William Butler Yeats Drama Analysis
William Butler Yeats’s reputation justly rests on his achievements in poetry, yet a considerable portion of that work is written for two or more voices and, therefore, is dramatic. Indeed, his first literary compositions were long dramatic poems, and throughout his life, he continued to publish his plays and poems side by side. Yeats believed that the language of poetry best represented imaginative reality, the life of the soul, or the introspective or subjective consciousness, as opposed to the spirit of science, the modern, extroverted age, the objective consciousness that draws its identity from external circumstances and that finds its appropriate expression in dramatic realism. Therefore, throughout a career as a dramatist consisting of four distinct phases, Yeats’s sympathies remained mystical, Symbolist, and removed from the mainstream of popular drama. Nevertheless, he is one of the genuinely original dramatists of the twentieth century, with influences on verse drama and the work of Samuel Beckett.
The Countess Cathleen
When Yeats joined talents and ambitions with Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn to form the Irish Literary Theatre in 1899, his first contributions to the venture were The Countess Cathleen and Cathleen ni Houlihan. The former is a rather static verse drama in which a heroic native aristocrat sells her soul to merchant-demons in order to save the starving peasants. The play aroused controversy...
(The entire section is 1532 words.)
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