Showing posts with label Irish Literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Irish Literature. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Yeats’s Views on History as Expressed in 'Gyre' and 'The Second Coming'

Yeats had a particular view about history and civilization. He believed that the process of history was a cyclic one. He compared it to the movement of rapidly rotating gyres or cones. The gyres spin swiftly round a fixed centre. Their circumference widens as they rotate and ultimately disintegration sets in. The disintegration begins at the circumference, and then gradually reaches the centre. Yeats’s this view of history was expressed in ‘’The Second Coming’’ and ‘’The Gyre’’.

The Second Coming expresses Yeats’ philosophy of history. He believed that the present cycle of history began two thousand year ago with the birth of Christ and the revelation. Previous to that there was the Grecio-Roman Civilisation, which in its turn began in 200 B.C. with the mating of god Zeus with Leda. Helen and Glytemestra were born as a result of this union and then followed the various events narrated in the Homeric epics. Hellenic civilisation broke down after a life of two thousand years ago. Christ came and a new civilisation was born out of the ruins  of the earlier one. Similarly, the Christian civilisation has nearly run its course of the two thousand years , and so believes Yeats, a Second coming is at hand. History repeats itself, though always with a difference. The present wheel of history has come full circle, and out of its ruin a new civilisation is taking shape. To us the birth of the new may appear as the doom of the old; its values may appear to us monstrous and terrifying, the very thought may be a nightmare to us but certain it is that a change is in the offing, and it is possible that the future is already being shaped in some remote, far off region.

All this and much more is condensed in this remarkable poem of twenty-five lines, and it is this condensation which makes it prophetic almost apocalyptic in its impact. The poem begins abruptly, as if the poet is seeing a vision and expressing it. As if in a trance, the poet sees a gyre or cone rotating rapidly round a fixed centre. Its circumference gradually widens and ultimately even the centre fails to controlits movements. Disintegration sets in; “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” The falconer has lost control over the falcon which does not hear his call. Falcon symbolises the intellect and falconer the soul or the spiritual and emotional part of man. Intellect-science, technology, rationalism- is too much with us, and it is taking us towards total destruction. As a result, mere anarchy has been let loose upon the world. There is bloodshed and violence every-where. “The blood-dimed tide,” carries  with it a suggestion of blind passion and evokes the image of the Great Biblical flood and the havoc which it caused. Everywhere the traditional and aristocratic way of life, a way which has always fostered purity and innocence, is in danger of extinction. The best, the wisest, the aristocratic have lost all faith and conviction, and the masses are fanatical, irrational and violent.

All this decadence and disorder implies that a new civilisation is about to be born. Just as God incarnated himself in the form of Christ when the Grecio-Roman civilisation broke down two thousands years ago, so also the Second Coming of the God seems to be at hand. A Second incarnation seems to be in the offing. As soon as this thought flashes across the poet’s mind he sees the image of some vast form coming out of Spiritual Mundi, a kind of storehouse of images in Yeats’ philosophy. This huge form has the body of a lion and the head of a man. It is seen coming out of some far desert and moving slowly with a clumsy, awkward movement towards Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, as if it, too would be born there. This figure is so monstrous, so nightmarish, that the birds fly before it in terror. The monster has a pitiless, blank look as if it were the symbol of the inexorable, pitiless violence, and its birth is the death of the present civilisation.

Another poem that  expresses Yeats’ philosophy of history is The Gyres.  The Gyres was published posthumously in the Last Poems and Plays(1936-39). Some of the best of these last poems are written out of his brooding over history and the cotemporary scene. The years from 1936 to 1939 were years of frustration, years of growing realization that another war was in the offing and war hysteria and the fear of air raids kept on mounting. The atmosphere was tense, and the worst was apprehended. In one poem after another, Yeats broods over the impeding crisis, and speaks with detachment and aloofness as if he were a voice outside Time. In the Gyres he foresees the end of civilization, for his philosophy of history as a cyclic process, as a revolution of Gyres, gives him hope and confidence. The Old Rocky Face, a sculptured stonehead, symbolizes the poet’s inner consciousness,’ stillness in the centre of Time’s flux, and the impassive gaze of the poet. The poet stands aloof like the Rocky face, likes up the present with three thousand years of history, and sees physical and moral downfall.

