The play “The Rising of the Moon” by Lady Gregory tells the story of two Irishmen, the Sergeant and the Ragged Man, who are seemingly opposed to each other by their social roles. The Sergeant represents law and order, while the Ragged Man is an escaped convict and Irish revolutionary. However, as the play progresses, it becomes clear that their distinctions are not as clear-cut as they initially seem.
At the beginning of the play, the Sergeant is tasked with finding the Ragged Man, who is wanted by the law. He is motivated by both the monetary reward and the possibility of a promotion, as well as a sense of duty to the law and his family. The Ragged Man, on the other hand, is a symbol of Irish nationalism, fighting for freedom from English rule.
As the two characters interact, it becomes clear that their differences are not as absolute as they initially appeared. The Sergeant hates music and resists the Ragged Man’s attempts to speak and sing, but eventually gives in and sings a traditional Irish folk song, “Granuaile,” with him. This moment of shared culture and connection suggests that there is more to the Sergeant than just his loyalty to the law.
The play also introduces a third character, a ballad singer, who helps the Sergeant keep watch for the Ragged Man. It is revealed that this ballad singer is actually the Ragged Man in disguise, and the Sergeant ultimately helps him escape. This act of defiance against the law suggests that the Sergeant’s loyalties are more complicated than simply upholding the status quo.
Through this inversion of roles, Lady Gregory suggests that the distinction between good and bad, and up and down, is not as clear as it may seem. Rather than focusing on the tensions between Irish people, she argues that the real distinction is between the Irish nation and outside forces, and that inversion and reevaluation of traditional roles is necessary for Irish nationalism. The Sergeant’s actions in the play show that even those who are seen as upholding the law and order can have complex motivations and loyalties, and that it is important to consider these nuances in our understanding of social roles.