Cathleen ni Houlihan

The Prosopopoeia of Ireland as a Woman: A Double-Edged Sword for Irish Nationalism College

The Irish Literary Revival has been about promoting a National consciousness, leaving the recurring English stereotypes of Ireland behind, and striving for new beginnings with a free Irish State. Ireland had oftentimes been subjected to two tropes. The first was the loathsome “Stage-Irishman”, depicted as a cowardly drunk, and the second was the soft passive woman. Ireland, historically attributed to this feminine image was prevalent due to its celtic mythology, occult past and goddess symbolism. The revivalists took these images and reinvented them to suit a budding Nation in need to rediscover its identity after centuries of colonialism. These figures transformed the coward Irishman into a young soldier or artist, ready to fight for its country, and the weak female into a powerful mother figure reminiscent of old Irish traditions, personifying Ireland as a Motherland. Cathleen Ni Houlihan, the most well-known play with patriotic themes of the Literary Revival, was written by W.B Yeats and Lady Gregory. They promoted an embodiment of Ireland, as a frail woman after having her “four green fields” usurped, and luring a young man into sacrificing his life to retrieve them for her.

This was later an important inspiration of the...

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