What matter though numb nightmare rides on top
And blood and mire the sensitive body stain

And further,

Conduct and work grow coarse and coarse the soul

But all this does not matter. The poet does not despair: he does not give way to pessimism. Rooted in his philosophy of the cyclic process of history, and revolutions of the ears, the poet is sure that what has been, must be once again, and the old values he loves are sure to revive, for,

The workman, noble and saint, and all things run,
On the unfashionable gyre again.

In his earlier poetry he had escaped from the present into a fairyland; now his philosophy itself becomes a sort of fairyland providing him with an escape from the frustrations of the present.

Thus, these two poems namely The Second Coming and The Gyres express Yeats’ philosophy of history.

W.B. Yeats’s Poems Demonstrate a Tension between the Permanent and the Mutable

W. B. Yeats envisions a paradise of intellectual everlastings and underlying youth in the symbol of Byzantium

W.B. Yeats, like John Keats, views art superior to life.To him spiritual life is true life and the world of art contrasts the mundane world. The spirit is immortal and art too is regarded by Yeats as timeless and eternal. This view of art and life was developed by Yeats in his two Byzantium poems namely The Sailing to Byzantium and Byzantium. The first poem is a picture of a voyage from the material world to the holy city of eternity. The second is a vision of the city from the inside where the soul is depicted first as a walking mummy and then as the emperor’s golden bird “whose glory of changeless metal” is contrasted with the “complexities of mire and blood.” In the second poem, Byzantium is a place of cleansing flames.  

 Byzantium, now called Constantinpole or Istambul, was the capital of Eastern wing of the Holy Roman Empire. It was noted for is art, specially mosaic work, and gold enam welling. However, in the poem, it is no real city but a country of the niwol outside time and Nature, a utopia, a retreat from the process of ageing and decaying. It is a symbol, “of the world of intellect and the spirit.”

The first poem in the Byzantium series is The Sailing to Byzantium. It is a highly symbolic poem. Byzantium represents the world of intellect, spirit and art. An old man cannot be happy or at peace in the world of the senses. He should therefore withdraw to an ideal world where he can be happy in the midst of “monuments of unageing intellect” and where his soul will be transformed into a golden bird singing upon a golden bough to the lords and ladies of Byzantium. On that golden bough the old man will himself become one of those monuments which he has so admired.

The poet realizes that an old man is a contemptible figure, a mere “taterred coat upon stick,” unless he devotes himself to the study and enjoyment of art. The older he grows, the greater should be his devotion to art. Appreciation and understanding of art can be achieved only by studying magnificent and immortal works of art. Since Byzantium is the traditional home of art, the poet has decided to devote himself to the study of its rich treasures.

Therefore, the poet sails for Byzantium and as soon as he reaches there, he prays, not to God, but to God’s saints to come down from heaven and teach him the appreciation of art. The sages are great artists of Byzantium who created in the pas “monuments of unageing intellect,”. He visualizes them standing in God’s “holy fire,” like figures in mosaic work, standing against a background of pure gold. The fire is a symbol of purification, and it does them no harm for they are supernatural. The poet invokes them to come down with a rapid spiral-movement and to teach him how to enjoy the beauty of art.

 Sailing to Byzatium reflects the poet’s interest in Byzantine art and culture. Byzantium in this poem becomes a symbol of a perfect world. Rejecting this world of birth, reproduction, and death, Yeats makes up his mind to sail to Byzantium where he thinks, he can defeat Time because he will go to the world of art and because art is timeless. Thus sailing to Byzantium meant for him making a voyage to a world vastly different from this world of materialistic and sensual interests.  To sail to Byzantium means to enter the realm of art. This realm, apart from giving him pleasure, is eternal.

