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King of the Great Clock Tower


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A: W. B. Yeats Pf: 1934, Dublin Pb: 1938 G: Drama in 1 act; blank verse and 3- and 4-stressed lines S: The King's palace, in the mythical past C: 4m, 1fThe King of the Great Clock Tower complains yet again about the silence of the mysterious woman who came to him a year previously and whom he made his queen. A stroller comes to his court and demands to see the beautiful Queen, declaring that she will dance for him, that he will sing for her, and that she will kiss his mouth. Infuriated by his insolence, the King has the man beheaded. When the Captain of the Guard returns with the head, the Queen begins to sing and dance. The severed head sings too, the Queen kisses its lips, and the King is about to strike her down with his sword, when he relents and kneels before her.

A: W. B. Yeats Pf: 1934, Dublin Pb: 1938 G: Drama in 1 act; blank verse and 3- and 4-stressed lines S: The King's palace, in the mythical past C: 4m, 1f

With obvious echoes of Salome, this curious theatrical gem reflects in mythological terms the despair felt by Yeats when his ‘spiritual bride’ Maud Gonne married the boorish soldier John MacBride. It seemed as though only this man of action could release her physical passion (although the marriage was short-lived), and, like the King, Yeats had to resign himself to this fact. Ninette de Valois, to whom the play is dedicated, performed the Queen in a mask. In a second version, A Full Moon in March (1935), Yeats dispenses with the King, and the Stroller becomes a swineherd.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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W. B. Yeats (1865—1939) poet


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