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On Baile's Strand


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A: W. B. Yeats (with Lady Gregory) Pf: 1904, Dublin Pb: 1903; rev. 1906 G: Drama in 1 act; blank verse, prose, and songs S: Great hall at Dundealgan (Dundalk), Ireland, 1st c. ad C: 5m, extrasThe Fool and the Blind Man reveal that the High King Conchubar is coming to exact an oath of allegiance from Cuchulain, the great warrior and King of Muirthemne, and that the Scottish warrior queen Aoife has sent her son to kill Cuchulain. Despite initial resistance, Cuchulain, recognizing that at the age of 40 he can no longer live ‘like a bird's flight’, swears loyalty to Conchubar. Aoife's son presents himself and challenges Cuchulain. Cuchulain refuses to fight, but is ordered to do so by Conchubar. Cuchulain defeats the young stranger but then learns that he was his own son. Crazed with grief, Cuchulain, imagining he is attacking Conchubar, dashes into the sea, and drowns fighting the waves. The Fool and the Blind Man exploit the distraction to steal food.

A: W. B. Yeats (with Lady Gregory) Pf: 1904, Dublin Pb: 1903; rev. 1906 G: Drama in 1 act; blank verse, prose, and songs S: Great hall at Dundealgan (Dundalk), Ireland, 1st c. ad C: 5m, extras

This was the first of Yeats's Cuchulain plays, which retell stories from the Ulster cycle of legends, which Lady Gregory had drawn together as Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902). The plot is clear and simple, and there is no attempt to enter into the psychology of the characters, owing a debt to symbolist and oriental theatre and rejecting the contemporary vogue for naturalism. The result is a hauntingly beautiful piece, undercut by the antics of the grotesque masked pair of clowns, the Fool and the Blind Man.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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