Aylık arşivler: Eylül 2010

David Herbert LAWRENCE: A Hippy Writer

              <Written and prepared by Elinore Jackson, a student in the ‘Master’ program of the Salve Regina College (Now University), Newport, R.I., and, her Professor of Psychology and supervisor: Prof.Dr. Ismail Ersevim, as a thesis, required for her graduation, in 1969 -USA>

                                                David Herbert LAWRENCE
                                                           < A ‘Hippy’ Writer >

                                                                    CHAPTER  I

                          If David Herbert Lawrence was still living today, he would be classified as a “hippy”, who was not only a believer in free love, but also a condemner of both Democracy and Christianity. To him, free love was the root of individualism and society as a whole was the root killer. Lawrence denounced all political systems and most religions, because they represented a community, and a community of any kind prevents the development of strong individuals. Under the political power of Democrasy, Communism and Socialism, and, under the religious strain of Christianity, man has a tendency to move towards nothingness. Thus, to Lawrence, “… Life, in the modern world was meaningless…”

                          Lawrence based his anti-intellectual philosophy around FREUD’s “Psychoanalytic” theory which states states that the sex drive is central to all behavior. <Note: It is not known, however, how early in life Lawrence was exposed to Freud. It would sem that he started reading Freud as early as his twentieth birthday, because all of his poems and short stories after that perid seem to show the Freudian influence.> Lawrence also based his philosophy on the belief that everything that exists, even a stone, has two sides to its picture: L i g h t n e s s,  the ordinary consciousness, and,  d a r k n e s s, the unconscious. He felt that in the tension of ‘opposites’, light and dark, mind and body, all things have their being; and this new whole being “which is created by establishing a relation between the opposites is not fusing of the two into one but a complementng of the one by the other.”
<H.M. Daleski, The Darked Flame, Evanston, 1965, pp.18-22>

                          Both his psychoanalytic theory and his dualistic theory are based on his early readings of the following: Schopenhauer, Nietszche, Samuel Butler and Bernard Shaw. SCHOPENHAUER stressed the importance of the will to live of which mind and knowledge are merely servants. All “reality” was dynamic through the will, unconscious in nature, but conscious in man. He felt that although man was moving toward nothingness, he could cure his pain through art, and that is just what Lawrence did; he turned to  his writing as his salvation.

                          NIETZSCHE emphasized the importance of both the “myth” and the knowledge of “blood conscious”. Instead of making the will move toward nothingness, he makes it move towards “power”. But first, man must remove the barrier of God, because the belief in God is what opposes man’s to power. God was the opposite of life; and for Nietzsche and for Lawrence unrestrained emotion was life.  Both BUTLER and SHAW believed in the necessity of control and direction of the lower by the higher, and the willingness tı rely on God, the life force. In a letter to Ernest Collins in 1913, Lawrence combined all of the above viewpoints onto one belief of his own.
He confessed:

                                                  “My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh
                                                  as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in
                                                  our minds. But what our blood feels and believes 
                                                  and says, is always true. The intellect is only a bit 
                                                  and a bridle. What do I care about knowledge. All
                                                  I want is to answer my blood, direct, or moral, or
                                                  what-not. I conceived a man’s body as a kind of
                                                  flame, like a candle flame, forever upright and yet
                                                  flowing; and the intellect is just the light that is
                                                  housed onto the things around. And I am not so
                                                  much concerned with the things around – – which
                                                  is really mind – – but with the mystery of the flame 
                                                  forever flowing.”
                                                  <E.W. Tedlock, Jr.; “D.H. Lawrence”, Albuquerque,
                          Lawrence was concerned with the problem of human existence; the problem of what it means really to live as a man; and how does one live a truly human life. He ignored everything, but the singular and individual. Out of his dislike for the universal and the abstract arises his interest in human freedom. The universal and the abstract degenerates man into an object, a thing, an “it”. There is a loss of the “phallic consciousness” that was so impor-tant to Lawrence. He was opposed to the mechanical forces, because they threatened the natural. It would be “blood-knowledge” that would bring about the balance of life until the attainment of whole man is reached. As far as Lawrence is concerned there were no whole men or whole women in the world because no one was able to equally balance mysticism and common sense.

                          He makes freedom the very essence of man. Material things of life may perish, but the central function of life would remain secure. The act of sex became a form of rebirth. From such a preoccupation arises the realization of the inhumanity of the view of modern technology wherein man becomes an impersonal member and a mere member of a group.

                          Lawrence continually praised the self-made man. But he felt too many men were followers of the crowd; they were men whose personal judg-
ments are based on those of the crowd. The Freudian man of existence, on the contrary, is the self-thinking man, the man of decision, the free man. He felt one becomes free only by having a personal interest in things by making decisions and by consciously following one’s choice. He contends that the individual be personally involved in a situation and that he makes his deci-sion with passionate concern. A great man is free of conviction and he intro- duces his own will into things. But a lesser man needs a power beyond him for survival. Therefore, in Lawrence’s literature his lesser males rely on society to tell them what to do. Also, his incomplete males need an instru-ment beyond them such as a flute, a rocking horse, or a pipe, in order to feel fulfilled. But, his greater males, few in number, are their own source of power and no higher authority than the impulse of their own blood.

                          His male is fully committed to life and all that it entails. The strength and power of the senses is the most essential element in him. He sees each individual as the arbiter of all values, who must assume, therefore the awesome responsibility of being the supreme legislator for his whole destiny. There are no guilty men, just responsible ones.

                          Lawrence also applied his dualistic theory to the power of
Christianity. He felt:
                          “The Christian religion became dual. The religion of the strong
                           taught renunciation and love. All the religion of he weak 
                           taught   down to the strong and powerful and let the poor be
                          “Brave people add up to an aristocracy. The democracy of
                          ‘thou-shall-not’ is bound to be a collection of weak men . . .
                          When the will of the people becomes the sum of the weakness
                          of a multitude of weak men, it is time to make a break.

