Cathleen ni Houlihan Background

Cathleen ni Houlihan Background

Cathleen Ni Houlihan, written collaboratively by W.B Yeats and Lady Gregory in 1901, is play centred around the 1798 Irish Rebellion. In the early twentieth century, Ireland in is turmoil. The Irish are still under colonial rule, and their desire for an independent Irish state is causing an increasingly turbulent state.

Besides this political movement, a parallel cultural movement is also gaining serious momentum. The Irish Literary Revival was the artists way of creating a cohesive National consciousness, in order to reignite a proud Irish identity and leave the colonial stereotypes that had been used oppressively by England. The tropes of the “Stage-Irishmen,” which portrayed a Irish men as cowardly drunkards, or the comparison of Ireland to a soft docile woman were loathsome depictions that the revivalists targeted as needing revamping. Instead of getting rid of the stereotypes, they took them, and reinterpreted their images. The drunk became an artist or young soldier, while the woman became a motherlike figure.

The play is one of the most well-known patriotic plays of the time. It is mostly remembered for its personification of Ireland as an old frail woman who has had her “four green fields,” usurped, as she lures a young man into sacrificing himself in order to retrieve them. This idea of young irishmen sacrificing their lives for the motherland becomes an important inspiration for the later Easter Risings of 1916. Lady Gregory’s authorship was long overshadowed by Yeats, but her contribution has since come to light. It is believed that she penned most of the play’s lines, while Yeats focused on the otherworldly lines of Cathleen Ni Houlihan herself. Gregory did not try to take claim for the play, even when Yeats took full ownership of the play’s influence when he would later write “Did that play of mine send out/ Certain men the English shot?”.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.