The Steward of Christendom

The Steward of Christendom

"The Steward of Christendom" is a 1995 play written by Irish playwright Sebastian Barry. Its story is about one Thomas Dunne, which was the name of Barry's great-grandfather, who is loyal to the British Crown during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921) and suffers accordingly.

Plot summary

The play opens in a county home some years after Irish independence. Dunne appears to be raving incoherently, reliving an episode of his childhood. As the play continues, Dunne slips from moments of lucidity to reliving parts of his career as a senior officer in the Dublin Metropolitan Police. It is an effective method of demonstrating how far Dunne, a man who once commanded respect, has fallen. Several poignant incidents illustrate this, in particular one where Dunne requests that a cheap suit being provided for him should have gold thread. He is unconsciously demonstrating his desire for the gold braid of the highest police rank, which was denied him as a Catholic. Ironically, it is his status as a "Castle Catholic" that leads to his ostracism in an independent Ireland. Dunne's eventual descent into madness is most reminiscent of King Lear.


"A soldier doesn't always make a good policeman. Sometimes there's too much sorrow in a soldier."

"My father was the steward of Hume Wood, and I was the steward of Christendom."

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