Another poem in this series is Byzantium. It was written as a sequel to Sailing to Byzantium after an interval of three years. Yeats said that he wrote the second poem in order to throw light on the first one and make it explicable. But in the poem Byzantium is no reality, but “a country of the mind,” transcendental place outside time and space. It is beyond the world.

As in the earlier poem, the first stanza of Byzantium is concerned with the flesh-and-blood world that is being left behind, the world of “unpurged images” .After that opening stanza, the miraculous golden bird, the purgatorial flames, even the spirits crossing the sea, are all recalled, but in reverse order to their appearance in the earlier poem, for both the setting and the point of view have here changed completely. “Sailing to Byzantium” represents the voyage and is written from the point of view of the uninitiated outsider who leaves the material world for the immaterial. Byzantium, on the other hand, is written from the point of view of the initiated individual who watches the uninitiated, unpurged spirits arriving from beyond the “gong-tormented sea” which separates Byzantium’s reality from the flesh and blood reality of the twentieth century world.

Byzantium is for Yeats, so to speak, the heaven of man’s mind; there the mind or soul dwells in eternal or miraculous for; there all things are possible because all things are known to the soul. Byzantium had both a historical and an ideal form, and the historical is the exemplar, the dramatic witness, of the ideal. Byzantium represents both a dated epoch and a recurrent state of insight, when Nature is magical, that is, at the back of mind, and magic is natural- a practical rather than a theoretic art.

Thus, the Byzantium poems give a picture of the transcendent world of art, which timeless and eternal. These two poems may also be regarded as incorporating a, neo-Platonic vision of life after death. But they also celebrate the work of art as opposed to the work of nature. However they both deal with the last things. The Yeatsian aesthetic resolves into a final metaphor that reconciles all metaphors: “I hail the super-human;/ I call it death-in –life and life-in-death.” In this way, the dialogue of self and soul, and of art and life, both reach a conclusion.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Elements of Classical Tragedy and Modern Theathre in 'Riders to the Sea' by John Millington Synge

'Riders to the Sea'  by John Millington Synge combines both modern and classical elements in it. The play is modern in that it deals with the sorrows and predicaments of a common human being and it is classical in that it maintains the classical principles of drama as laid down in Aristotle’s Poetic. Simply we can say that Riders to the Sea is a modern tragedy in classical settings and with classical overtones. A brief discussion on how both modern and classical elements are blended in Riders to the Sea is presented below.

Unlike Greek tragedies, Riders to the Sea deals with the sufferings of a common human being named Maurya who is the head of an Irish peasant-cum fisherman family. While Greek tragedies dealt with the sufferings of high-born people, modern tragedies deal with the sufferings of common people. And while Greek tragedies tell the stories of kings and princes or people of kingly status, which do not resemble the sufferings of the whole mass of people of that country, a modern tragedy tells the story of a common man whose sorrows, sufferings and predicaments are not individual, rather resemble the sorrows and sufferings of the whole mass of people of the protagonist’s class in his/ her own country as well as in other countries. Therefore the story of a modern tragedy is general and universal but the story of a Greek tragedy remains the story of a particular man or a particular family; it is not general or universal. Hence the story of Oedipus Rex is the tragic story of a particular king of a particular country, but the story of Riders to the Sea is the story of all families living in the Aran islands. It is also the story of those families in other countries where people are helpless like Maurya in the hands of nature. In Riders to the Sea, the tragic intensity of the life of Maurya, who falls a victim to her ill-luck losing all the male members of the family in the sea is also shared by other women of Aran Islands. Therefore, Maurya is not an individual woman here; she is every woman of her community. Wretched and helpless women like Maurya are also found in other contexts in other countries. Thus the play ceases to be regional and becomes global in significance, which is the chief characteristic of a perfect modern tragedy.

