Hanrahan is the peasant "everyman" created by the speaker. He is lame, unable to work, and fatally addicted to drink. These characteristics were typical of Irish peasants at the time that Yeats wrote this collection, although the lameness was more often metaphysical, in the face of British oppression.
Theophilus once ruled the Byzantine Empire. He was famous for having mechanical birds fashioned out of metal, which sang to his courtesans.
Plato was a Greek philosopher who believed that everything has an ideal form. Each man (or chair) is merely an expression of the perfect man (or chair).
Plotinus was a student of Plato's, who was influential in spreading the latter's teachings.
Mrs. French is a wealthy Irishwoman, a member of the Protestant Ascendancy (French is patently not a Catholic name). Her manservant cut off the ears of a farmer, thinking it would please her.
Edmund Burke was a famous liberal who tried desperately to solve the "Irish Question" by advocating for some measure of self-rule for the Irish in the British Parliament. He was unsuccessful in doing so.
Henry Grattan was a famous figure in the effort for Irish emancipation. He served in the Irish House of Commons in the late 18th century. Called "Grattan's Parliament," it was Ireland's last Home Rule until independence.
A major Roman goddess, called Hera by the Greeks, Juno was the queen of all the gods.
Geoffrey Chaucer was a poet who lived in 14th-century England. He was most popular for his bawdy Canterbury Tales.
A member of the IRA.
Jacques de Molay
Leader of the Knights Templar in 14th-century France. He was buried at the stake as part of the Inquisition.
Phidias was an ancient Greek sculptor whose works are considered among the best Classical sculptures.
Loie Fuller was an American based in Paris during the 20th century. She invented many modern dance forms and patented stage lighting techniques.
Sato is the most common Japanese last name. "Sato's house" is used by Yeats to describe Japan.
A fat knight that appears as a comic character in several of Shakespeare's plays. He is Prince Hal's sidekick.
Herodias was a real Jewish queen. In the gospels, she uses her daughter Salome's dance as leverage to ask for the head of John the Baptist.
Lady Alice Kyteler was accused in the 14th century of the murder of her husbands and of having sex with demons. She fled from Ireland to England.
Robert Artisson is said to be the name of one of the demons Lady Kyteler had sex with.
Michael is the name of the speaker's infant son in "A Prayer for My Son."
Dionysus (also known as Bacchus) was the Roman god of wine and merriment.
John Locke was a Scottish Enlightenment thinker who advocated for democracy.
Leda was a Spartan queen who was the mother of Helen of Troy, who precipitated the Trojan War. In mythology, Leda is raped by Zeus in the guise of a swan.
Agamemnon was the Greek hero who launched the attack on Troy. He was in love with Helen of Troy.
Dulac was a French illustrator who was a contemporary of Yeats'.
Owen Aherne was a member of the same theosophical circle that Yeats belonged to. He also appears as a character in Yeats' The Vision, which deals more directly with theosophy.
Hector was the Trojan prince who led the defense against Agamemnon during the Trojan War. He was reluctant to fight at all.
Madge is a friend whom the poet watches go mad in her old age. She wraps a rock up in a cloak and sings to it as if it were a child.
Peter is an old friend of the poet's whom he watches go mad. He stands on a stone and crows like a peacock.
Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Tower Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Poems of W.B. Yeats: The Tower is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The speaker only has a few lines to convey that core emotions like lust and rage need not be pejorative. The speaker still wants passion in his life. He wants to feel flashes of youth that still lay within his spirit.
The poem traces the speaker’s movement from youth to age, and the corresponding geographical move from Ireland, a country just being born as Yeats wrote, to Byzantium. Yeats felt that he no longer belonged in Ireland, as the young or the young in...