Shadows: a trinity of plays

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Oberon Books, 1998 - Drama - 67 pages
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Three compelling short plays that reveal our fascination with death. Includes: Riders to the Sea and The Shadow of the Glen by J. M. Synge and Purgatory by W. B. Yeats.

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About the author (1998)

After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, Synge left for Europe to write poetry. If W. B. Yeats had not discovered him in Paris and persuaded him to return to Ireland and absorb its native traditions, the Irish renaissance might have lost its best playwright. As it was, Synge's poetry of Celtic romanticism was rather more tempered with a European realism than Yeats and his renaissance had anticipated. Yeats sent Synge to the West of Ireland to get to know the peasants there. The result was, in addition to the journal The Aran Islands (1907), two short plays for the Abbey: The Shadow of the Glen (1903), in which a comic resurrection interrupts a widow's marriage bargaining, and Riders to the Sea (1904), about a mother's loss of her last son, a perfect condensed tragedy and probably the finest one-act play. The poorly received The Well of the Saints (1905), whose characters vehemently reject reality for comfortable illusion, offered the Abbey audience a warning of what was to come. This was Synge's masterpiece, The Playboy of the Western World (1907), which touched off rioting at the theater. The playboy is Christy Mahon, a lout who becomes a hero among the Mayo peasantry when he boasts he has murdered his father. Satire on Irish romanticism conceals a parable of the poet's development and estrangement from his public. But Dublin nationalists heard only the people slandered, and Dublin prudery heard only the forbidden word "shifts" on Christy's lips. Playboy was the last play Synge saw staged. He died of cancer at age 37, never having completed Deirdre of the Sorrows (1910), his only work in the Celtic legendary mode.

William Butler Yeats is generally considered to be Ireland's greatest poet, living or dead, and one of the most

important literary figures of the twentieth century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.

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