8

Reading Ireland Month 2015: Wrap-up

picmonkey-collage-2Today marks the very last day of the Reading Ireland Month, organized by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging.

It was a really amazing month for me. I didn’t really manage to complete my initial to-read list, since I had to make some changes, removing some books and replacing them with some others. I’m still reading the last book I had on my list, The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville, so I will probably post about it some time in April.

During this month, I read 3 plays (Cathleen Ni Houlihan, Translations, The Importance of Being Earnest), 1 novel (The Unicorn) and several short stories. I posted my reviews and thoughts for all of them, apart from William Trevor’s short stories (I read his Mark-2 Wife and The Summer Visitor ones). I really enjoyed his writing, and the stories had some pretty unexpected elements in them, but I just couldn’t find enough things to say without analyzing them and spoiling the stories for those who haven’t read them.

Apart from books, I got the chance to watch some really great movies as well. I knew close to nothing about Irish cinema, so I really enjoyed searching for and watching those movies. My favourite one out of the four I watched was probably Calvary, though it is very closely followed up by The Secret of Kells. The Commitments was really enjoyable, too, and The Eclipse was a movie kind of different from what I’m used to watching.

(I have compiled a list of everything I read and watched for this project along with links to reviews here, for anyone who is interested).

I also got the chance to read some really brilliant posts from all the other bloggers that participated and I can assertively say that I have enhanced my knowledge about Irish culture a little! I really hope a similar event will be organized next year as well, since now I know I will be better guided and prepared for it ūüėČ Cathy and Niall, thank you so much for hosting this wonderful event and for letting us have this brief Irish experience! You are both so amazing!

10

‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce **** (Reading Ireland Month)

I read Dubliners by James Joyce as part of the Reading Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging.

I decided to leave the Dubliners‘ review for last, even though it was the first book I completed for the Reading Ireland Month. That is because I find it so very difficult to talk about this book; letting some days go by did not really help much, apparently.

606912The first time I read this book was about four years ago, in my very first semester at university. We had read and discussed only two stories out of this collection, though. I remember not being very impressed by them at the time, since I did not really¬†get¬†the point of them – what did Joyce intended to say when writing them? Upon re-reading those two stories (‘Araby’ and ‘The Dead’) and reading all the rest as well, I can emphatically say that I still have the same question.

It is true that the stories collected in Dubliners do not have any outstanding storyline. They are not the kind of stories that will keep you at the edge of your seat, wondering what might happen next. They are not the kind of stories that blow you away with their twists. They are much simpler and much more ordinary than that. Yet, they manage, somehow, to stick with you.

In fact, I found myself being unable to put the book down and stop reading. It is probably not because the stories somehow became more interesting, but mostly due to Joyce’s beautiful writing. I felt like wanting to devour every single word he wrote. He could write about anything and about nothing at all, and I would still want to read it. His writing was so powerful, and I hadn’t felt that in a very long time.

There were some common themes that connected most of the stories in this book, like religion for example. I also really enjoyed seeing some characters reappearing or simply mentioned in other stories than the ones they originally appeared in. I absolutely adore it when the short stories in a collection are connected in that way, and it is always so very enjoyable to see an author make references to his own work.

The Dublin he described, though, seemed to be a highly unpleasant and bleak place to live in. That was an interesting turn, since I remember reading somewhere that he wanted to write something about Dublin because not many authors paid as much attention to this city, and yet he did not come up with words of praise and exquisite beaity as one would expect. Instead, Joyce’s Dublin is a place of death, deceit, agony and frustration.

Of course, I liked the book overall, but I enjoyed some stories more than others. My favourites were probably ‘Eveline’, ‘A Little Cloud’ and ‘A Painful Case’. Since my impression of James Joyce got rather improved after reading this story collection, I feel like I could probably tackle Ulysses during the next year (I’m probably being too optimistic here).

picmonkey-collage-2

6

Sunday Movie: ‘The Eclipse’ (2009) (Ireland Month)

The final movie I decided to watch as part of the Reading Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging, is The Eclipse.

Directed by Conor McPherson and realeased in 2009, The Eclipse is a pretty difficult movie to talk about. Taking place in a beautiful and misty Irish seaside town, Cobh, the movie relates the story of Michael Farr who, after losing his wife (due to an illness possibly, though the circumstances are never really explained) has to learn how to adjust his life and take care of his two children. While volunteering in a literary festival organised in the town, he meets Lena Morelle, a successful novelist, whose work mainly centers around ghosts and supernatural experiences.