Riders to the Sea is a modern play from another important point of view. The stage and props management and the directions provided by the dramatist at different stages in the play are characteristic of a good modern play. Plays until 19th century were highly narrative. The stories of such plays were developed mainly through the speeches of characters. In ancient plays, even in Shakespearean plays, stage-settings or props-management were not much important, having no role at all to develop the story. Only characters were important in these plays: they would move and speak and thus develop the story. But the story of a modern play is communicated to the audience not only through the speeches of characters but also through different symbols and images. In fact everything that is kept on the stage has the role of a character to develop the story of a modern play. In Riders to the Sea we come across different symbols and images which like characters help the story move forward. For example, the different images that we find when the play opens clearly tell us that Maurya’s is a peasant cum fisherman family. At different other stages of the play we come across such symbols and images that contribute to the right mood of the story.

Maurya’s puppet like helplessness in the hands of nature and her inescapable sufferings show the play dealing with the triviality and insignificance of human existence on earth, which has been an important theme of modern and post-modern plays. Whenever a son of Maurya’s is in the sea, she remains awake all night praying for his safety and seeking God’s grace to save her son, but every time Maurya is betrayed in her prayer and expectation. The indifference of nature to Maurya’s prayer and hopes as well as her sufferings makes her existence on earth completely meaningless. At the end of the play, Maurya , defeated in the war of life, accepts an stoical surrender to fate: “No man at all can be living forever”.

Despite being a modern play, Riders to the Sea contains a number of classical elements. The play deals with some basic and fundament points of classical tragedies. Firstly, the play very strictly maintains the three unities of time, place and action. Only what happen in one day are shown on the stage and the events that occurred earlier are reported on the stage—which is a basic requirement of ancient plays. The play opens and ends in the same place and events that occur or are done in distance are off-staged, and the play holds the thread of a single plot very consistently—which are also the basic requirements of ancient plays.

Secondly, Riders to the Sea deals with the classical concept of tragic conflict. Ancient critics and dramatists believed in fatalism for human sufferings. They held that people suffer not for their own faults and actions but for their fate. According to the concept of fatalism, everything is predestined and man’s efforts of changing or preventing it do not succeed. Man is totally helpless in the hands of fate. In Riders to the Sea, all male members of Maurya’s family get drowned in the sea one by one but none of them is responsible for their death. The death of the male members causes untold sufferings for Maurya and her two daughters, but neither Maurya and her daughters are responsible for their sad fate nor could they prevent their sufferings in any way.

Considering the aspects discussed above, it can be said that the play Riders to the Sea is a modern tragedy in classical form. It is modern in its theme, characterization and in the way it communicates the story to the audience and classical in its form and concept of tragic conflict. The blending of modern and classical elements in this play has made it a unique drama in the history of world literature.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Use of Irony in Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World

At the highest intellectual level, we have the use of irony in writing a literary work .This may be inherent in the language, where we find the incongruous linking of holy terms with unholy actions: “Marcus Quin, God rest him, got six months for maiming ewes and he a great warrant to tell stories of holy terms with unholy actions: “ Marcus Quin, God rest him, got six months for maiming ewes and he a great warrant to tell stories of holy Ireland” (p.17); or, again: “Pegeen; Is it killed your father?Playboy: With the help of God I did surely ad that the Holy Immaulate Mother may intercede for his soul.”

More generally, the Catholic Church comes in for some hard knocks, whether through the absurd strictness and narrow orthodoxy of Father Reilly, or through the apparent failures of the faithful to understand his teaching. The most contemptible character in the play, Shawn Keogh, is also , outwardly at least, the most pious; whereas the more spirited Pegeen and widow Quin are prepared to question, even to mock, ecclesiastical authority. “ Stop tormenting me with Father Reilly” (p.17), says Pegeen to Shawn or, again, “Go on, then, to Father Reilly and let him put you in the holy brotherhoods” (p.27). The Widow Quin shows her independence from the spiritual adviser more sarcastically: “It isn’t fitting, says the priesteen” (p.32). The abundant use of holy names has already been commented on. Sara Tanse’s misconception of the function of confession went deeper: “When you’d be ashamed this place, going up winter and summer with nothing worth while to confess at all”.