                          “So today, Society consists of a mass of weak individuals trying
                          to protect themselves, out of fear, from every possible imagine-
                          ry evil, and, of course, by their very fear, bringing the evil into 
                          being. This is the Christian community today, in its perpetual
                          mean thou shall not. This is how Christian doctrine has worked
                          out in practice.”
                          (4)   <Helen Corke. “H.D. Lawrence”, Austin, 1965, pp: 69; 80-81>

                          Lawrence thoıght of the “Book of Revelation” as a force which started a completely new trend in society, which was based on the theory of “Today you suffer, tomorrow you shall reign.” (5)  Through Christianity’s
“will to destroy all power”  (6), it was becoming the final ultimate power.
                          (5),(6) :   İbid (4), p: 69, 75

                          Since Lawrence emphasized man in his concreteness and individuality, there is a tendency for him to describe man as alone, solitary, cut off from his fellow men. There are no objective moral standards to guide man in his choice. Each man is on his own; he is left to make his own decisions. Modern man finds himself a line outsider for whom the reasons certainties of a past generation are no longer satisfying or assuring. Modern life results in bewilderment, anxiety and frustration. This anguish finds expression in Lawrence’s notion of human existence as a movemen toward the nothingness of the grave and in the lament that life is a useless position.

                          To Lawrence, man is the sole lawgiver in the domain of morality. He is the creator of all values and ends. Life is to be what man makes it to be. Frustration, annoyance, and sorrows are part of all human living. The tragic, the irrational and the depraved are constantly employed to indicate man’s freedom as a crushing responsibility in a world that is seen more as a condemnation to loneliness than as a call to knowledge, love and service of others.

                                                               CHAPTER   II

                           David Herbert Lawrence, English novelist, short story writer, essayist and poet, was born September 11, 1886, in the coal mining village of Eastwood, Notthinghampshire. His father was a blackbearded coalminer, un-interested in books and ideas, but clever with his hands. His mother was a cultured ex-schoolteacher, who was very serious and puritanical in nature. Mrs. Lawrence, who felt socially superior to her husband, was totally unprepared for the life of a miner’s wife and took her frustration out on her husband. The couple quarreled bitterly and as a refuge the husband took to excessive drinking and to keeping late hours. Becasuse of the father’s drunkennness, the children became closer to their mother and were passionately devoted to her. They hated their father and alienated him from the family circle. It was at ths time that Lawrence’s Oedipus Complex appeared to be in the highest intensity. (1)
                           < -1- Freud theorized that a body during his preschool years quite normally developed a strong attachment for his mother, sometimes even to the point of wanting to get rid of his father, so that he can have her all to himself.>
                           This passionate love for his mother was to remain as one of the major factors, influencing almost every piece of literary work.
                           Lawrence was educated at Nottingham High School and at Nottingham University, and began teaching at the age of eighteen in an elemmentary school at Croyden, near London.

                           In the early years of Adolescence Lawrence spent a majority of his time at Hagg’s Farm, visiting with his intimate friend, Jessei Chambers. Through his visits Hagg’s Farm, Lawrence developed a sensitivity for nature. From his mother, Lawrence had inherited his seriousness about life, but from Jessie he had received the freedom to form his imagination. It was Jessie who first encouraged Lawrence to write verse, and it was she who submitted his early verses to Ford Maddox Heuffer for publication in “The English Review” in 1909. As a result of this connection, in 1911 Lawrence published his first novel, “The White Peacock.”

                           In the autumn of 1908, at the age of twenty three, Lawrence left Eastwood and started his teaching career at Davidson Road School in Croyden. Lawrence soon wearied of his work and considered  the classrom to be a prison, smelling of sterility and of frustration. His revolting nature towards his students is clearly evident in the following passages of his “school” poems:

                           “I feel them cling and cleave to me
                           As vines going eagerly up; they twine
                           My life with other leaves, my time
                           Is hidden in theirs, their thrills are mine
                           When will the bell ring, and end this weariness?” (2)
                           <-2-Frederick J. Hoffman, “The Achievement of D.H. Lawrence,
                           “Norman”, 1953, p. 242>


                           “What does it matter to me, if they can write
                           A description of a dog, or if they can’t?
                           What is the Point? To us both it is all my aunt!
                           And yet I’m supposed to care with all my might.
                           I do not, and will not; and they won’t and they don’t;
                           And that’s all!
                           I shall keep my strength for myself; they can keep
                           theirs as well.
                           Why should we beat our head against the wall
                           Of each other? I shall sit and wait for ghe bell. (3)
                           <-3- Hugh Kingsmill, “The Life of D.H. Lawrence”, New York,
                           1938, p. 43>

                           Developing ‘double pneumonia’, Lawrence gave up teaching as a living and turned to the literature as a full-time pursuit. Lwrence was then able to begin to write his finest novel, “Sons and Lovers“, which was:

                           “… a backyard look for lawrence at the malaise of his youth at home in Eastwood, and through all the analysis of the causes of his failure in the relationships with Miriam (Jessie) and Clara runs the death-drift brought by the mother’s suffering, ending in fortuitous, and rahter blind choice of life…” (4)
                           <-4- E. W. Tedlock, Jr., “D.H. Lawrence”, Albuquerque, 1963,
                           p. 11>


                           In “D.H. Lawrence: A Personal Record“, Jessie writes that after reading <Sons and Lovers>, she feels that she had been betrayed. Their relationship ended with the completion of ‘Sons and Lovers.’

                           Shortly after, while in Germany in 1912, Lawrence met Frieda weekly, whom he married two years later in England and whom he spent his remaining years with, restlessly travelling in search of “a new life”, adhering to the rebellious philosophy. Frieda was in her early thirties when Lawrence met her, some years older than and the mother of three children. She was a woman who “lived in a placid dream, which was variegated at times by love affairs that were almost equally unreal.”  (5)  She had a strong influence over
him and helped greatly in forming his philosophy on sex.
                           <(5) Kingsmill, p.55>

                           During his early twenties Lawrence’s willingness to rely on God, the life force, was transformed into a belief in many gods as the true vitalistic force. He felt that the Christian world was too conscious of morality and too obsessed with “Thou shall not” that it tended to smother the natural instincts in man. In need of sympathy, Lawrence turned to Polytheism. Lawrence tried to resolve his Pan-Christ conflict in a poem, clarifying that Christ is the day-god of the human, responsible, civilized world; and that Pan is the night-god of the nonhuman, unconscious and mythical force:

                                     “But I am a nymph and a woman, and Pan is
                           for me, and Christ is for me.
                                      For Christ I cover myself in my robe, and
                           weep, and vow my vow of honesty.
                                      For Pan I throw my coverings down and run
                           headalong through the leaves, because of the
                           joy of running.
                                      And Pan will give me my man, and Christ
                           my husband.
                                       To Pan I am a nymph, to Christ I am a
                                       And Pan is in the darkness, and Christ is
                           in the pale light.
                                       And night shall never by day, and day shall
                           never by light.
                                       But side by side they shall go, day and
                           night, night and day, for ever apart, for ever
                                       Pan and Christ, Christ and Pan.
                                       Both moving over me, so when in the sunshine
                           I go in robes among my neighbors, I am a
                           Christian. But when I run robeless through the
                           dark-scented woods alone, I am Pan’s nymph…”   (6)
                           <(6) E.W. Tedlock, p.200>

                           Even his religion has a duality of nature; that is, in the poem his image of God is both a nymph and a woman – – the tension of opposites. It was that this unconscious world that was so important to Lawrence and it was this world that he was continually searching for.

