Cathleen ni Houlihan

Be a Good Irishman, and Fight: An Analysis of William Butler Yeats’s Play Cathleen Ni Houlihan 11th Grade

Literary composition was a fueling element in the Irish nationalist movement of the early twentieth century. William Butler Yeats undoubtedly placed himself as a leader in the Irish Literary Revival. While Yeats’s nationalism was not as drastic as some revolutionaries whom he was, perhaps unenthusiastically, acquainted with, he often incorporates a strong commitment to Ireland and her people. To elucidate the motives for Irish independence, Yeats relates the Irish cause to his innate values of love and sacrifice, which envelop a broader propriety. In his play Cathleen Ni Houlihan, Yeats contrasts mundane, materialistic life with the beauty, and the glory of martyrdom, specifically martyrdom for the cause of Irish independence. Yeats suggests that to cede one’s life to a greater cause requires independence and a firm belief in the “Old High Way of Love (Adam’s Curse).” Through his nationalist play, Yeats not only argues for Irish patriotism, but also for the patriotism to be fueled by romantic ideals.

Yeats portrays the motives behind Michael and Delia’s nuptials as materialistic and impure. In Michael's poor Irish family, Yeats shows a desperation for advancement in society. Since Yeats supports the Irish against the...

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