The attitude to excessive drinking is not spared. Old Mahon’s descriptions of his own excesses are presented as an exploit (p.62) while Michael James’s idea of good wake is one where “there were five men, aye, and six men stretched out retching speechless on the holy stones.”(p.66)

Finally the double-think of the people’s reaction to the law and its apparatus is constantly evoked: “the peelers is….decent, droughty poor fellows” (p.26); “the juries……selling judgments of the English law”(p.41). Law-breaking is often a feat to be admired, respect for the authorities a matter of expediency, rather than of principle.

It should not be concluded that The Playboy is a satire on Irish moral life; but the range of comedy has something for all tastes, from broad farce to skilful irony. Very often the different levels of comedy meet and mingle to the delight of all.

The Irish audiences of the time were not largely mistaken in thinking that The Playboy of the Western World was an attack on the Irish character. They were wrong only in reaching violently to the attack. Synge in this play made fun of certain aspects of the Irish character and the Irish mentality of his day. Such criticism of a nation is often made by authors in their literary works. Satire and irony are freely employed by authors to attack living individuals and whole communities or groups of people. Dryden and Swift are outstanding examples of authors who made use of the weapons of irony and satire to attack their cotemporaries and even the nation to which they belonged. Synge was therefore exercising his right as an author to expose some of the absurdities, faults, and weakness of his countrymen. (He himself was an Irishman). The Irish audiences should have viewed The Playboy with tolerance and good humor. It is noteworthy that Synge’s criticism of the Irish people in this play is very subtle, but the Irish audiences were quick to perceive the criticism which was largely implied and covert and only occasionally open or overt.

An Attack on the Conventional Father-Daughter Relationship

The Playboy attacks some of the accepted values of the settled life of the Irish people of that time. It ridicules certain aspects of Irish domestic life, Irish social life, ad Irish religious life. It is first of all an attack on the conventional kind of relationship existing to submit to the authority of their parents, especially their father, unquestioningly. Now, Synge seems to challenge this aspect of the domestic life of his time. In the very beginning, we find Pegeen complaining that her father is bent upon going to attend a wake and leaving her alone in the shebeen for the night. Pegeen feels that it is not right for her father to leave her alone during the night when he is well aware that there are certain rowdy elements in that region and when she apprehends trouble from itinerant tinkers and cu-throat fellows in khaki. She also complains that her father has not provided her with a pot—boy to help her in her duties in the shebeen and also to stand by her when there is some trouble from any intruders. Her father, however, takes the matter very lightly. He tells her that a pot-boy is hard to find and that he is not going to make a proclamation through a town-crier of Castlebar that he needs a pot-boy. As for her feeling of insecurity, the utmost that he is willing to do for her is to suggest to Shawn that he should spend the night in the shebeen, a suggestion which gives rise to a lot of comedy in Act I. When her father says that she is a “queer” daughter to expect him to come back home during the night after he has taken liquor, she replies that he is a “queer” father to be leaving her alone for the twelve hours of the night. Thus there is a clash between father and daughter, though the clash is a very mild one because of the fact that Michael is a jovial and happy-go-lucky kind of man.

An attack on the customs of arranged Marriage

Then Synge seems to be attacking ironically of course, the custom of arranged marriages in Ireland of the time. Pegeen is engaged to be married to Shawn, but it is obvious that the engagement has been taken place not because she fell in love with him, but because her father found Shawn to be a man of substance and because Shawn had promised to give him a herd of bullocks. Subsequently, when Pegeen falls in love with Christy and tells her father that she has made up her mind to marry that young fellow and not Shawn, her father becomes furious and says that she is “a heathen daughter” to give him such a shock especially when he is already feeling overwhelmed by the excessive liquor that he had consumed at the wake. It is only because Shawn refuses to feel jealous of Christy and because he proves himself a thorough coward by refusing to fight Christy that Michael feels compelled to give his consent to Pegeen’s marrying Christy. It is another matter that events take a different turn, and Peggen is unable to marry Christy.
The Unsatisfactory relationship between Christy and his Father

