The first of Sean O’Casey’s Dublin plays, The Shadow of a Gunman takes place in May of 1920 during the Irish War for Independence. Set in a the tenement room of Donal Davoren (a poet) and his roommate Seumas Shields (a pedlar), the play explores one day of tensions in the streets of Dublin. Donal is something of a mystery to his fellow tenants, consumed with writing while Seumas loads a case with hairpins to sell on the streets. In the midst of a normal day, Seumas’ friend Maguire bursts in, dropping off a bag and running away. Minnie Powell, a young woman alone in the world, flirts with Donal to inspire him to poetry. Tommy Owens arrives to flatter Donal and secure his own reputation as being a supporter of the Irish Republican Army. Mrs. Henderson drags Mr. Gallagher (from the neighboring building) to Donal for his approval of a complaint letter to the IRA regarding noisy neighbors - which he leaves in Donal’s care. Mrs. Grigson shows up in the evening looking for her husband, who then stumbles in drunk. Together, these characters create a colorful image of the Irish Resistance - until there is a raid on the block by British forces.
The Shadow of a Gunman guide sections