As Michael’s father also might be approaching death soon, he starts having some supernatural experiences himself, seeing the ghost of his father in unexpected places. Trying to deal with all of that, Michael also needs to confront Nicholas Holden, another novelist who has arrived in town for the festival, claiming Lena’s attention.

The movie is visually beautiful, showing some very pretty and magical landscapes of town Cobh. I keep on repeating in my posts for Ireland Month that Ireland is simply the most ideal place for such gothic and ghost stories to take place. The overall atmosphere of the movie, too, was rather haunting and mysterious, contributing to the plot in each own unique way. The pace of the movie was slow, and I could even say that it was a pretty quiet movie (apart from the few jump-scare scenes that were scattered here and there), but it all worked in a positive manner to the end result. It felt to me like a very ‘Ireland-like’ movie, if that makes any sense at all.

However, I felt that the movie was trying to be too many things at once, but ending up being none. The horror elements were too few for it to be called a horror movie, the romance was there but not really, and some more aspects of the movie could have been developed and emphasised a lot more.

Despite all that, it still was an enjoyable movie, and I’m glad I got to see yet another part of Ireland through it.

picmonkey-collage-2

9

‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde ***** (Reading Ireland Month)

I read Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest as part of Reading Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging.

Oscar Wilde is one of the authors I absolutely adore. And yet, despite being an English Literature graduate, I had never had the chance to read The Importance of Being Earnest until now. I had dealt with some of its jokes and punch lines in a translation course, I watched scenes of a Greek TV adaptation and of another theatre adaptation of it, but I had never really read the actual and full text.

122638I doubt there are many of you literary people that are unfamiliar with the plot of this ingenius play, but I will provide a short synopsis just in case. Set in England during the 1890s, the play presents the ostensible love troubles and struggles of Jack Worthing and his friend, Algernon Montecrieff, as they try to gain the affection of the two ladies they are in love with. Instead of adhering to the conventional processes, though, they both decide to take up a different identity and lie about their lives; lies that ensue in a number of misunderstandings, false alarms but unexpected revelations as well.

Wilde’s humour and satire are insurmountable. He does not hesitate to poke fun at the society that prevailed at his time and at the people that constituted it. He makes rather scathing and poignant remarks through his characters’ voice and comments about the behaviour of the people at the time, as well as about issues like the publishing of novels by not particularly bright people and so on.

The plot is not necessarily great or even unpredictable nowadays, but Wilde’s writing style and the social issues he decides to tackle still coincide with how society works and how people behave and think in our very own time, despite the fact that more than 100 years have gone by since the time it was written and set in. People’s constant lying in order to impress others, climb higher in people’s estime and attain a more respectful treatment reverberates the behaviour of the people of today as well.

I might be quite biased when it comes to Oscar Wilde and his brilliant work, but I thoroughly enjoyed every part and every moment of this play. I loved the humour, the dialogues, the wit, the characters’ reactions – pretty much everything. I highly recommend this play to anyone who wants to spend some time laughing and snickering over a beautifully written plot and some greatly constructed characters. This play is a perfect companion as a quick evening read or even as something to cheer you up after a tough day. It has definitely wetted my appetite for the rest of Wilde’s plays, an endeavour which I shall embark in soon.

picmonkey-collage-2

2

‘The Unicorn’ by Iris Murdoch *** (Reading Ireland Month)

I read The Unicorn by Iris Murdoch as part of the Reading Ireland Month, hosted by the lovely Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging.

I was not entirely sure as to whether this book would qualify as Irish literature, but I decided to include it nevertheless. Even though Iris Murdoch is mostly considered a British author, she was born in Ireland from Irish parents, and this book is also set in Ireland, so I guess this makes it an eligible choice.253954

The Virago Vintage Classics edition that I read started with an introduction by Stephen Medcalf, who was Iris Murdoch’s very own student. As he mentions in his introductory essay,¬†The Unicorn is “set between two famous landmarks on the west coast of Ireland, the cliffs of Moher and the limestone country of the Burren”. I have never been to Ireland myself (yet), but merely looking at pictures of these places just to have the image in my head when I read the story, made me think that Ireland was the perfect place for such a gothic story to unravel.

The book begins with one of the main characters, Marian Taylor, who has been given the job of a governess in a remotely placed castle in the west coast of Ireland. There, Marian comes to meet and hear about many different people, including the ones also living in the castle but also some strange-acting neighbours.

