By Richard H Taylor
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Extra resources for A Reader’s Guide to the Plays of W. B. Yeats
The little boy looks forward to the greyhound pup his future sister-in-law has promised him. The entrance of the poor old woman is immediately arresting because of the obvious contrast she provides. Her curiously indirect replies and riddling statements make us strongly aware of some larger discrepancy between her appearance and reality. She is a stranger and complains that all do not receive her well, particularly the Gillanes' neighbour, Maurteen and his sons, who were busy shearing sheep. She confesses that she walks the roads, being troubled because her land has been taken from her.
They wish Seanchan to break his fast in order to provide them with music and song. Instead of tempting him directly, they seduce the recalcitrant soldier to do it for them. They hold his hands, stroke his arms, and gently weaken his resistance to their will. From the failure of both army and church to influence the poet's determination, the contention of social authority is replaced by the temptation of sexual attraction. The triviality of the court ladies gives way to the seriousness of the two young princesses whose innocence and beauty combine with their high station to suggest an ideal of redemption or regeneration.
Verbal images and figures of speech are concentrated in those passages which set out to achieve a lyrical effect, but for the most part the physical elements of the stage picture are equally important in expressing and emphasising the theme. Scattered references are made to Celtic legends and heroes such as Finn, Oscar and Grania as well as to the arcane pagan symbolism of sun and moon (gold and silver) and the subjective, introspective waterfowl, herons and cranes, so peculiar to Yeats's personal philosophy.
A Reader’s Guide to the Plays of W. B. Yeats by Richard H Taylor