Term of Award

Fall 2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Literature and Philosophy

Committee Chair

Dustin Anderson

Committee Member 1

Joe Pellegrino

Committee Member 2

Howard Keeley


While Martin McDonagh’s plays have engendered laughter, disgust, and fear, he might be best known as part of a long line of Irish playwrights who faced controversy due to their art. Much like Synge, Shaw, and O’Casey, McDonagh has faced criticism and even outrage due to the violence and misunderstood portrayals of the Irish in his plays. Though the violence in plays like The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore has been labeled gratuitous, we might better understand the purpose of that violence by examining them in light of Michel Foucault’s concepts of knowledge and power. Foucault’s approaches best highlight one of McDonagh’s most important themes: the establishment of a power dynamic between characters. Foucault’s analysis of the development and interaction of power structures in society, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, clarifies the violence of McDonagh’s plays, and might add depth and greater meaning to his use of extreme violence.