Marian’s life at the castle is pretty uneventful at the beginning, until suddenly she starts noticing that the people surrounding her may not actually be as innocent as they look. The castle itself, as well as her employer Hannah’s life turns into a complete mystery in which everyone seems to secretly participate and Marian decides to look for answers to all the questions posed before her. Hannah never leaves the castle and she appears to be a prisoner inside her own property, while her husband is enigmatically away for a long period of time. As Marian gets more and more deeply involved into this mystery, she (and the reader alongside her) begins doubting the verisimilitude of the events that occur to her surroundings and to herself as well.

I have to admit that The Unicorn is a wonderfully written novel. I had not yet had the opportunity to read any of Murdoch’s other works prior to this one, and it made me really intrigued about her other stories as well. However, it did take me quite some time until I fully got into the story. I loved the ominous atmosphere and the landscape descriptions at the beginning, but the novel felt pretty repetitive and redundant to me from that point on. I had been re-reading¬†Jane Eyre before starting this novel, so it felt very much like yet another copy of this gothic romance type.

However, after a few chapters, the events took such a sudden turn, that it made me really curious to see how the author would end up wrapping things up and finishing this strangely enchanting tale. Luckily, it did not end up being similar to the other gothic novels I initially had in mind. I liked how the novel was separated into seven parts, and in each part the narrator’s voice would be interchangeable between Marian and Effingham Cooper, a visitor of the people that live nearby, who is in love with Hannah. Each narrator presents the events under their own circumstances, and therefore the lines between who is lying and who is not are becoming rather blurred.

After reading the entire novel, and especially upon reading the introduction, I am certain this novel contained much deeper philosophical meanings and symbolisms than I could understand. I did not particularly like how the characters fell in love with each other in a flash and forgot about it when the tiniest distraction came along. It might have been done in purpose, to serve the establishing of the magical and mystical atmposhere, since it looked like everyone acted while being under some sort of spell, but I found it rather unnecessary. Perhaps I should come back to this book some time in the future, when I will be able to notice more in it than in my first reading.

picmonkey-collage-2

8

‘The Judge’s House’ by Bram Stoker **** (Reading Ireland Month)

The next Irish story I read for Reading Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging, is Bram Stoker’s The Judge’s House.

Bram Stoker is mostly well-known for his gothic horror novel Dracula, a tale which has inspired numerous adaptations in many artistic media. The story of Count Dracula is known by pretty much everyone nowadays, regardless of them being fans of the horror genre or not.

3014867-M Dracula‘s immense success, however, has resulted in Stoker’s other stories to be rather neglected and not so widely read. The Judge’s House is a short story, first published in a magazine called Holly Leaves the Christmas Number of The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in 1891. The story was not published in book form during Stoker’s lifetime, since it was included in the short story collection¬†Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories merely two years after his death, in 1914.

The story begins when Malcolm Malcolmson, a university student, decided to move into a rather old and abandoned house in a small English village in order to find some peace and quiet to concentrate on his studies. He rents the house for some months, despite the horrified looks on everyone’s face when he tells them about his decision.

Things go smoothly at first, as he manages to get a lot of his studying done (and drink quite generous amounts of tea in the process), but it is not long before strange things begin happening. The sudden appearance of rats in the house, the creepy and dusty portraits that loom over him and the unexplained presence of a hanging rope beside the fireplace are just some instances.

Since it is a short story, I do not want to get into much detail and give it out. I really enjoyed reading this, as it contained all the Victorian gothic and horror elements that I adore in such stories. Stoker’s writing is really captivating and it manages to keep you at the edge of your seat until you finally find out what happens.

On a side note, the edition I got of this story is a really pretty one belonging to the Travelman Short Stories, by Travelman Publishing. It does not have the format of a regular book, but rather that of a map. You open it like a map and read each page as it unfolds. I thought it to be an excellent and really innovative idea – traditional books are always beautiful but such unconventional formats are really refreshing once in a while. I also have one more short story by this series, William Trevor’s The Summer Visitor, which I will be reviewing in the next couple of days.

picmonkey-collage-2

3

‘Translations’ by Brian Friel **** (Reading Ireland Month)

The second book I decided to review as part of the Reading Ireland Month project, which is organised by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging, is Translations by Brian Friel.

