Babbybobby’s Character in The Cripple of Inishmaan

While reading the Cripple of Inishmaan screenplay, I was perplexed by Babbybobby’s character. During the first few scenes, readers are presented with a strong and sensitive character mourning the death of his wife. The genre of the play would be classified as a dark comedy, one of the darker scenes being the part where Bobby beats Cripple Billy with a lead pipe.

In Scene Three, Bobby throws stones at Johnnypateen, which hints to his physical brutality, but in his gruff manner he is kind to Cripple Billy when he hears of his tuberculosis. After this scene I had a respect for Bobby’s character who seemed to be a pained, hardworking man with no tolerance for Johnny’s ridiculous actions.

He also has no interest in Helen’s sexual attempts and seems to want to keep to himself, wanting no bad luck by having a cripple in his boat and swearing off Johnny’s news.

Since Bobby was such a complex character in the screenplay, I was interested on how Jayne Decker would portray such a dynamic character on the stage. The actor who played his part was instructed to act “physical.” Jayne explained that his actions during the third scene had to be aggressive, so when Scene Nine’s beating of Cripple Billy happens, it doesn’t feel out of character for Bobby. The acts of aggression included having an actor with large stature, first of all. His body had to be stocky and intimidating. While Johnny and Billy are talking to Bobby in the first scene, Bobby hauls up the boat onto the stage and starts brushing the side of the boat loudly with aggressive strokes. He also tears a piece of cloth in half and then eventually pins Johnny to the ground and stones him.

As an audience member I was really pleased with the success of Bobby’s character, and his actions seemed to make more sense than when I read the play. Although it’s considered a comedy, the harsh twists and insults turn it into a far more emotional journey with many laughs and plays on Irish culture.

In the end Bobby is simply a man with emotional wounds who can only cope through working on his boat and physical revenge. A typical strong and silent, tortured man.

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