The comic exposure of this, unsatisfactory relationship between fathers and their children is even more marked in the case of Christy and his father. In the course of his account of his life in the native village, while talking to Pegeen, Christy tells her that his father used to ill-treat him and used to force him to work too hard, that his father was a heavy drunkard who would drink for weeks together and throw stones at the stars, that all Christy’s brothers and sisters used to curse their father who was in the habit of constantly swearing like a military man, and that the old man was often locked  up in jail or in a lunatic asylum. Later, Old Mahon has a good deal to say against Christy, accusing the young man of being a good-for-nothing, worthless fellow who did no work but was a “lier on walls” and a “talker of folly”. In the course of a dispute, Christy had hit his father with a spade and the blow seemed to have killed the old man. Later we find that the old man had not died ad that he has now come in search of his son in order to “destroy” him for the attack which he had made upon his old father. Thus the relations between father and son have been extremely unpleasant, and both are full of grievances against each other. It is only at the end that the two become reconciled.

An Unsuitable Wife Proposed for Christy by his Father  

In the case of Christy also, Synge exposes in a comic means the undesirability of an arranged marriage. In Act II Christy tells the village girls and Widow Quin that his father wanted him to marry Widow Casey, a woman of forty-five, bulky, lame, blind of one eye, a woman of loose morals, “a walking terror from beyond the hills.” Christy adds that this woman had suckled him for six weeks when he was born, “and she a hag this day with a tongue on her has the crows and sea-birds scattered.” Christy’s account is very amusing and is part of the comedy of the play, but it also brings home to us the point that Old Mahon was acting in a most arbitrary manner in asking his son to get married to Widow Casey. Christy also tells his listeners that his father had certain selfish motives in wanting him to marry that particular woman. It was Christy’s refusal to marry her that had preoccupied the quarrel between him and his father ad had led Christy to attack the old man who had tried to hit him first with a scythe.

An Attack on the Irish People’s Sheltering a Murderer

Then the pay contains also an oblique attack on the Irish people for their strange attitude towards a parricide. The glorification of Christy by Michael, Pegeen, and the others seems to us to be most irrational. Synge has told us that the story of this play was based o an actual incident pertaining to some people in one of the Aran Islands giving shelter to a criminal. Now, it is possible for us to interpret the glorification of Christy by the people of Mayo have been as a satire on the mentality of those people. The people of Mayo have been leading a life of monotony and boredom. Besides, they seem to be very tolerant of violence and even brutality as is clear from Pegeen’s praise for a fellow who had “knocked the eye” from a police constable and for a fellow who used to maim ewes. To us, it seems both objectionable and ridiculous that a man should be praised for his capacity to inflit an injury on a policeman or to cripple dumb animals. Therefore when Christy receives plenty of praise from Philly ad Jimmy and afterwards from the village girls, Widow Quin, etc., just because he had killed his father with a single blow of the spade, we are both amused and disturbed. The attitude of the people of Mayo towards Christy’s murder of his father is by no means commendable. The author is obviously poking fun at all these people including Pegeen who is found praising Christy to the skies, “a man fit to be holding his head high with the wonders of the world.” It is another matter that, in Act III, when Christy once again “murders” his father, this time in the presence of the people, they react differently to his action, turning hostile to him and tying him up in order to hand him over o the police. But even this change in their attitude seems to be a satirical comment on their inconsistency. Pegeen’s remark that there is “a big gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed” is hardly a rational explanation of this change.