Written in 1980, Translations is a play covering quite a wide variety of social and political issues concerning the time and place it is set in. Friel had created a fictional village, Baile Beag, which he used as a setting in some other of his plays as well. The play, therefore, takes place in 1833, when some English representatives arrive in the Irish village of Baile Baeg in order to carry out the project of translating all the Irish place names into English. 859500

There are a lot of characters in the play and most of them are introduced to the audience from the very first scene, which takes place in a hedgeschool where only Gaelic, Ancient Greek and Latin is taught. Nobody speaks English there apart from Hugh, the headmaster, and one of his sons, Owen, who serves as a mediator between the Irish and the English people, translating (and sometimes deliberately mistranslating) from one language to the other and helping in the act of translating the place names as well.

As expected, the Irish people want to retain their own language and culture and they believe that English will corrupt and hinder this endeavour of theirs. The students that attend the hedgeschool (whose ages vary) have only received a classical education and they are divided between those who think learning English merely aids the colonizers’ purpose and those who yearn to learn it as they think their future depends on it.

The strongest part of this play, apart from the intelligent plot, is certainly its characters. Each character is so very different from the others, and I especially liked how Friel wanted to divert from the stereotypical depictions of the two national groups and added so many layers to his characters. Of course, initially, there is the contradiction between the well-read and educated Gaelic people and the rude and ignorant English soldiers who care only about completing their expedition, no matter the cost or the harm they may cause.

However, even among the English soldiers, there is a good-hearted man, Yolland, who seems to be fascinated with the Gaelic culture and people and feels guilty for participating in this expedition in the first place. As he describes it in the play, this brutal change of language and imposition of the English language and culture on Ireland is like “an eviction of sorts”. Yolland falls in love with Maire, one of the Irish hedgeschool students, and he admits he would very much like to learn Irish and stay there with her.

Things get more complicated, since Maire belongs to those who support English and this change, and she wants to immigrate to America some time in the future. One of the funniest and saddest scenes at the same time in the play is the one Maire and Yolland try to talk to each other and communicate their love. None speaks the other’s language and their efforts to try and make the other party understand evokes a mix of contradicting feelings to the audience. They say love conquers all, but is that really applicable in reality?

Headmaster Hugh’s other son, Manus, belongs to those who strive to maintain the integrity of the Gaelic culture, which they feel so proud of and want to protect at any cost. He is in love with Maire as well, and her affection for the English soldier gives him an additional reason to desire the departure of the English. Another very interesting character, presented at the beginning of the play as well is Sarah. She is dumb, unable to speak, and the play actually opens with the scene of Manus trying to teach her how to pronounce her name. Some have seen relations between the character of Sarah and the mythical figure of Cathleen Ni Houlihan, which is an important emblem of the Irish culture. Sarah is identified with Cathleen, and her silence may be explained as Ireland being silenced by the British colonizers’ imposition.

Despite the play’s tackling so many cultural, sociopolitical and national issues, Friel has stated that he intended for Translations to be “a play about language and only about language”. And, indeed, at the end of the day, language is what conquers everything in the play. Owen, while helping the British people translate the Irish place names, is being called ‘Roland’ by them; a mishearing of his name he never really bothered to correct. So, the importance of naming, whether it concerns place names or people is also a very important theme.

It is really interesting how the Irish people in the play are supposed to speak Gaelic and be unable to communicate with the English soldiers, yet the play is all written and performed in English. Perhaps that was Friel’s way of declaring that most of the Irish people of today are so detached from their Gaelic past that they wouldn’t be able to understand what is being said otherwise. Or perhaps he wanted to show that Irish people have embraced the English language and made it theirs; it’s not the language of the colonizers anymore, a foreign languge, but one that now constitutes their present.

Translations is a play with so many layers and symbols. The rich characters that make up Friel’s world add beautifully to the very well-constructed story. It touches on such a wide variety of issues, from identity and history to language and culture, that it is impossible to find yourself being bored. I really loved reading this play and I think it would be so much more powerful on stage. I immensely enjoyed Friel’s witty writing, since I think he presented a very fresh perspective on the Irish culture and its evolution and I’ll definitely seek his other works in the future.

picmonkey-collage-2

6

Sunday Movie: ‘Calvary’ (2014) (Ireland Month)

The next movie I watched as part of the Reading Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging, is also a movie I was pretty reluctant to watch – Calvary.

I am not very much into religious movies or movies generally dealing with religious themes (thus my initial reservation to watch Calvary), but I never expected this movie to be what it actually was. It is quite hard to place my thoughts on it, since it not only exceeded my expectations, but it also is a much deeper and much more symbolic movie than one might expect.

