Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Lavarcham’s house

Lavarcham’s house (LOWR-chamz). Located on Slieve Fuadh, this is Deirdre’s home, where Lavarcham, her nurse, raised her. Deirdre’s beauty, happiness, and carefree lifestyle are mirrored in the admiration that she has of the wonders of nature; she is to remain here until her marriage to King Conchubor.

*Emain Macha

*Emain Macha (AE-min ma-HA). Ancient capital of Ulster, where pre-Christian kings of Ireland are thought to have been crowned; presently the seat of the primate of the archbishop of Ireland and now known as Navan Fort, west of Armagh. Emain Macha is mentioned frequently in the play and is the place where King Conchubor insists upon taking Deirdre to be married to him. This place symbolizes everything that is foreign to her: a wealthy life, an older husband, and an unhappy future. When Deirdre and Naisi, her beloved, decide to meet with the king, it is with the full knowledge of their impending doom. In the process, Emain Macha is destroyed.


*Alban. Deirdre and Naisi spend a blissful seven years here, in what is now Scotland. This temporary home signifies the short-lived love and happiness that Deirdre and Naisi share.


Grave. Located just below Emain Macha, this place is an image representing the mortality of humankind and the permanence of death. Deirdre kills herself just before falling into this grave, where Naisi and his brothers have already been buried.

Deirdre of the Sorrows Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Kopper, Edward A., Jr., ed. A J. M. Synge Literary Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1988. A valuable collection of sixteen chapters by leading scholars, covering all aspects of Synge’s life and work. Excellent introduction to the critical literature. Good bibliographies.

Price, Alan. Synge and Anglo-Irish Drama. London: Methuen, 1961. Extensive discussion of this play as a transformation of Irish legend and as the embodiment of Synge’s persistent themes. Contrasts the play favorably with those of Synge’s contemporaries, calling it “perhaps the finest thing Synge ever wrote.”

Saddlemyer, Ann. “Deirdre of the Sorrows: Literature First. . . . Drama Afterwards.” In J. M. Synge: Centenary Papers 1971. Edited by Maurice Harmon. Dublin: Dolmen, 1972. Focuses on Synge’s blend of myth and characterization within his theory of art and drama. Traces the roots of this play to Synge’s interest in music, Jean Racine, and life on the Aran Islands.

Synge, J. M. J. M. Synge: Collected Works. Vol. 2, edited by Alan Price. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968. Scholarly edition, providing the biographical context of Synge’s last two years, when this play was being written. Contains a transcription of his worksheets, draft manuscripts, and related notebook entries.

Thornton, Weldon. J. M. Synge and the Western Mind. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1979. Argues that the play is resistant to heroic stereotypes of Celtic myth and presents Deirdre and Naisi as motivated by common needs and fears. Thus, the play is more psychologically complex than the mythic plays of his contemporaries.