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At the Hawk's Well


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AT: Waters of Immortality A: W. B. Yeats Pf: 1916, London Pb: 1917 G: Drama in 1 act; blank verse and irregular verse of 3- and 4-stressed lines S: A well, 1st c. ad C: 2m, 1f, 3 musiciansFor 50 years an Old Man has waited for a well to flow whose waters grant immortality to any who drink from it. The well is guarded by a bird-like creature. When a Young Man (Cuchulain) comes, the Old Man tries to get him to leave claiming prior right to the water. Cuchulain insists on waiting, and the Guardian of the Well rises up and performs a hypnotic dance before him. The Old Man sleeps, Cuchulain rushes off in pursuit of the beautiful bird he imagines before him, and the waters of the well flow briefly. The Old Man is bitterly disappointed, but Cuchulain is now more interested in fighting Aoife's warriors and rushes into battle. The musicians sing of the pointlessness of waiting for a dream.

AT: Waters of Immortality A: W. B. Yeats Pf: 1916, London Pb: 1917 G: Drama in 1 act; blank verse and irregular verse of 3- and 4-stressed lines S: A well, 1st c. ad C: 2m, 1f, 3 musicians

At the Hawk's Well incorporates elements of oriental performance with its musical commentary taken from Japanese Nø theatre and with its setting created by the unfolding of a cloth. Although seldom performed, this exquisite piece, the first of Yeats's Four Plays for Dancers, offers a memorable theatrical experience. In its simplicity and the symmetry of its characters, it may also be recognized as a forerunner of a much better known play about unfulfilled hopes, Waiting for Godot.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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