The Shadow of a Gunman

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The Shadow of a Gunman is a 1923 play by Seán O'Casey set during the Irish War of Independence. It centers on the mistaken identity of a building tenant who is thought to be an IRA assassin.

It is the first in O'Casey's "Dublin Trilogy" - the other two being Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926).


Dublin. May 1920. Each act takes place in Seumas Shield's room in a tenement in Hilljoy Square.


Donal Davoren is a poet who has come to room with Seumas Shields in a poor, Dublin tenement slum. Many of the residents of the tenement mistake Donal for an IRA volunteer (gunman on the run). Donal does not refute this notoriety, especially when it wins him the affection of Minnie Powell, an attractive young woman in the tenement. Meanwhile, Seumas' business partner, Mr Maguire hides a bag full of Mills Bombs in Seumas' apartment before participating in an ambush in which he is killed. The city is put under curfew as a result of the ambush, and Donal and Seumas do not discover the grenades until the Auxies are raiding the tenement. Minnie Powell takes the bag and hides it in her own room. The Auxies find nothing of note in Seumas' room, but take off Minnie Powell, who is later killed trying to escape.


  • Donal Davoren - a poet of about thirty living with Seumus in the tenement. Some of the residents suspect he has an affiliation with the IRA.
  • Seumas Shields - a broken-down, lazy peddler of about thirty five disillusioned over the nationalist cause he supports who wishes the conflict will end.
  • Tommy Owens - a younger man of twenty five that is enamored with the Republican effort.
  • Adolphus Grigson - an alcoholic resident of the tenement; a self-proclaimed "Orangeman", Grigson's Protestantism exemplified by his Bible and his picture of King William triumphant at the Battle of the Boyne hanging on the wall doesn't exempt him from being harassed by the Black and Tans.
  • Mrs Grigson - Adolphus' wife.
  • Minnie Powell - a woman of twenty three that fawns over Davoran by virtue of his supposed IRA connections; she is sardonically equated to Kathleen Ni Houlihan, the symbol of Irish nationalism.
  • Mr Mulligan - the landlord of the tenement.
  • Mr Maguire - an IRA volunteer and friend of Seumas'.
  • Mrs Henderson - a resident of a neighboring tenement and a champion of Mr Gallogher's plea.
  • Mr Gallogher - a resident of a neighboring tenement seeking the IRA's help.
  • An Auxiliary - a soldier of the Auxiliary Division



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