This play by Yeats is closely linked to his love of his Irish homeland and the various myths and legends that circulate there concerning faeries and a kind of faeryland where humans were tempted to enter. Interestingly, this was the first of the plays of Yeats to be performed publicly, and it ran in London for about six weeks.
The play concerns itself with the key themes of hopes and dreams and age. Shawn and Maire Bruin are a couple who have recently married. They live in a cottage with Shawn's parents. A faery child enters their life, and is initially welcomed with opened arms by the Bruin household. However, it is clear that there is something suspicious about this child as she stands against Christianity and denounces God. In particular, her function seems to be to focus on how brief life is for humans to try and lure Maire into the faery world where she will know no death and suffering:
Where beauty has no ebb, decay no flood,
But joy is wisdom, Time an endless song.
I kiss you and the world begins to fade.
Although Shawn does his best to try and convince Maire to stay with him, the faery child does kiss her and she dies in Shawn's arms as she is seduced by the thought of life in the faery world and free from human responsibility. Themes of growing old and escape from the burdens of life are therefore key in this play that uses so much of the traditional tales of Irish mythology.