Calvary begins in the most unexpected manner; while in a confessional, a parishioner relates his tragic past to priest James, confiding in him that he had been sexually abused by some priest in his childhood and threatens to kill priest James as an act of revenge towards the church, even though he is innocent and benevolent. The parishioner gives the priest exactly one week to make peace with himself and say his goodbyes until he kills him on the appointed day and place.

This is what happens in the first 5 minutes of the movie, which place the priest, as well as the audience in such an unexpected and difficult situation. The rest of the movie follows the priest’s life through each and every day of the week he was given and we watch his actions and the decisions he makes. We steadily learn more about him and his past and meet the people that consist his world and surroundings – Fiona, his daughter, as well as a bunch of parishioners, all broken and lost in some way or another, whom he tries to help overcome their problems one by one.

However, the priest is not always treated generously by the others. At first, I found his passive acceptance of the threat he received really strange – it was almost like he thought he was at fault for something, like he somehow deserved it. Maybe he had committed a sinful act in the past and desired to repent for it by not running away from the man who declared that he would take his life away. While the movie progressed, though, the benevolence and the good-natured heart of the priest became evident and the behaviour of the parishioners towards him became more and more illogical. Everyone makes mistakes throughout life, either minor or graver ones, and we do see the priest misbehaving at parts, but no one deserves to be the object of such spite.

Every character in this movie has their story and their own painful past (or present). Everyone is going through their own personal calvary, but the priest seems to suffer the most. The ending is surely one that triggers a lot of thoughts to rush through your mind all at once. The priest claimed at the beginning that he knew who his threatener was, and he did try, in his own way, to prevent him from commiting yet another sin.

I am not entirely sure of the exact location this movie was shot and set into, but the scenery was absolutely stunning. The Irish coast lines always look so beautiful, and combined with a rather cloudy weather, created the perfect ominous feeling in this movie. The setting was mostly simple, and not many props or background objects were used, with nature and the sea playing a major role and reflecting the pain and the psychological state of the characters in the most excellent manner.

The acting was also sublime. Brendan Gleeson was simply brilliant as priest James – I will certainly watch more of his movies to see him enacting other roles as well (I’m sure he does it equally successfully). I was very glad to see some familiar faces in it, like Aidan Gillen, whom I know from Game of Thrones, playing the role of an atheist doctor and Dylan Moran, whom I immensely adore, playing the role of a lonely millionaire who feels detached from everything. The rest of the cast was fabulous as well.

All in all, Calvary is a beautiful and brilliant movie that touches upon many issues modern societies and people face, whether they dare to admit it or not. It is a movie that shows you that everyone goes through their own personal calvary, even if you cannot see it at first glance. Everyone has their own troubles and demons to fight and, at the end of the day, it is the way we choose to face them or run away from them that determines our morality and quality of life.

picmonkey-collage-2

7

Sunday Movie: ‘The Secret of Kells’ (2009) (Ireland Month)

The second movie coming from Ireland I decided to watch for the Ireland Month, hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging, is ‘The Secret of Kells’, an animated movie. I know this is kind of an unpopular choice, but I stumbled upon a mention of this film at a blog, and I was immediately drawn by the fabulously looking animation – I really love animated movies and the prospect of watching an Irish one just seemed alluring enough for me to include it in here.

The film is actually a co-production among France, Belgium and Ireland (I guess it still counts as an Irish film?) and it was screened at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival. It has been nominated for quite a few awards and it has won numerous of them, being very positively talked about by critics. Some even compared it to Miyazaki films by Studio Ghibli.

Even though the film is quite short even for an animated one (hardly 80 minutes long), it still manages to captivate the audience, mainly with its stunning animation. Brandon, the main character of the story, is a little boy who grows up in the Abbey of Kells along with his uncle, Abbot Cellach, and other monks. His uncle is trying to build a wall around their town, so as to protect it from the Vikings, who have been invading and destroying many other places in search of gold. Brandon has been forbidden by his uncle to step outside the wall and into the forest that exists there, because danger is lurking. However, when Brother Aidan arrives at Kells and has Brandon help him with the completion of his book, the Book of Iona, he ventures into the forest despite his uncle’s orders.

thesecretofkells3

In the forest, he meets a fairy girl, Aisling, who offers him her help in his endeavours. No matter how important the completion of the Book of Iona is, though, the imminent attack of the Vikings is approaching slowly, threatening the peace of Kells and the lives of its inhabitants.

