The Tinker’s Wedding

Author: John Millington Synge


THE drama is made serious — in the French sense of the word — not by the degree in which it is taken up with problems that are serious in themselves, but by the degree in which it gives the nourishment, not very easy to define, on which our imaginations live. We should not go to the theatre as we go to a chemist’s, or a dram-shop, but as we go to a dinner, where the food we need is taken with pleasure and excitement. This was nearly always so in Spain and England and France when the drama was at its richest — the infancy and decay of the drama tend to be didactic — but in these days the playhouse is too often stocked with the drugs of many


seedy problems, or with the absinthe or vermouth of the last musical comedy.
The drama, like the symphony, does not teach or prove anything. Analysts with their problems, and teachers with their systems, are soon as old-fashioned as the pharmacopia of Galen, — look at Ibsen and the Germans — but the best plays of Ben Jonson and Molire can no more go out of fashion than the blackberries on the hedges.
Of the things which nourish the imagination humour is one of the most needful, and it is dangerous to limit or destroy it. Baudelaire calls laughter the greatest sign of the Satanic element in man; and where a country loses its humor, as some towns in Ireland are doing, there will be morbidity of mind, as Baudelaire’s mind was morbid.
In the greater part of Ireland, however, the whole people, from the tinkers to the clergy, have still a life, and view of life, that


are rich and genial and humorous. I do not think that these country people, who have so much humor themselves, will mind being laughed at without malice, as the people in every country have been laughed at in their own comedies.

J. M. S.

<i>December 2nd</i>, 1907

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MICHAEL BYRNE, a tinker. MARY BYRNE, an old woman, his mother. SARAH CASEY, a young tinker woman. A PRIEST.

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Chicago: John Millington Synge, "Preface," The Tinker’s Wedding, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906 in The Tinker’s Wedding (Boston: John W. Luce and Company, 1911), Original Sources, accessed March 20, 2023,

MLA: Synge, John Millington. "Preface." The Tinker’s Wedding, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Curtin, Jeremiah, 1835-1906, in The Tinker’s Wedding, Boston, John W. Luce and Company, 1911, Original Sources. 20 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Synge, JM, 'Preface' in The Tinker’s Wedding, ed. and trans. . cited in 1911, The Tinker’s Wedding, John W. Luce and Company, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 20 March 2023, from