Charles Bentham is an important figure in the play Juno and the Paycock, although he only appears in person during the end of Act I and principally in Act II. He is the bearer of the good news, i. e. the heritage, which is supposed to change the life of the whole Boyle family. However, he also brings distress to the family in the form of the illegitimate child Mary is expecting, of which he is the father, and due to this fact the family will lose the heritage as Bentham drew up the will in the wrong manner. In this sense, he plays an ambivalent, but important role for the development of the action in the play.
Outward appearance and language - indirect figural characterisation
During Bentham’s first introduction into the play, the secondary text points out he belongs to another social class that is different from the Boyle family. First of all, he looks differently: “[ He is dressed […] with a deep blue tie; he carries gloves and a walking-stick.]” (p. 29).1 In addition to his outward appearance, the main difference, which is obvious, is his language. In contrast to the other figures, he has no Irish accent at all, instead he speaks an elevated and educated language throughout his whole appearance on stage. Furthermore, he does not even understand the Boyles’ dialect, for example when Captain Boyle invites him “[…] to have a wet.” (p. 33). The reader is made aware from the very beginning that Bentham does not belong to the same class as the Boyle family and that he is well educated in contrast to them. He talks about topics which probably would never be a subject in their working class environment, including “[…] Homer’s glorious story of ancient gods and heroes” (p. 31) or about Theosophy “[…] whose “Life-Breath is called the Prawna.” (p. 43).
Additionally, one can find allusions that Bentham himself wants to differentiate from this poor social background by his stage behaviour, for example physical reactions, specified by stage directions like “Bentham [ rising and tentatively shaking the hand of Mrs. Madigan ] . I’m sure, it’s a great pleasure to know you, Mrs. Madigan.” (p. 48) , which sounds and probably looks as if it is not a pleasure at all for Bentham to shake the hand of a “vulgar” person like Mrs. Madigan.
Bentham and the main characters – direct figural characterisation
Principally, Bentham’s characterisation is played out through the statements the other characters remark about him.
1 All page references are to the following edition: O’Casey, Sean, The Complete Plays of Sean O’Casey, Volume 1 (London: MacMillan Ltd, 1984).
- Quote paper
- Birgit Wilpers (Author), 2007, Character Traits and Function of Charles Bentham in Sean O'Casey's "Juno and the Paycock", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/154828