What amazed me in this film (apart from the beautiful animation, which I will keep on praising throughout this post) was the brilliant blend of magic, Celtic mythology and history and a quite solid plot with very interesting characters. The Book of Kells truly existed – it was a Gospel book in Latin and it was located in Dublin and the film draws on the story of its creation. As a mythology enthusiast, I found the existence of fairies, mythical creatures like Crom Cruach and many other allusions to Irish mythology and history greatly entertaining and highly interesting.

The use of colours was also very nicely done, as brighter colours were chosen when scenes of bliss and happier moments were introduced (like in the forest) and darker and gloomier ones when there was apparent danger or something ominous was happening or about to happen. I also loved the music playing during the film, as the Celtic inspired instruments suited the magical atmosphere really well.

6c4c527618bc042b559f0c1e25f63bb5

‘The Secret of Kells’ was a film truly beautiful. The astonishing art, along with the brilliant music and the engaging plot make for a movie that is aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable. I am so glad I decided to watch it, and I highly recommend it to any of you who enjoy beautifully made films.

picmonkey-collage-2

5

‘Cathleen Ni Houlihan’ by W.B. Yeats *** (Reading Ireland Month)

The first book I decided to review for the Reading Ireland Month (hosted by Cathy746books and The Fluff Is Raging) is none other than W.B. Yeats’ play Cathleen Ni Houlihan. Written in 1902 and performed in April of the same year in Dublin, it is a play of great symbolic and historic significance for Ireland and the turbulent period it refers to.

51y2tXTmiUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_¬†Cathleen Ni Houlihan is set in an Irish village during the Rebellion of 1798 against the British and it follows a critical moment in the lives of a peasant family, whose eldest son, Michael, is soon to get married. The play opens with his parents discussing about the dowry his son is to receive from the bride’s family and they seem to be rather concerned about their financial state, indicating their (and especially the mother’s) preoccupation with material things more than anything else. While having this conversation, sounds of war and battle reach their ears, but they pay no particular attention to them, with the exception of a brief comment.

All of a sudden, an old and rather mysterious woman appears at their door asking for help. However, it is not food or money that she seeks but the men’s help, and especially Michael’s, to get her house back. The family doesn’t seem to recognise the woman, since her manner of speaking is more confusing rather than helpful. The old woman proves to be none other than Cathleen Ni Houlihan, a mythological figure in Irish folklore who is said to represent Ireland herself.

Yeats is well known for his fascination by folklore and mythology and his deeply rooted nationalism as well. Therefore, it is no surprise that he chose to write a play about such an important figure of the Irish tradition. Cathleen Ni Houlihan has appeared in quite a few literary works and pieces of art as a symbol for Ireland and she is always depicted as a woman trying to recruit men who are willing to fight for her liberty. Many have said that this play is political and propagandistic, but Yeats himself has denied any such intentions while writing and producing it. As he had stated once, he prefered distinguishing between politics and art and didn’t want to let one interfere with the other in such a manner as to be considered a propaganda of sorts.

Yeats co-wrote this play with Lady Gregory. In a letter he wrote to her in 1903 he wrote of the play:

One night I had a dream almost as distinct as a vision, of a cottage where there was well-being and firelight and talk of marriage, and into the midst of that cottage there came an old woman in a long cloak. She was Ireland herself, that Cathleen ni Houlihan for whom so many songs have been sung and about whom so many stories have been told and for whose sake so many have gone to their death. I thought if I could write this out as a little play I could make others see my dream as I had seen it, but I could not get down out of that high window of dramatic verse, and in spite of all you had done for me I had not the country speech. One has to live among the people, like you…”

Cathleen Ni Houlihan is a short, one-act play full of symbolism. I think it depicts quite accurately what the lives of the people belonging to the lower classes were like in the Irish villages at the time of the rebellion. It tackles important themes, such as duty, family, finance and, of course, nationalistic pride, an element which permeats this play. Yeats believed in the purity of the Irish people, in the image of the honest and intellectual peasant, who cared more about abstract things like duty towards the country rather than about material things like money. This is why, through this play, Yeats also manages to pass his critique on the so-called ‘corruption’ of the Irish purity as he perceived it.

It is undoubtedly an enjoyable play that evokes some thoughts while reading it and makes you think about what is morally right or wrong. I believe it is a play of great importance for the Irish literary culture, since it contains so many elements and information about it. I would like to also watch it one day, so as to get a full picture of it.

picmonkey-collage-2