William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was an instrumental figure in the "Irish Literary Revival" of the 20th Century that redefined Irish writing. It can be difficult to characterize Yeats. He was a complicated man whose work reflected the internal struggle he felt between art and life. In 1899 Yeats helped found the Irish National Theatre Society, which later became the famous Abbey Theatre of Dublin. "On Baile's Strand" was first performed here in 1904, as part of one of the inaugural productions. The short play is the earliest of five that Yeats wrote about the legendary Irish hero Cuchulain, a tale that dates from the ninth or tenth century. Cuchulain is being threatened by the Scottish warrior queen Aoife, who has sent her son to kill the hero. Cuchulain has sworn allegiance to King Conchubar, who orders the soldier to fight the Scottish foe. This short but deeply moving drama ends tragically, making it one of the saddest works in Irish literature.
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Published October 19, 2011
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