Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 448
Grania is a coming-of-age play. It concerns Grania’s passage from romantic adolescence to an adult awareness that men and women have different values and love differently. Though the play includes a fully developed characterization of the aging Finn and portrays his relationship with Diarmuid in depth, it is Grania’s play. Grania drives the plot forward; she chooses Finn; she refuses to marry him and decides to leave Almhuin; she braves seven years in the wilderness with Diarmuid’s indifference. She faces up to the king of Foreign, and she proudly consents to intercourse when Diarmuid is moved by jealousy to take her. It is Grania who names her truth in a climactic confrontation scene with Finn and who makes the final decision to return to Almhuin. The crown which was too heavy for her in act 1 becomes her own by the end of act 3, when she places it on her own head, speaks the play’s last lines, and strides into a future she has determined for herself.
Grania is also a play about love and jealousy. In the first scene Grania is not sure what love is, but she has asked “the old people,” and they say it is “a white blast of delight and a grey blast of discontent and a third blast of jealousy that is red.” The play proves the old people right as love, discontent, and jealousy weave in and out of the characters’ lives. The love that triumphs is that between male comrades. In Diarmuid’s death scene Finn declares, “you are my son and my darling, and it is beyond the power of any woman to put us asunder.” He and Diarmuid are reunited in heroic comradeship while Grania is excluded, and in her anguish she realizes that both men “had no love for me at any time.” Love resurfaces in the last scene as Finn says to Grania, “it was the cruelty and the malice of love made its sport with us,” and “it is certain I can never feel love or hatred for any other woman from this [moment] out, or you yourself for any other man.”
Then Grania steps forward beyond love into a life of her own choosing, “no way daunted or afraid.” Lady Gregory creates a universe in which love is both an unholy grail and a source of purification, a universe in which the heroine comes of age as she gains the vision to see beyond her dreams of love. Grania’s coming-of-age is a loss of innocence in the classical sense, but Lady Gregory leaves the director, the actors, and the audience to conclude whether the final movements are transcendent or bitter.