Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Ireland. Yeats’s version of the hoary tale must be set in Ireland, as its antagonists are part of the island’s rich mythical tapestry. The wandering musicians, reference to the “invisible king of the air,” and evocation of another old Irish tale add a patina to this product of the Irish Renaissance.

Woodland house

Woodland house. Roughly constructed timber building that is situated in a deep wood. No one’s home, it serves as a resting place, a meeting place, and a place of confrontation and execution. Yeats establishes clearly that the house is royal property firmly controlled by Conchobar’s men, who—dark both in complexion and mission—lurk in the shadows beyond the walls. The view from the windows allows glimpses of those who choose to approach and be seen, but deny any broader perspective, as does the lowering night. Yeats writes that the “landscape beyond suggests silence and loneliness,” and midway through the lighting of torches increases “the sense of solitude and loneliness.” The lovers who had roamed free like birds on the wing have set down and been “limed” as the old stories would have it: snared and placed at the mercy of the hunter. Naisi is specifically netted, “taken like a bird or a fish.” The symbolic nature of the house, and especially of the curtained space in the room’s center, is fully unveiled as Fergus declares upon seeing the dead queen, “What’s this but empty cage and tangled wire. . . .”