) It’s a few sees the old woman rotting for the grave, and it’s few sees the like of yourself. (He bends over her.) Though it’s shining you are, like a high lamp would drag in the ships out of the sea.

MOLLY BYRNE — [shrinking away from him.] — Keep off from me, Martin Doul.

MARTIN DOUL — [quickly, with low, furious intensity.] — It’s the truth I’m telling you. (He puts his hand on her shoulder and shakes her.) And you’d do right not to marry a man is after looking out a long while on the bad days of the world; for what way would the like of him have fit eyes to look on yourself, when you rise up in the morning and come out of the little door you have above in the lane, the time it’d be a fine thing if a man would be seeing, and losing his sight, the way he’d have your two eyes facing him, and he going the roads, and shining above him, and he looking in the sky, and springing up from the earth, the time he’d lower his head, in place of the muck that seeing men do meet all roads spread on the world.

MOLLY BYRNE — [who has listened half mesmerized, starting away.] — It’s the like of that talk you’d hear from a man would be losing his mind.

MARTIN DOUL — [going after her, passing to her right.] — It’d be little wonder if a man near the like of you would be losing his mind. Put down your can now, and come along with myself, for I’m seeing you this day, seeing you, maybe, the way no man has seen you in the world. (He takes her by the arm and tries to pull her away softly to the right.) Let you come on now, I’m saying, to the lands of Iveragh and the Reeks of Cork, where you won’t set down the width of your two feet and not be crushing fine flowers, and making sweet smells in the air.

MOLLY BYRNE — [laying down the can; trying to free herself.] — Leave me go, Martin Doul! Leave me go, I’m saying!

MARTIN DOUL. Let you not be fooling. Come along now the little path through the trees.

MOLLY BYRNE — [crying out towards forge.] — Timmy the smith. (Timmy comes out of forge, and Martin Doul lets her go. Molly Byrne, excited and breathless, pointing to Martin Doul.) Did ever you hear that them that loses their sight loses their senses along with it, Timmy the smith!

TIMMY — [suspicious, but uncertain.] — He’s no sense, surely, and he’ll be having himself driven off this day from where he’s good sleeping, and feeding, and wages for his work.

MOLLY BYRNE — [as before.] — He’s a bigger fool than that, Timmy. Look on him now, and tell me if that isn’t a grand fellow to think he’s only to open his mouth to have a fine woman, the like of me, running along by his heels.

[Martin Doul recoils towards centre, with his hand to his eyes; Mary Doul is seen on left coming forward softly.]

TIMMY — [with blank amazement.] — Oh, the blind is wicked people, and it’s no lie. But he’ll walk off this day and not be troubling us more.

[Turns back left and picks up Martin Doul’s coat and stick; some things fall out of coat pocket, which he gathers up again.]

MARTIN DOUL — [turns around, sees Mary Doul, whispers to Molly Byrne with imploring agony.] — Let you not put shame on me, Molly, before herself and the smith. Let you not put shame on me and I after saying fine words to you, and dreaming . . . dreams . . . . in the night. (He hesitates, and looks round the sky.) Is it a storm of thunder is coming, or the last end of the world? (He staggers towards Mary Doul, tripping slightly over tin can.) The heavens is closing, I’m thinking, with darkness and great trouble passing in the sky. (He reaches Mary Doul, and seizes her left arm with both his hands — with a frantic cry.) Is it darkness of thunder is coming, Mary Doul! Do you see me clearly with your eyes?

MARY DOUL — [snatches her arm away, and hits him with empty sack across the face.] — I see you a sight too clearly, and let you keep off from me now.

MOLLY BYRNE — [clapping her hands.] — That’s right, Mary. That’s the way to treat the like of him is after standing there at my feet and asking me to go off with him, till I’d grow an old wretched road-woman the like of yourself.

MARY DOUL — [defiantly.] — When the skin shrinks on your chin, Molly Byrne, there won’t be the like of you for a shrunk hag in the four quarters of Ireland. . . . It’s a fine pair you’d be, surely!

[Martin Doul is standing at back right centre, with his back to the audience.]

TIMMY — [coming over to Mary Doul.] — Is it no shame you have to let on she’d ever be the like of you?

