The Rising of The Moon Summary | With Analysis

The Rising of The Moon Summary


Lady Gregory wrote a book titled “Seven Short Plays” in 1909 and her play “The Rising of The Moon” was added in that book. She wrote this play in 1904 but it was not produced until 1907. Lady Gregory shows political pressure on Irishmen in her play “The Rising of the Moon” as obvious from its detailed summary. Many writers and poets shedded light on the struggles of Irishmen. Seamus Heany is the most prominent poet in this regard. Lady Gregory also demonstrates the doomed fate of the people of Ireland. All in all the play shows dominance of England over Irishmen. It is highly philosophical, hence, universal in nature but at the same time it shows the struggle of people for freedom. 

The playwright portrays four characters in the play, two of them are major, who do nothing significant but talk to each other and express their opinions. Their actions are not important but their dialogues are praiseworthy. The play has very little action; however, its philosophy is very unique. Through one of the characters (sergeant), the writer shows a mental conflict between duty, greed for reward and promotion and and patriotism. Ultimately, at the end of the play, nationalism wins, which is more ethical than the duty. In short, Lady Gregory presents a summary of people’s love for Ireland in her play “The Rising of the Moon”. 

The Rising of The Moon Summary

The play opens with the scene of a quay in a seaport town with additional details of posts and chains and a large barrel. Three Irish policemen (Sergeant, B & X) enter on stage in the moonlight with a lantern in one of the police officials’ hand, which means it is night. From their talking and actions, it seems that they are looking for a prisoner who has escaped from the jail premises.

Setting Up the Play

The sergeant who is senior in age observes the place. The other police officials have a pastepot and a bundle of placards with printed sketches of the wanted prisoner. One of the police officials (policeman B) expresses his opinion that the barrel would be a good object to paste the placard but the second junior (policeman X) suggests that he should ask the sergeant, who is senior among them, hence, the policeman B asks him where to affix the placard but the sergeant does not reply. Policeman B asks again, to which the sergeant replies that it is a good place and thinks that the prisoner’s friends may come at this place to pick him up. Nonetheless the Sergeant allows him to put the placard. 

Motif of the Play

Sergeant reads the placard. He gives a summary of the physical appearance of the escaped prisoner at the start of the play “The Rising of the Moon”. The prisoner has dark hair, dark eyes, smooth face, height five feet five. Sergeant also talks and tells the audience more about the prisoner, who is the first Irishman that becomes successful in escaping from the prison and now the government has announced a handsome reward of a hundred pounds to a person, who would catch the prisoner. He is sure that the prisoner would come this way to flee with his friends on the boat. Sergeant then tells the other policemen to go and paste the placards on different places whereas he sits there and waits for them. They go out and the Sergeant stroll there.

Appearance of Second Major Character

A ragged man, who in actuality is the escaped prisoner in the guise of a ballad-singer, appears. Sergeant stops him and questions his identity. He introduces himself as a ballad-singer. He tells the Sergeant that he came here to sell some ballads to sailors. Jimmy Walsh is his name, he says. He tries to leave the stage but the Sergeant stops him. He sings some ballads but the Sergeant does not like it and asks him to stop singing. The ballad-singer tells the Sergeant that he knows the man whom the police are looking for. He repeatedly tries to return to the town but every time he does, the Sergeant stops him. 

Philosophy of the Play “The Rising of the Play”

The ballad-singer discloses some hard facts about the escaped prisoner (who he himself is but the Sergeant does not know as he is disguised as a ballad-singer). In summary, he elucidates the prisoner’s expertise in use of weapons and his muscle power at this moment of the play “The Rising the Moon”. According to him, the wanted man is very dangerous. He also quotes some of the incidents that were printed in the newspapers about the escaped prisoner. One of the incidents that he quotes is the one in which he kidnaps a policeman.

He also continuously sings some songs, in which he shows the life of Irishmen. The prisoner seems wicked, wise and has a strong personality. The sergeant thinks that a heavy headcount is necessary to catch the wanted criminal. They talk further, sit on the barrel and smoke. Jimmy Walsh shows himself as a poor man and discloses some more facts about the escaped prisoner. Jimmy Walsh also helps the Sergeant to look for the escaped prisoner while looking in the opposite direction to the Sergeant.

