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What is the meaning of W.B.Yeats's "The Mask?"What are its themes and its form?

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zippybrown | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 18, 2009 at 5:59 AM via web

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What is the meaning of W.B.Yeats's "The Mask?"

What are its themes and its form?

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 18, 2009 at 1:13 PM (Answer #1)

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The poem “The Mask,” by William Butler Yeats comes from his collection of poems called "The Green Helmet and other Poems."  "The Mask" is about a conversation between a woman and a man. At the beginning of the poem he asks the woman to remove her mask so that he can decide if she is sincere or just a fake.  Her reply is that he is so taken by the mask that she doesn’t want to risk him seeing her.  She then asks him if it really matters to him if he discovers who she is behind the mask as long as there is love between them.  Yeats had been intrigued by the internal self and the external self for a long time.  This poem is a reflection of those questions.  He wanted to know who a person was and why they chose to hide behind certain “masks.”  In this poem the woman is simply reminding the man that what drew him to her was the “mask” in the first place, and not what lay behind the mask.  Yeats wrote about masks several times, including an essay included in a book called “Per Amica Silentia Lunae (1918)”

 "I think all happiness depends on the energy to assume the mask of some other life, on a re-birth as something not one's self."

The style or form of the poem is a more abreviated style and in dialogue form rather than strictly based on rhyme.

"The Green Helmet characteristically shows a tremendous advance in precision of imagery and syntax as well as an increased use of personal and contemporary themes. Yet along with the substitution of a hard, dry manner and lively, homely detail for the dreamy vagueness of the early poetry, the symbolism that he was evolving becomes more and more esoteric and obscure."

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