                           The English novelist was unquestionably better at writing prose than verse. However, some of his later verse is quite noteworthy. In poetry his chief publications were: “Love Poems” (1913), “Look! We have come through.” (1917), “New Poems” (1918); “Birds, Beast and Flowers” (1923);
“Collected Poems” (1928); “Pansies” (1929); “Nettles” (1930); “Last Poems”  (1932).

                          Many of his early poems are distinguishingly horrible! The early Lawrence felt that consciousness spoiled poetry and thus dealt strictly with producing emotional satisfaction and unfortunately cared nothing for formal structure. Later, Lawrence realized the inadequacy of his early verse and wrote “Collected Poems” in 1928 as an apology.

                          Lawrence’s pre-war verse was a product of the “New Freedom”. Being an anti-Victorian he revolted against the conventionalism of Swinburn and Tennyson. His poetry of this period was modeled after Hardy, filled with realism and a sense of fatalistic disaster. His people were stark, plain-spoken and of the earth itself.

                          “Lightning”, published in 1913, in “Love Poems” is full of this earthly diction. The poem is not a love poem, but an accusation against the lady’s coldness. The poem also points out Lawrence’s sensitivity for linguistics:

                           “I leaned in the darkness to find her lips
                                    And claim her utterly in  kiss,
                           When the lightning flew accross her face
                           And I saw her for the flaring space
                                    Of a second, like snow that slips
                           From a roof, inert with death, weeping
                                    “Not this!  Not this!”

                           A moment these, like snow in the dark
                                    Her face lay pale against my brest,
                           Pale love lost in a thaw of fear
                           And melted in an icy tear,
                                    And open lips, distressed;
                           A moment; then darkness shut the lid
                                    of the sacred ark.

                           And I heard the thunder, and felt the rain,
                                    And my arms fell loose, and I was dumb.
                           Almost I hated her, sacrificed;
                           Hated myself, and the place, and the iced
                                    Rain that burnt on my rage; saying: Come
                           Home, come home, the lightning has
                                    made it too plain!.” 

                           The language is direct, natural, forceful, and concrete; Lawrence, like Pound, was obsessed with the purification of diction.
Lawrence ignored stanziac pattern of rhyme and concentrated heavily on diction and rhythm and his later poetry contradicts his earlier theory that content is all important and that form will take care of itself. His poetry became less sentimental and less prettified, and more specific and more natural. Lawrence has a great gift in the interpretation of natural scenery. It sometimes caused him to be classified as an Imagist.

                           “Bavarian Gentians”, based on mythology, takes a Lawrencian reader on a tour through the interior or an Etruscan tomb:

                           “Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
                           Let me guide myself with the blue, forked touch/
                                                                               of flower
                           Down the way Persephone goes, just now, in/
                                                                               first-frosted September
                           To the sightless realm where darkness is/
                                                                               married to dark
                           And Persephone herself is but a voice, as a/
                           A gloom invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
                           Of the arms of Pluto as he ravishes her once/
                           And pierces her once more with his passion/
                                                                                of the utter dark.”

                           The “I” is the poet’s soul on a dark journey to the unconscious, non-human world. The marriage of Persephone and Pluto represents the final union of the soul and the unconscious and the rebirth of life in death. “For I will go to the wedding, and be wedding-guest/ So the marriage of the living dark.”

                           Mrs. Lawrence’s influence over her son was strengthened with her death and in honor of her death Lawrence wrote “Piano” and “Hymns to Priapus”. Richard Ellman Gray says that “Hymn of Priapus” is a triumph of self-examination, so harsh that it almost ridicules his sorrow. It begins with the thought of his dead mother, then describes his lovemaking with a live country girl and ends by considering the limits and checks which have beeen put upon human grief:  (7)
                            <(7) F.J. Hoffman, p.262>

                            “My love lies underground
                            With her face upturned to mine,
                            And her mouth unclosed in a last long kiss
                            That ended her life and mine.

                            I danced at the Christmas party
                            Under the mistletoe
                            Along with a ripe, slack country lass
                            Jostling to and fro.
                            She fares in the stark immortal
                            Fields of death;
                            I in these goodly, frozen
                            Fields beneath.

                            Something in me remembers
                            And will not forget.
                            The stream of my life in the darkness
                            Deathward set!

                            And something in me has forgotten,
                            Has ceased to care.
                            Desire comes up, and contentment
                            Is debonair.

                            I, who am worn and careful,
                            How much do I care?
                            How is it I grin then, and chuckle
                            Over despair?

                            Grief, grief, I suppose and sufficient
                            Grief makes us free
                            To be faithful and faithless together;
                            As we have to be.”

                            Whitman’s beliefs, that both blood and self were of primary importtance and not the intellect of man, predominated as the main theme in Lawrence’s “Love Poems”, especially in “The Ship of Death” which is said to be an echo of Whitman’s “Passage to India“. However, Lawreence felt that Whitman was indiscriminate and that his theory of self had become “an empty allness”. In “The Ship of Death” Lawrence also stressed that, ‘death’ is only a part of life, the longest journey, and maybe the greatest adventure.

                            “Now it is Autumn and the falling fruit
                            and the long journey towards oblivion.

                            The apples falling like great drops of dew
                            to bruise themselves an exit from themselves.

                            And it is time to go, to bid farewell
                            to one’s own self, and find an exit
                            from the fallen self.

                            Build then the slip of death, for you must take
                            the longest journey, to oblivion.

                            And die the death, the long and painful death
                            that lies between the old self and the new.

                            Already our bodies are fallen, bruised, badly/
                            already our souls are oozing through the exit
                                                                                          of the cruel bruise.”

                            Death is only the beginning of a new dawn, a new birth, “A flush of rose and the whole thing starts again.” Lawrence realized that his illness was getting worse and anticipated the arrival of death in the above poem. In 1930 Lawrence died at the age of 44 of tuberculosis. He had built his ship through his travels and had finally found “new life” that he was continually searching for.