Sergeant Vs. Jimmy Walsh

Sergeant needed company and he got it. He talks about his duties as a policeman. In his eyes, the profession that he chooses does not suit his personality as it is a dangerous job and he gets nothing in return but a small wage and scolding from his officers. He means that he does not get respect from the people that he deserves in spite of the efforts that he makes to catch the most-wanted criminals. Nevertheless, they pass the ball and the sergeant also sings a song. Jimmy Walsh is astonished that the sergeant can also sing a patriotic song. The sergeant tells him that it is the song that he used to sing when he was young. 

Both of them have the same ambitions though the sergeant is in wrong profession. He joined his friends in the movement of freedom when he was young. Jimmy Walsh offers the policeman to join him in getting freedom. He thinks for a while. Lady Gregory in her play “The Rising of the Moon” in summary shows that the Sergeant imagines himself in place of Jimmy Walsh and thinks that he would do the same if he were him. Jimmy Walsh provokes the emotion of sergeant while saying that he lies to him; that he had never remained part of the movement of freedom in his younger age nor even in his childhood. Sergeant proudly tells him that he performs his obligations sincerely as a police officer. He also warns him to stop talking nonsense about him lest he should arrest him.


Meanwhile a boat touches the shores. Jimmy Walsh sings a song loudly so that the police officer cannot hear the sound of the boat. He repeatedly sings the song but due to a background whistle, the sergeant suspects the identity of Jimmy Walsh. Jimmy Walsh has worn the wig and a hat, which is removed and the policeman realises that he has been tricked. He seizes him but at the same time he repents that Jimmy Walsh has tricked him and curses himself that he is a foolish police officer. Meanwhile, the two policemen (B and X) return. Jimmy Walsh hides himself behind the barrel. Sergeant does not want the company of policemen and tells them that he wishes to sit alone, hence, he directs them to leave him alone. He does not tell them about the escaped prisoner and favours him. 

The playwright creates a suspenseful atmosphere in summary form at this moment of the play “The Rising of the Moon” as it is a moment of excited expectation and uncertainty about what may happen. Both the policemen leave but before that they ask the Sergeant if he wants a lantern. The Sergeant answers negatively. He wants them to leave him. When they leave, the escaped prisoner promises that he would remember the Sergeant when the Irish people would get freedom. The play ends with the rise of the moon and the sergeant facing the audience.

Summary Analysis of The Rising of The Moon

At the start of the play, three policemen look for an Irish leader of the movement of freedom fighters, who has escaped from the prison. The writer has shown the Irish policemen as she wants to compare philosophies of two different people from the same nation; however, both support the same purpose. In addition, their emotions are also common. Sergeant is the first major character of the play. The playwright has put him in juxtaposition to Jimmy Walsh, who appears on stage soon after the remaining police officials leave the sergeant alone. 

Sergeant is of the view that the jailors may have helped the prisoner in escaping from the prison. The writer wants to portray a fact that some people from Ireland have joined the England government as they want to support their families but they want freedom too, hence, most of them go against the rules and do not perform their duties sincerely. The escaped prisoner first finds support from the jailors in escaping and subsequently the Sergeant also supports him.

Symbolic Analysis of The Rising of The Moon

As the two (Jimmy Walsh and the Sergeant) sit on the barrel they talk about their lives. The playwright shows common human emotions, despite their different professions and entirely opposite thinking. Sergeant is also the representative of England whereas Jimmy Walsh of Ireland.

In the play, the lantern has been discussed too much. It symbolises little hope. A lantern saves a person from darkness. One of the policemen says that the lantern keeps a person warm. In summary, Lady Gregory through this symbol in her play “The Rising of the Moon” means to say that a little hope in the life of a person can bring many changes. At the end, the Sergeant tells his fellow policemen to take the lantern with them. He does not want it. He wants something more than the lantern. The rising of the moon at the end of the play, which is its title too, symbolises a new life of Irish people. 

Sergeant also does not like his job. He joins the forces to support his family. It also may be the case with the remaining two police officials. There are circumstances in which the people of Ireland have joined the forces of England but their hearts are with their homelands. At the end the sergeant faces the audience and the writer leaves everything on the audience to decide whether the Sergeant is a fool, who helps the prisoner in escaping and leaving the reward or he is a true patriot, whose ambitions are also the same as of the leader/escaped prisoner. In summary, Lady Gregory shows political pressure on Irishmen and their struggles for freedom in her play “The Rising of the Moon”.