A Satirical Attack on religious Narrow-mindedness

The Playboy contains also a subtle attack on religious narrow-mindedness ad on false piety. Shawn is so “virtuous” and “pious” that he refuses to spend a night alone with an unmarried girl in a shebeen even to protect her. He may thus appear to be a model rectitude. But this over-scrupulous attitude makes him appear absurd, and the audience would no doubt roar with laughter at his refusal to spend the night with Pegeen because of the objections that Father Reilly might afterwards raise. The comedy of this situation is heightened by Shawn’s managing to slip away from Michael’s hold and running out of the Shebeen, leaving his coat in the hands of Michael. Shawn’s behavior at this time is most funny and Michael makes us laugh still more when he points out to Pegeen the absurdity of Shawn by assuring her that, when she is married to that fellow, she would not have to keep a watch on his conduct even if he spends a lot of his time in the company of young girls. What Michael means is that Shawn is the kind of man who will never prove unfaithful to his wife. Indeed, Shawn’s subservience to Father Reilly is made to appear extremely preposterous and highly comic. About a dozen times Shawn names the priest, invoking his authority and exhibiting his reverence for the Church. All this devotion on the part of Shawn to the priest, and his compliance with the priest’s moral injunctions, are made to appear comic and contemptible. In this way Synge makes fun of excessive religiosity and exaggerated piety.

A Satire on Excessive Drinking

Synge seems also to be attacking, again in a comic manner, the evil of excessive drinking. We have a number of heavy drunkards in the play. They are Michael James, Philly, James, and Old Mahon. The chief reason why Michael and his friends are keen to attend the wake is that plenty of free liquor flows there. Next morning Jimmy and Philly, who are already semi-drunk, are seen searching for some liquor in the cupboards of the shebeen, and Michael comes home singing in a state of intoxication. Towards the end, when Jimmy and Philly feel afraid of handling Christy, Shawn scolds them for their feeling nervous in going near Christy. On this occasion, he again invokes the authority of Father Reilly, so that his remark becomes comic even though it has much sense in it. Says he: “Isn’t it true for Father Reilly that all drink’s a curse that has the lot of you so shaky and uncertain now?” This remark has considerable truth in it, because excessive drinking certainly makes a man shaky and uncertain. Then there is Old Mahon about whom Christy says that he used to drink for weeks and then, getting up at dawn, used to go out into the yard “as naked as an ash-tree in the moon of May,” in order to throw clods at the stars in the sky. Old Mahon himself tells Widow Quin that on one occasion he drank so much in the company of the Limerick girls that he had almost become a paralic. Both Christy’s account of his father’s drunkenness and Old Mahon’s own account of this drunkenness are a satire on the evil of drinking.

A Satirical Attack on the attitude to English Policemen    

Synge also seems to be making fun of the attitude of the Irish people towards the English policemen who were in charge of law and order in Ireland of the time to which this time pertains. Pegeen describes the “peelers” or the police constables in very contemptuous terms, and so does Michael. Speaking to Christy, Michael says that the peelers in this place are decent, thirsty, poor fellows who would not touch even “a cur dog,” much less arrest a dangerous murderer like Christy. May be, Synge shared this attitude of contempt towards the English policemen who were regarded as aliens and foreigners by the Irish and to whom the people at large were bitterly hostile.

Widow Quin’s Murder of Her Husband

Finally, there are satirical touches in the portrayal of Widow Quin who is believed to have murdered her husband and who, on several occasions, admits that she had “destroyed” her man and buried her children. Now this insistence on Widow Quin’s criminal action might have some purpose behind it. Widow Quin herself shows no sense of guilt at all. In fact, she refers unashamedly to her action in having killed her husband. The village girls are also quite tolerant towards her. It is only Pegeen who condemns her but perhaps even Pegeen does so because Widow Quin has become her rival for Christy’s affections. Perhaps Synge seems to imply that Widow Quin’s action in attacking her husband was not, after all, very reprehensible because the fault might have been that of the husband. Under certain circumstances, if a woman hits her husband, she may be justified. There is nothing to show that Widow Quin’s intention in hitting her man was to murder him.