The good, the bad, and the ugly: violence, tradition and the politics of morality in Martin McDonagh's 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore'

2009-11-20T14:10:23Z (GMT) by Catherine Rees
The recent plays of Martin McDonagh have fascinated and repelled critics for nearly a decade. His idiosyncratic blend of rural Irish mythology and ‘in-yer-face’ aggression has both caused consternation and won high praise, but the motivations and inspirations of McDonagh’s work have not been widely discussed. Here, Catherine Rees addresses some of the common critical assaults on one of his most contentious plays, The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001), and seeks to rescue the playwright from misunderstanding and heavyhanded critical treatment. She also aims to clarify some of the issues surrounding this politically charged and controversial work, and discusses it within the wider context of British and Irish drama. An earlier version of this article was given as a paper at the ‘Contemporary Irish Literature: Diverse Voices’ conference at the University of Central Lancaster in April 2003. Rees has presented on various aspects of McDonagh’s work at a joint American Conference for Irish Studies and British Association of Irish Studies conference, and is currently working on a PhD about his plays at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.