                                                             CHAPTER   III

                            The later Lawrence thought of himself as a prophet in need of saving the world. He felt individualism was dissolving in the soup of the masses. Man was so caught up in materyalism that he had lost contact with nature and all that was truly beautiful and necessary in the universe. Society was colorless and everyone of its members was nothing more than a copy of the other. Man is so blinded by making money that he can no longer see the stars and moon as one of life’s greatest phenomena. Living among the masses has caused man to think of the stars and the moon as only instruments, reminding him that it is no longer day but night. Lawrence felt the cosmos was a vital part of man. Therefore, the Sun, one of the planets in the cosmos, became a common symbol of the unconscious world im his anti-intellectual philosopht. To Lawrence, the night represented coldness and death, but with the dawn of the Sun came warmth and rebirth. It is with the direct contact to the sun, the life-giving power, that man is able to escape from collectivity and experience a new way of living.

                            His theme of vitalistic rebirth is artistically and effectively exploited in ‘Sun’, which is a short story about the vitalistic resurrection of a woman. The story is cleverly divided into five parts, each part suggesting one of the progressive steps taken toward her awakening into the real world. The first part is concerned with the balancing of the unconscious with the conscious in the inner her until she is one; and then with her desire to help her sun grow up into a Lawrencian “true male”. Part II involves the child’s fears of the sun and his slow transgression into an animalistic male, who has escaped captivity. During this time the mother continues to strenghthen her union with the sun. Part III ends with bother mother and son oversoming such worldly fears as the danger of a snake, because nothing presented itself as a threat and all was accepted under “the power of the sun”.

                            In Part IV the contrast of the man-made-power with the vital power is brought to the forefront with the arrival of the husband, who ‘looked pathetically out of place, in that resplendent sunshine and the grace of the old Greek World; like a blot of ink, on the pale, sun glowing slope.”  The conflict of powers is also emphasized by the comparison of this modern family with one of the Italian peasant families. The modern American family symbolizes the ‘intellect in man’, while the Italian peasant family symbolizes the “will in man’. Like of all Lawrence’s works, a harmony between ‘will’ and ‘intellect’ is made possible with the inclination of conceivable love affair between the American wife and the Italian peasant. But, again like all of his works, theh harmony is never reached. The possibility of balancing ‘will’ and ‘intelligence’ is crushed by the wife’s realization that it will have to be her husband’s baby that she bears and not the peasant’s.

                            “Sun” is obviously one of Lawrence’s later masterpieces, because although it is typical of his man-woman relationships, it is not typical of his earlier treatment of his woman characters. Generally, in such earlier stories as “The Witch a la Mode” or “Strike Pay”, the women represent the evil civilized world and consequently are not fulfilling their real destiny in life; they are practical first and impulsive second; they are citizens first and women second. Up until his encounter with Frieda, his wife, Lawrence had a strong hatred for woman-kind, which was due to his Oedipal complex, which had caused an inner conflict of feelings as to the question of who should dominate, man or woman. Ironically, in “Sun” it is not the husband who is trying to escape conformity, but the wife. It is she who rebels against the dead life; it is she who must bear the judgment of both the moral and social world; and it is she who suffers the pain of alienation. The sun is her god, who bathes away the impurities in her soul with every electrifying and vital ray that he delivers from his hot body. Finally, she had become the priestess of the sun, carrying his message forward to her son.

                              The story begins with the doctors saying, “Take her away, into the sun.” The doctors are Lawrence delivering his sermon to his readers. Also, from that first line the reader is prepared for an uncoming baptism that may never be completed. His dualisitic theory, that everything has two sides of it, one of ‘lightness’ and the other of ‘darkness’, is present once again in the story through the contrasting descriptions of New York, which represents civilization, and of Italy, which represents the old paganistic world. It becomes evident that both New York and Italy are struggling within the wife. They are both fighting for power, each wishing to be the dominant power, yet as Lawrence continually points out, “peace of mind” can only be reached when the two are in harmony with one another. It is the wife’s duty to bring them together giving each equal power. The wife seems to accomplish her mission, but then fails at the end.

                             In the opening of Part I,  the husband saying goodbye to hiw wife and son in New York. “It was a black night” and although the couple bitterly “wanted to get away from one another” they were filled with “aprehension, misgiving and there was a certain note of clinging to the last straw of hope”. The wife was going  “Out to sea” to Italy, but for the husband it was “All shore”. This separation between both husband and wife was to continue throughout the whole story, which was typical to Lawrence’s marital relationships. The husband was a prisoner of the earth aith its “deep iron rhythm of habit, the year-long, life-long habits; the seepset stroke of power” as a need so be the possessor of standard conformity.

                              Through his use of color, Lawrence’s hatred for the mechanical world begins to shine out. Thus, New York was not lavishly alive with people who were dressed in bright pinks and lavenders, and the sun did not shine with rays of yellow, orange and red, but all that was bright that nights was “the poor harvest of lights at the Battery.” When “Liberty flung up her torch in a tantrum, so did the tension and anguish within both the city and the individuals come flying out. The reeder sees the uneasiness of the situation and feels the lack of tranquility in the air.

                              But, as the ship moves out to sea, the blackness slowly drifts away. Contrary to New York, in the Sicilian town there are no statues and everything is alive with the vital colors of “red”, “gold”, “green” nd “yellow.” The contrasting description from New York into the little town of Sicily os so gracefully displayed by Lawrence in the following paragraph:

                                                   “And though the Atlantic was grey and lava, 
                                                   she did come at last into the Sun. Even she had
                                                   a  house above the bluest of seas, with a vast
                                                   garden, or vineyard, all vines and olives steeply,
                                                   terrace after terrace, to the strip of coast-plain;
                                                   and the garden full of secret places, deep groves
                                                   of lemon far down the cleft of the earth, and hidden,
                                                   pure green reserviors of water; then a spring
                                                   issuing out of a little cavern, where the old Sicules
                                                   had drunk before the Greeks came; and a grey goat
                                                   bleating, stabled in n Ancient tomb, with all the 
                                                   niches empty. There was the scent of mimosa, and
                                                   beyond, the snow of volcano.” 
                              One could almost visualize his own Shgangrila as maybe looking for just like that. It possesses the same serenity and loveliness that could be in the “Parliament of Fowls”.

