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Heather Field


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A: Edward Martyn Pf: 1899, Dublin Pb: 1899 G: Trag. in 3 acts S: Tyrrell's house, west coast of Ireland, 1890 C: 6m, 2f, 1 child (m)Carden Tyrrell, a west of Ireland landlord, is an idealist who wants to transform a heather field on his estate into productive land. His beautiful wife Grace, whom he now regrets marrying, is alarmed at the expense and effort Tyrrell is devoting to his obsessive task. As he plunges the estate deeper into debt, Tyrrell confesses to his younger brother Miles, a law student, that he sometimes finds it difficult to distinguish between domestic reality and his dream, and tells his wife that the ‘simple barren prose’ of her mind is driving him mad. Grace summons two doctors on the pretext that her son Kit is ill, and seeks support from her neighbours, Lord and Lady Shrule. Tyrrell refuses to be dissuaded from his project and tells the doctors that, when he is out in the field, he hears ‘past ecstasies of sound’. The doctors are about to certify Tyrrell, but he is saved by the intervention of his friend Barry Ussher, who begs Grace to win her husband over with gentleness. Miles arrives with news that Tyrrell's debts are being called in and that he will lose the estate. Clinging still to the hope of the transformed heather field, he is driven to despair when his son brings home from there a bunch of heather buds: ‘The wild heath has broken out again in the heather field.’ His mind unhinged, Tyrrell has visions of beauty at last.

A: Edward Martyn Pf: 1899, Dublin Pb: 1899 G: Trag. in 3 acts S: Tyrrell's house, west coast of Ireland, 1890 C: 6m, 2f, 1 child (m)

Strongly influenced by Ibsen (Tyrrell's final madness is reminiscent of Ghosts), this play has neither the depth of characterization nor the skilful dialogue of the Norwegian playwright. It is, however, significant as being the first major play of the Irish literary revival and was highly praised by Yeats, who with Martyn and George Moore went on to found the Abbey Theatre.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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