Johnny Boyle


Johnny never leaves the apartment until he is finally forced to by the two Irregulars who bring him to his death. Until then, he spends his days in fear at home.

He is psychologically damaged by his experiences. We see him haunted by his memories and frightened by shadows, but we do not fully understand why until later on in the play.

Johnny's erratic behaviour is highlighted the first time we meet him at the opening of the play. The verb "springing" is used in the stage directions to show his sudden movement and the exclamation marks as he utters his first lines show his agitated speech, "Oh, quit that readin’ for God’s sake! Are yous losin’ all your feelin’s? It’ll soon be that none of you’ll read anythin’ that’s not about butcherin’!"

This foreshadows the revelation that he is in fact riddled with guilt and fear about his involvement in the murder of Mrs Tancred’s son.


Johnny was left wounded in the Easter Rising of 1916.

When the two Irregulars drag Johnny away they reveal that he betrayed a comrade - Johnny was the one who gave information leading to the murder of Mrs Tancred's son.

However, when he is summoned he refuses to go.

The stage directions describe him as shouting "passionately". This is the first time we have ever seen passion for any cause in Johnny, and in this case it is for his own protection.

He says that he has "done enough for Ireland". Earlier in the play he had stated "I’d do it agen … a principle’s a principle", the contrast in these two statements reveal him to be a cowardly traitor.


Johnny’s treatment of his mother and sister show him to have little compassion.

Despite the fact that they have looked after and defended him in his own time of need, he is quick to suggest that Mary must go "into some place ower this, there’s no one here to mind her" when he thinks she is very ill.

When he discovers that she is actually pregnant he declares that "she should be dhriven out o’ th’ house she’s brought disgrace on!"

His empathy has not been developed by his own sufferings and he is harsh in his judgment of others.

In one of his final speeches - showing no understanding of anyone else’s suffering - he cries “Not one o’ yous, not one o’ yous, have any thought for me!”