restricted access The Two Published Versions of Sean O'Casey's Within the Gates
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THE TWO PUBLISHED VERSIONS OF SEAN O'CASEY'S WITHIN THE GATES THE ALTERATIONS MADE IN Sean O'Casey's early plays in the course of their production at Dublin's Abbey Theatre are fairly well known. But the changes made in certain later plays have received less attention, though these are recorded in two different published versions, and though we can be more certain with the later plays that they were made not merely to suit the taste of a particular audience or management but because O'Casey himself saw them as improvements. Some of them are indicated, rather vaguely, in the collected edition. On the dust cover of the second volume, published in 1949, which contains The Silver Tassie, Within the Gates and The Star Turns Red, Macmillan's note that 'certain important l'evisions to facilitate stage production have been made for this edition; and both Within the Gates and The Silver Tassie are described on their title pages as stage versions. But no further information is given on the substance of these revisions, and in the third volume of the collected edition, published in 1951, there is nothing at all to suggest that it makes any changes from earlier editions of its plays. Each of the plays in these volumes appeared as a book before it was seen in the theatre, and each had at least one stage production between its first publication and its appearance in the collected edition. Some of the revision is no more than the kind of minor change that any author is likely to make on re-reading his work after an interval, and often involves only one or two words at a time. Elsewhere , in The Star Turns Red, for instance, longer passages or even whole scenes are cut, for O'Casey's exceptionally fertile imagination, his relish of words and love of exploiting the humour or pathos of a situation to the utmost meant that the parts of a play tended to grow with a vigour that threatened the clarity and intended emphasis of the whole, and this unruly life is several times disciplined in the collected edition. But this kind of cut, even when it is fairly lengthy and does a considerable amount to strengthen the 'lormand balance of the play, is still a simple form of revision, while in Within the Gates the alterations are on a larger scale and often of another order. It is with this play that I shall be concerned, 346 1968 Two VERSIONS OF Within the Gates 347 partly for this reason, and partly too because it is to the changes here that David Krause has already given a paragraph.1 Krause tells us that, when he wrote the play, O'Casey 'no longer had direct contact with a theatre he knew intimately and he had been forced to write the play for a publisher.'2 This, as well as the nature of the play with its blend of symbolism and surface realism, and its use of symbolic and type characters when they were less frequent on the English stage than they are today, probably made it harder for him to visualize it in action and strike just the balance he wanted. The long, descriptive stage directions, which are sometimes shortened in the collected edition, may mark his unease at having no known stage to work for, and may too be an effort to exercise control over future productions. He had little to do with the first London staging, which he disliked, but he was actively involved in the New York production of the same year, 1934, and it seems probable that most of the changes were made for this. The cast list given in The Times review of the London production3 gives a list of characters which, while not tallying exactly with that of either edition, is closer to the first. That it does not match it exactly suggests that O'Casey had already been dissatisfied with the play and done some revision between publication in 1933 and the first of the 1934 performances, and we should also remember Robert Hogan's remark that he was still dissatisfied and 'touched it...