                              The mastery of color, which is redundantly used in each section, becomes one of the Lawrence’s major tools. Every necessary step taken toward the wife’s resurrection takes place through the contrast of colors. For example, her union with the “hot sun” is described with her removing her “dove-grey wrapper” and exposing her white “naked body” to the “gold and scarlet” sun. “And the moment she was covered again she was grey and invisible.” In the following excerpt, her climatic baptism from the dead life into the vital world is paralelled with the tanning of her body. Also, the passage depicts Lawrence’s strong belief in the true necessity of man and nature becoming one, each being a complement of the other:

                                                   “When, out of sun at noon, sometimes she stole 
                                                   down over the rocks and the cliff edge, down to 
                                                   the deep gully where the Lemons hung in cool
                                                   eternal shadow, and in the silence slipped off her
                                                   wrapper to wash herself quickly at one of the deep,
                                                   clear green basins, she would notice, in the bare
                                                   green twilight under the lemon leaves, that all her
                                                   body was rosy, rosy and turning gold. She was like
                                                   another person… With her knowledge of the sun,
                                                   and her conviction that the sun knew her, in the
                                                   cosmic carnal sense of the word, came over her a
                                                   feeling of detachment from people, and a certain
                                                   contenpt for human beings altogether. They were
                                                   so un-elemental, so unsunned. They were so like    
                                                   graveyard worms… So she remembered that the
                                                   Greeks had said, ‘a white, unsunny body was fishy
                                                   and unhealthy.’ ” 

                             Lawrence believed that the Greeks were closer to finding the
absolute truth than his present day Christians. At last, the Greeks were not tied down by the moral “responsibility” that Christianity had placed upon the modern man’s back. As E.W. Tedlock,Jr. explains in “D.H. Lawrence: Artist and Rebel”, all of the Lawrence’s later literacy works were primarily concer-ned with “his longing for a paradisal state of being through purification.” With the wife’s rejection and contempt for the conscious world, she has now reached that perfect, heavenly state of being that Lawrence so desires to obtain himself.

                             But ‘morality’ supressed the wife’s new born freedom when she surrenders to her husband’s sexual passions instead of her own. Although Christianity respects her decision and admires her strength to overcome temptation, Lawrence does not. He punishes her by leaving her in a state of pain and anguish. She is left with the same unrestful soul that Lawrence died with.

                             The wife’s final decision at tye end represents the new and mature Lawrencian philosophy, which states that the blood, the flesh and the instincts should operate in balance with the intellect and not alone. His earlier theories about “blood and darkness” remained as the central point of his philosophy. However, the belief in the tension of opposites is still present because, although the wife makes this rational decision through the mind, the heart is not happy.

                             The whole new philosophy of balancing mind and heart is repeated in “Lady Chatter’s Lover“, only on a much deeper scale than “Sun“. Thus, ‘Sun’ is just smaller copy of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ However, in Lady Chatterley’s Lover it is not the wife who joines the blood and darkness with the intellect, but the gardener, who represented the true Lawrencian hero. He tells the wife at the end that it is impossible to carry on a love affair behind her husband’s back, and that their love for one another would have to remain in vain.

                             Thus, both wives are forced to remain with their husbands, while still desiring a “true male”. In all of Lawrence’s literature, the hero is not the aristocrat with his abundance of material wealth and charm, but the peasant with his sun-tanned body as his only asset. The husband in each ttheme is portrayed as an indoor man, who might be standing “gray-faced, in his grey felt hat and his dark grey suit”.  The husbands lack the vitalism of the sun. Yet, both the gardener and the Italian peasant belong to the soil; they are both vegetables getting nourishment from the sun; they need only the basics in life just as that was all their ancestors before them needed. At the end of his life, wityh death so near, Lawrence’s rebellion against the world calmed down. Instead of condemning everything in society, he started working toward some type of balance between his beliefs and his world’s beliefs. However, he could not help feeling that maybe the world would be better off being half civilized and half animalistic, just as it was so many, many years ago.


(1)    “The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence”, Vols. I&II, The Viking Press,
          N.Y., 1964.
(2)    “The Complete Short Stories”, Vols. I&II; William Heinemann Ltd.,
          London, 1963.
(3)    Corke, Helen; “D.H. Lawrewnce: The Croyden Years”, Univ.of Texas 
          Press, Austin, 1965.
(4)    Daleski, H.M.; “The Forked Flame”, Northwestern University Press,
          Evanston, Ill, 1965.
(5)    Hoffman, E.J.; ” The Achievements of D.H. Lawrence”, University of
          Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1953.
(6)    Kingsmill, Hugh; “The Life of D.H. Lawrence”, Dodge Publishing Comp.,
          New York, 1938.
(7)    Lindren, R.C. & Byrne, Donn; “Psychology”, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
          New York, 1965.
(8)    Sagar, Keith; “The Art of D.H. Lawrence”, Cambridge University Press,
          Cambridge, Mass, 1966.
(9)    Tedlock, E.W.; “D.H. Lawrence: Artist and Rebel”, The University of
          New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1963.
(10)  Wilson, Edmund; Ed., “The Shock of Recognition”, Grosset & Dunlop,
           N.Y., 1963.



                                         EMILY DICKINSON and HER POETRY

            <Written and prepared by Belinda F. St. Angelo, a ‘Master’ student at the Salve Regina College (Now University), Newport, R.I., and, her Professor of Psychology and supervisor Prof.Dr. Ismail Ersevim, as the thesis for her graduation, 1968, USA>


                           The quiet life of Emily Dickinson was made rich by the poet’s perceptive and enthusiastic response to the small events and homely beauty that surrounded her. From  gay and witty school girl, Emily Dickinson grew into a sensitive woman who seldom ventured for her father’s house in Amherst, Massachusetts. But her imagination carried her far afield, and her gift of words spun wonder out of what she saw and felt. The fact remains  nevertheless, that from age thirty on her life was essentially withdrawn from society. Her solitude took a very morbid turn after death of her father in 1874, and she because a complete recluse never leaving the family house. She became very occupied with the subject of death and her poetry and questions of the subject became somewhat morbid.

                          Thus,  Chapter I, deals with the forces that were important in Emily’s life and her development as a poet, her friends, and her Puritan background. Her strong-willed father, whose influence upon her never be underestimated, is carefully and deftly characterized.  Chapter II examines a perceptive reading of some of her poetry. It discusses the unique voice of the poet and the theme which dominates her most famous poetry: the theme of permanence and decay or more properly expressed time and death.

                          The final chapter presents Emily Dikinson and the modern sensibility, and the key of her modernity which lies in the peculiar relationship which Emily Dickinson bears to the Emersonian point of view. The third chapter also considers the other two keys to her modern sensibility which are her use of emotions in poetry and her connection with the twentieth century existentialist philosophers. It is important that the reader keep in mind that Emily Dickinson’s poetry reveals a rather tongue-in-cheek yet injured attitude toward the world. Let the reader heed Emily’s own words, “This is my letter to the world, /that never wrote to me!…” She is communicating with the world but without answer.