MARY DOUL. It’s them that’s fat and flabby do be wrinkled young, and that whitish yellowy hair she has does be soon turning the like of a handful of thin grass you’d see rotting, where the wet lies, at the north of a sty. (Turning to go out on right.) Ah, it’s a better thing to have a simple, seemly face, the like of my face, for two-score years, or fifty itself, than to be setting fools mad a short while, and then to be turning a thing would drive off the little children from your feet.

[She goes out; Martin Doul has come forward again, mastering himself, but uncertain.]

TIMMY. Oh, God protect us, Molly, from the words of the blind. (He throws down Martin Doul’s coat and stick.) There’s your old rubbish now, Martin Doul, and let you take it up, for it’s all you have, and walk off through the world, for if ever I meet you coming again, if it’s seeing or blind you are itself, I’ll bring out the big hammer and hit you a welt with it will leave you easy till the judgment day.

MARTIN DOUL — [rousing himself with an effort.] — What call have you to talk the like of that with myself?

TIMMY — [pointing to Molly Byrne.] — It’s well you know what call I have. It’s well you know a decent girl, I’m thinking to wed, has no right to have her heart scalded with hearing talk — and queer, bad talk, I’m thinking — from a raggy-looking fool the like of you.

MARTIN DOUL — [raising his voice.] — It’s making game of you she is, for what seeing girl would marry with yourself? Look on him, Molly, look on him, I’m saying, for I’m seeing him still, and let you raise your voice, for the time is come, and bid him go up into his forge, and be sitting there by himself, sneezing and sweating, and he beating pot-hooks till the judgment day. [He seizes her arm again.]

MOLLY BYRNE. Keep him off from me, Timmy!

TIMMY — [pushing Martin Doul aside.] — Would you have me strike you, Martin Doul? Go along now after your wife, who’s a fit match for you, and leave Molly with myself.

MARTIN DOUL — [despairingly.] — Won’t you raise your voice, Molly, and lay hell’s long curse on his tongue?

MOLLY BYRNE — [on Timmy’s left.] — I’ll be telling him it’s destroyed I am with the sight of you and the sound of your voice. Go off now after your wife, and if she beats you again, let you go after the tinker girls is above running the hills, or down among the sluts of the town, and you’ll learn one day, maybe, the way a man should speak with a well-reared, civil girl the like of me. (She takes Timmy by the arm.) Come up now into the forge till he’ll be gone down a bit on the road, for it’s near afeard I am of the wild look he has come in his eyes.

[She goes into the forge. Timmy stops in the doorway.]

TIMMY. Let me not find you out here again, Martin Doul. (He bares his arm.) It’s well you know Timmy the smith has great strength in his arm, and it’s a power of things it has broken a sight harder than the old bone of your skull.

[He goes into the forge and pulls the door after him.]

MARTIN DOUL — [stands a moment with his hand to his eyes.] — And that’s the last thing I’m to set my sight on in the life of the world — the villainy of a woman and the bloody strength of a man. Oh, God, pity a poor, blind fellow, the way I am this day with no strength in me to do hurt to them at all. (He begins groping about for a moment, then stops.) Yet if I’ve no strength in me I’ve a voice left for my prayers, and may God blight them this day, and my own soul the same hour with them, the way I’ll see them after, Molly Byrne and Timmy the smith, the two of them on a high bed, and they screeching in hell. . . . It’ll be a grand thing that time to look on the two of them; and they twisting and roaring out, and twisting and roaring again, one day and the next day, and each day always and ever. It’s not blind I’ll be that time, and it won’t be hell to me, I’m thinking, but the like of heaven itself; and it’s fine care I’ll be taking the Lord Almighty doesn’t know. [He turns to grope out.]



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Chicago: John Millington Synge, "Act II," The Well of the Saints, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906 in The Well of the Saints (Boston: John W. Luce and Company, 1911), Original Sources, accessed August 14, 2022,

MLA: Synge, John Millington. "Act II." The Well of the Saints, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906, in The Well of the Saints, Boston, John W. Luce and Company, 1911, Original Sources. 14 Aug. 2022.

Harvard: Synge, JM, 'Act II' in The Well of the Saints, ed. and trans. . cited in 1911, The Well of the Saints, John W. Luce and Company, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 14 August 2022, from