Brendan Behan (1923–64) was part of a Dublin theater community that grew up with the plays of Eugene O'Neill on its doorstep, and the impact was significant. As John P. Harrington notes, when the Dublin Drama League produced O'Neill's Emperor Jones in 1927, Denis Johnston described it as “the first true invasion of the modern into the national theatre [of Ireland].” By immersing himself into Dublin's modernist theater culture during his early years, Behan fed his interest in the avant-garde, which resulted in The Quare Fellow, a play that has some remarkable thematic and formal similarities to O'Neill's The Hairy Ape. Each writer emerged from fringe theater, and each turned to European expressionism to challenge issues around social justice and equality. This article surveys O'Neill's significance in the Dublin of Behan's youth, considers the sociopolitical affinities between the writers, and analyzes the theatrical aesthetics of each in their respective plays The Hairy Ape and The Quare Fellow.

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