                          Emily Dickinson has always been shrouded in mystery. Curio-sity has been playing about her ever since the little volume of poems appeared in 1890, four and one-half years after her death. Even before that, in the town in which she lived, she had become a legendary figure. The
neighbors whispered about her. She stayed always at home in her father’s house and saw no one.

                          On a slip of paper Emily Dickinson once wrote: “Area-no test of dept”, and sent it with a gift to a friend. İt is the truest, the most piercing, the only perfect comment on a singular life. Her “area” was for a time the small precise town of Amherst, Massachusetts, she was born n 1830. Then after school days, it shrank to the garden which enclosed her father’s house. (1)

                          Did she draw an invisible line and refuse to step across it because of an oath made in pique; or a desire to symbolize difference of soul by difference of conduct; or because haven taken the “immortal wound” and renounced the beloved inflictor, she felt contempt for or indifference to the world, her life being elsewhere within? These questions have been asked but not answered. We only know that a tireless and measureless probing inward, since she could not, or would not, expande out-ward, is recored in poems as limited in size as her backyard, and yet like her mind, of “colossal substance.”

                          A few facts about head and moving force of the Dickinson house
hold is known. It may be said that he was a “monarch” in Emily Dickinson’s
life-a stern calvinist father. This is illuminated in her correspondence, especially in remarks to Higginson, a friend and literary figure who exam-ined some of her poems. Neither Emily nor her only sister married, and it is generally assumed that Mr. Dickinson dominated the household of her mother, two daughters and one son. He did so with less harshness than we might assume, although he stressed Bible-reading over other books which, Emily reports to Mr. Higginson, he feared would juggle the mind. (2)

                                       On Sunday, Mr. Dickinson, lawyer read “lonely and religi-
                                       us books”; he would eat Emily’s bread and no one else’s;
                                       he insisted on giving medicine, especially if the patient
                                       rebelled;— he refrained from kissing his children; when
                                       Emily at thirty-six had to go to Boston eye-specialist, he
                                       objected on the ground that he was “in the habit of her”,
                                       he forbade her to marry and when, just once, she ques-
                                       tioned his authority, he put on his great cape and his
                                       high beaver had, grasped his gold-headed cane, tapped
                                       the floor hard- and the matter was settled for another
                                       thirty years. But he cracked nuts with his family, after
                                       supper; and requested his daughter Emily to perform the
                                       “Lancer’s Quickstep” on the piano; and when, his last
                                       afternoon on earth, though with no prenomition, she
                                       preferred his company and made an excuse to leave her
                                       mother, he said as the June light waned, “I would like it
                                       not to end.” (3)

                          There is no need, however to distort this picture into a warped relationship between the father and daughter; it was not the free exchange which we like to think characterizes the 20th century, yet it certainly was not unnaturel for the time. Emily Dickinson has spoken most accurately of
her father to a tremendous degree, in a letter to Higginson after Mr. Dickin-son’s death in 1874. It is a touching letter, expressing a tender awesome regard for the father, and a pathetically “lost feeling” which reaches out to her friend, Higginson. This “lost” feeling is seen throughout her poetry, but it is most predominant in those written after her father’s death. Instead of stating conventionally, “I would rather died before he did”, she says, “I am glad there is immortality, but would have tested it myself, before entrusting him.”  To her friend, she speaks starkly, out of terrible loneliness, “I have wished for you, since my father died—” And of her father, she speaks almost in an epitaph: “His heart was poor and terrible, and I think no other like it exists.” (4)

                          Emily Dickinson and Amherst College grew up together. There were only nine years difference in their ages. The college, almost as literally as she, could claim to be a child of the Dickinson family, for her grandfather was one of its most zealous working founders and her father and brother between them held the office of College treasurer for sixty years. She, almot as liberally as the college, was an emanation of the religion. Inbread in each was the Calvinistic insistence on perfection to be won by mental striving. Both college and poet were nurtured in Puritan orthodoxy, and both turned from beliefs that had become familiar and dear to engage in an unprejudiced and clear-eyed scrunity of the world about them.  (6)

                            There is a third sphere of Emily Dickinson’s life which is also shrouded in mystery-her love affairs if there were any. When she was twenty a young schoolmaster named Leonard Humphrey died. A week before his death he had written to her, while in perfect health, that he would die and she would become a poet. Ten years after his death she said:

                                          “When a little girl, I had a friend who taught me immor-
                                          tality, but venturing to near himself, never returned.
                                          Soon after my tutor died, and for several years my  
                                          lexicon was only my companion. Then I found one     
                                          more, but he was not contended I be his scholar, so he 
                                          left the land.”  (7) 

                           The literary world has been trying for years to discover the name of thgis “once more”. Was the George Guild? – a tall spiritual-eyed, full tipped young scholar, brilliant at Ahmerst and the Union Theological Seminary, who was frowned on by her father because of poverty, and did indeed, for two years. “leave the land.” Was the Majopr Edward Hunt? – Helen Hunt Jackson’s first husband, who was killed at thirty-two while
experimenting with an invention, and who Emily once remarked, “Interested me more than any man I ever saw.” Was it the Reverend Doctor Charles Wadsworth? – a married Philadelphia Minister, whom her father introduced to her men she was twenty-three-and he forty; on the fatal five week trip to Washington and Phladelphia which ended with her retirement from the world. Conjectures on young Emily’s passion for Wadsworth ara based on drafts of three letters to him <although no letters, if there were any remain-ed from Rev. Wadsworth himself> and on the “Love Poems” which followed in the 1860’s. Wadsworth did call on her in 1860, while visiting nearby Northampton, and it seems likely that she was aware in 1861 of his intention to move to San Francisco. Her poems of this period, for example, speak of fears and a sense of loss – “I had a terror since September, I could tell none -” There is no real evidence though, for assuming that this unfulfilled love affair was sole or sufficient motive behind her gradual withdrawal from society; it is more realistic to conclude that such an experience might have encour-aged what already a tendency toward solitareness and introversion in her. (8)

                           Those are all fact, but they do not “split the lark and find the music, bulb after bulb in silver rolled—”  (9)

                           That she loved a man and of her own volition relinquished him is of great importance in understanding her character and her poetry. But does it matter whom she gave her heart to and lost? If tomorrow it were proved beyond a possibility of doubt that the man her soul fixed upon was George Gould or Charles Wadsworth, or a man never before mentioned, curiosity cease-that is all. Great poetry, when most personal, transcends personality: it soars out of the realm of names:

