Pretty young newlywed Nora Clitheroe is the talk of her tenement as she tirelessly works to lift her family out of their impoverished circumstances. She tries to keep her husband Jack from the revolutionary fervor sweeping through Dublin. But Jack becomes a commandant in the Irish Citizen Army, and when the Easter Rising of 1916 begins, he leaves a pregnant Nora to help lead the fight. The disparate, quarrelsome tenement residents are forced to shelter together as urban warfare makes their home nearly as treacherous as the streets. Passions and ideals rise and converge, but in the end, loss and devastation triumph over the promise of a new Ireland.
This powerful play is widely hailed as Sean O'Casey's most complex and masterful work. Its premiere at the Abbey Theatre in 1926 was met with riots condemning O'Casey's negative portrayal of the recent revolution and its heroes. However, the play was otherwise successful, receiving wide acclaim both in Ireland and abroad. Drawing from his own childhood and experiences with the Irish labor movement and in the Irish Citizen Army, The Plough and the Stars is among O'Casey's most autobiographical works.