How does Cathleen ni Houlihan function as a symbol of romantic love between Michael and Delia?

Rather than being a symbol of romantic love, the title character in Cathleen ni Houlihan by W. B. Yeats is a symbol of loyalty to one's country and of Ireland itself. Michael sets aside his love and loyalty for Delia and follows Cathleen ni Houlihan, going off to fight for Irish independence. His love for his country has supplanted his love for Delia.

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In W. B. Yeats's play Cathleen ni Houlihan , the title character is indeed a symbol of a kind of love, but it is not really the romantic love between Michael and Delia. In fact, Cathleen ni Houlihan eventually separates the two lovers, as Michael abandons Delia for a larger...

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In W. B. Yeats's play Cathleen ni Houlihan, the title character is indeed a symbol of a kind of love, but it is not really the romantic love between Michael and Delia. In fact, Cathleen ni Houlihan eventually separates the two lovers, as Michael abandons Delia for a larger cause than romantic love: the cause of his country, of Irish independence.

On the day before Michael and Delia are to marry, an old woman shows up at Michael's family home. She is a mysterious woman, yet the family invites her inside (after first hiding Delia's dowry, just in case). Michael doesn't trust the woman, yet her speech suggests that she is a noble lady, and she appears to be influenced and guided by some kind of higher power.

The woman begins to tell stories of woe. She has been thrown out of her home and has had to wander far, for there are strangers now in her house, and they have taken over her land. As the woman begins to sing folk songs, Michael becomes more and more interested. The woman sings of many young men who have given their lives for her, who have battled for her freedom. Michael is inspired to do the same. The love he has for Delia is soon taking second place.

The woman then says that she is Cathleen ni Houlihan, the legendary Irish warrior, and Michael falls completely under her spell, for she symbolizes Ireland itself. Michael decides to march off to war for Irish independence along with a group of neighborhood young men. Nothing can dissuade him, not even Delia. The love and loyalty he once felt for her have been transferred to Cathleen ni Houlihan and to his country, and he is ready to die for the Irish cause.

By the end of the play, because of the willing sacrifice of the young men, Cathleen ni Houlihan has become a young woman who seems like a queen, filled with majesty and power. But Delia has lost her Michael.

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