                          So we must keep apart,
                          You there, I here
                          With just the door ajar
                          That oceans are,
                          And prayer,
                          And that pale sustenance,
                          Despaire…  (10)

                          That she contained to love the man is certain. “Mine but the right of white election!”; “He put the belt around my life, – I heard the buckle snapp.”; “Empty my heart of thee, its single artery?”; “After? When the hills do.”  Days, and weeks, and years went by, but:

                          To fill a gap-
                          Insert the thing that caused it.
                          Block it no
                          With other and ’twill yawn’
                          The more;
                          You cannot solder an abyss
                          With air.  (11)

                          She wore clean piqué dresses, white, like a pledge of faith, till the day of her death. It is not clear just when Emily Dickinson began to dress invariably in white and to invest herself in an atmosphere of “hallowed mys-tery”- that her garments symbolized. By 1862 her retirment from the world had become marked but was not absolute. Higginson reproached her for shunning men and women, and she admitted that a chestnut tree in blossom, encountered on her walk, was better company. Through the sixties she still appeared to greet her father’s guests at the annual commencement yeas when the Dickinson entertained the academic world. By 1870, her seclusion had become a conscious resolution: “I do not cross may father’s ground to any house at town.” A preference for privacy deepened into a morbid dread of prying eyes. She continued to work in the garden where she scrambled clods, and weeded and sprinkled, and watched the buds swell, squatting, on wet days, on an old red frayed-out rug. And she wrote:

                          I tend my flowers for thee,
                          Bright absentee!
                          My fuchsia’s coral seams
                          Rip while the sower dreams —  (12)

                          She dreamed till she was thirty, and then began to write poems. Was it crystallizing power of the Civil War, which she lived through, or simply by thirty she had reached <and would have reacvhed in any circumstances>  spiritual maturity? Leonard Humphrey, principal of Amherst Academy and her tutor, had declared with the prescience of the about-to-die that she would be a poet, and suddenly it seemed that she was. But how could she be certain? In the spring of her thirty-second year she wrote Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a literary arbiter of her day:

                      Are you too deeply occupied to say if
                      my verse is alive? The mind is so near
                      itself, it cannot see distinctly, and
                      I have none to ask… (13)

                      If Colonel Higginson was a bit chary of his praise, it is not surprising, for the appearance of an important woman poet was, in the light of history, extremely improbable and required special discernment to see and bravery to hail. There have been comparatively few women poets. “The Oxford Book of English Verse”, a balanced and just anthology, gives space to twenty-four women and forty-four men -and many of the twenty-four are represented by one easily forgotten lyric-. Women, in general, seem defici-ent in the distinguishing talents of the great poets: they are not dramatic, nor philosophic, nor epic; they do not look far back or far forward in time;
they are more or less indifferent to “real existence”,  they seem unable to synthesize many small confusing facts into one divinely simple fact; their eyes stap upward and downward, shallowy, neglegting the cosmos.  (14)

                            The lady was so throughly a woman, and it is doubtful whether he had spent such time mediating on the fact that in poetry, a woman’s success, as in life a woman’s destiny, does not consist in being other than what she is: she is an individual before she is a woman , but must develop along her own lines if she is to develop at all. Colonel Higginson was looking for a certain thing, and finding another, did not see it clearly and completely for it was. But he was poetic, he was gallant; he did not tell her to go back to bread-baking. Those intimate fierce thoughts set down in dubious rhyme stuck in his memory.

                             He did not have an interview with Miss Dickinson and wrote hiw wife: “A remarkable experience, quite equalling my expectations…” and went on to relate how she ‘glided in,’ dressed in spotless white, ‘a little plain woman with two smooth bands of reddish hair.’  “Her voice was timid, but once she had begun, she talked without difficulty.”

                             “How do most people live without any
                             thoughts? she said. “There are many people
                             in the world (you must have noticed them
                             in the street), how do they live? How do they
                             get strength to put on their clothes in the morning?”  (15)

                             And, “I find ecstasy in living the mere sense of living is joy
enough.” And,

                             “If I read a book and it makes my whole body
                             so cold no fire can warm me. I know that is poetry.
                             If I feel physically as if the top of my head were 
                             taken off, I know that is poetry. There are the only
                             ways I know it. Is there any other way?”  (16)

                            Mr. Higginson said later that no one had ever drained his nerve
power so much; that without touching him she drew from him, and he was glad that he did not live near her.

                            During the next fifteen years her pile of poems grew something
like animate. There was enough high explosive in her drawer to have wrecked the red-brick mension, and demolished the block. But all along the street, under the great outspreading pines, it was unspeakably quiet.

                            Her father died first leaving her desolate and aghast. One can-not study the lives of outstanding woman poets, without noticing the profound influence of fathers upon daughters which is significant. Of Emily Bronté with her forbidding father, and Christina Rossetti with her firey academic one, and Alice Meynell with her gentlemanly one, and Elizabeth Barret Browing with her thunderous one, and Emily Dickinson with her legal and adored one, it might be said, as Dryden said of Lady Ann Killigrew, “The father was transfused into thy blood.”

                            After her father, Mr. Bowles, a dear friend, died too, and then
another friend, Dr. Holland; and then as a climax to the years of paralysis, her mother; and then Reverend Charles Wadsworth, and then her dear eight-year old nephew Gilbert, next door. As a result of too much contemplation of death or something else, she was plunged into an enigmatical mental darkness, which she taught and in a time won her way only to sink again, at fifty-five, with Bright’s disease.  <Kronik nefrit-böbrek iltihabı. Dr.İ.E.>

                            “The heart asks pleasure first:
                            And then, excuse from pain;
                            And then those little anodynes
                            Then deaden suffering
                            And then, to go to sleep;
                            And then, if it should be
                            The will of the Inquisitor,
                            The liberty to die!”

