This, Joyce's only published play bears resemblance to his own life, According to the
Dover edition "it can be seen as Joyce's speculation of what might have happened had he chosen to return to Ireland rather than remain abroad."
Joyce is represented by the character Richard Rowan, who, after eight years of exile in Rome has returned to Dublin with his common-law wife, Bertha, and their eight-year-old son Archie. Though there is very little "action" the plot revolves more around psychological and relationship issues between Richard and his wife, and their friends Robert Hand and Beatrice Justice, cousins who at one point were engaged. Robert has always been in love with Bertha, and when they find themselves alone, he kisses her, and invites her to his cottage. She neither accepts or declines. When Robert leaves, she tells Richard everything. Though she wants him to stop her from going to Robert, he does not; he says he wants her to be free to be with whomever she pleases. He has had affairs with numerous women, which Bertha is aware of, and she is also jealous of Beatrice because she believes Richard is in love with her.
As Robert waits that evening for Bertha's arrival, Richard instead shows up, and tells him he knows all. (Richard is supposed to be at a meeting with the vicechancellor—a meeting set up by Robert, presumably to offer a position to Richard since his return to Dublin.) Richard tells Robert that Bertha is free to do what she pleases, and so is Robert—he will not interfere in their affair. In the end, Bertha wishes, as she says she always has, to remain faithful to Richard.
This play is a deep study in issues of loyalty, honesty, trust, and freedom, the players struggling not only with each other but within themselves. At only 73 pages, this is easy reading for an evening.
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