                             Of Emily Dickinson, it is important to remember that she did not withdraw into a cave of romantic sensibility, though in her girlhood the notion of the poet as a beautiful soul standing apart from the crass occupati-ons of life was widely accepted. Hers was not a solitude of monasticism nor the solitude of hermit’s mossy cell. But it was the seclusion of one who retires to his chamber and there is communion with the spirits of the mighty dead through the medium of books, works out the great problems of philo-sophy, science and politics; he who after long reflection in his closet forms the vast schemes to be realized in future life, he who marks out a consistent course of action based on fixed principles, it is he then that truly makes solitude the school of genius, and through it paves the way to fame. (18)

                           Emily Dickinson’s conception of a poet is in accordance with the way she shaped her life. She believed a poet is an interpreter of nature’s mysteries. Was there not “a noisless noise in the orchard that I let person’s hear?”  But her retirement had no anti-social implications. There are traces of this kind of romantic aloofness in Thoreau’s retreat to his Walden cabin, though he was also impelled by the practical desire to find time to write a book. Emily Dickinson valued her individuality no less than Thoreau, but there is not a hint that he courted solitude in order that she might be more completely a law onto herself. Loneliness was a burden that she set herself to bear. Far from considering her individual notions superior to the general sense of mankind, she was continually begging the men she most admired to guide and instruct her. Though she was not always able to take their advice, she considered that the defect was hers. Doubtless her habit of seclusion was facilitated in part by the fact that during her fourth decade, she was over-strained and far from well. She had never been robust, and the prolonged nervous tension brought on by falling in love with a man she could not marry was almost too much for her.  (19)

                           The external story of her life is very nearly a blank. After sharing the normal girlhood experiences of her contemporaries, she remained at home, tending her garden. Her fartherest travels consisted in several visits to Boston, twice in later years for the care of her eyes, and a short trip to Washington and Philadelphia when she was twenty-three. If at any time she fell upon the thorns of life, she was careful that no one should see her hurt. For the last twenty years that she lived, she preferred the conclusion of her father’s house to any society that the village or the world could offer. To intimate friends, she sent vivid letters and occasional bits of verse, but not even the members of her family suspected the work she was perfecting in secret. Fame she thought of as a perilous food, and for her own part she would not even nibble of it. Only after her death was her hoard of poems uncovered.

                          Thus passed from the obscruity of her life to the obscruity of death perhaps the greatest American poet, irrespective of sex. The technical irregularities of her verse are, for the most part, not flaws but a forecast. Whether she wrote of the immensities of time, love, pain, justice, hope, or death, or the minitial of her garden-a robin, a snake, a mushroom, a berry, a clover, a bee-the words strike through, sharply, to the ultimate and incorruptible. Hardly anything escaped the scrunity of her great brown eyes. Occasional coyness is easily forgiven this spinster, this gnome, this keeper-of-faith, this demure wrestler-with-God. Since she stands so securely among the poets of the world, stanchly New England in the white pique, her own poem is her best praise:

                          “I reckon, when I count at all,
                          First Poets-then the sun-
                          Then Summer-then the
                          Heaven of God-
                          And then the list is done.

                          But looking back-the first so seems
                          To comprehend the whole-
                          The others look a needless show
                          So I write Poets-ALL.”

                          Then as increment after increment was published, lovers of poetry gradually came to realize that the most memorable lyric poet in America had lived and died unknown.


(1)   Moore, Virginia, “Distinguished Woman Writers”, pp.147-8.
(2)   Alexander, Charlotte, “The Poetry of Emily Dickinson”, pp.7-8.
(3)   As the same in (1), p.150.
(4)   Todd, Mabel; “Letters of Emily Dickinson”, p.280.
(5)   As the same in (1), p.149.
(6)   Whicher, George; “This was a Poet”, pp.20-2.
(7)   Bradford, Gamaliel; “Portraits of American Women”, pp.242-4.
(8)   As the same in (2), p.6-7.
(9)   As the same in (3), p.150.
(10) Ibid. pp.151-2.
(11)  Ibid. pp.153-4.
(12)  As the same in (7), pp.245-6.
(13)  As the same in (4), pp.285.6.
(14)  As the same in (6), pp.27-8.
(15)  As the same in (3), p.156.
(16)  Ibid. pp.158-9.
(17)  As the same in (6), pp.136-8.
(18)  Idem.
(19)  Ibid.p.139
(20)  As the same in (3), pp.159-60.

                                                                 CHAPTER   II

                    Emily Dickinson’s most powerful poetry, as will be shown in the poetic analyses of this chapter, dwells upon the subject of permanence and decay; or put another way, on time, death and eternity. We must than assume that the religion of her particular background and ear exerted a strong influence on her thinking. The result of this religion, however, was to place her in a limbo between faith and doubt. Her father is often referred to as an-old rank Puritan (the terms Puritan and Calvinist are used  inter-changeably here, and indicate sternness and narrowness), and her family life was undoubtedly filled with typical Calvinist stern observances. Bible reading prayer meetings, sterict keeping of the Sabbath, convictions of eternal damnation or future paradise, suspicions that pleasure was sinful, were the backbone of her father’s religion. Yet it was obvious from her poetry that Emily Dickinson developed into a mixture of Puritan and free-thnker, and she was troubled enough by doubts about traditional Calvinist doctrine to treat God and religion from time to time in a poetically flippant fashion. A choice example of such an attitude is also one which illustrates her directness and ironic wit:

                    Faith is a fine invention
                    For gentlemen who see
                    But microscopes are prudent
                    In an emergency!

                    On the other hand, some of her most beautiful, succesful, and often most popular poems are affirmation of faith. The following examples referred to by her first lines exemplify this: “Because I could not stop for Death”, “I died for beauty”, “As imperceptively as grief”, “here is a certain slant of light”, and, the well-known “I never saw aMoor.”

                    Late in her life, however, her questionings about death and immortality became somewhat morbid, as evidenced in the tone of her poetry took and in the almost grotesque little notes of condolence, she sometimes wrote to friends. There is one poem, for instance, which is rather literal in its insistent inquirey:

                    To know just how he suffered would be dear;
                    To know if any human eyes were near
                    To whom he could intrust his wavering gaze,
                    Until it settles firm on Paradise.

                    Other questions the poet wants answered are, “To know he was patient, part content, /was dying as he thought, or different”, or “was he afraid, or tranquil?”. This preoccupation with and curiosity about death, betrays a growing conflict in her mind between faith and doubt. Then of course there are the ancedotes about her notes of condolence, one one of which suffices to indicate her turn of mind during this late period of life. She wrote to a friend whose father had died on her wedding day: “Few daughters have the immortality of a father for a bridal gift.”  (2)  Here again, one must in honesty ask a lot of questions: is this genuine sympathy, is it simply poor taste, is it selfishness which puts one’s thoughts about a subject-and the frank expression of them-before consideration for the bereaved friend? However these questions are answered on this and similar occasions, especially as she grew older and more isolated from the outside world. Emily Dickinson inevitably wrote for herself, and not from any contact with realities, either of poetry or of people.

                    The first, then, most obsessive theme of Emily Dickinson’s poetry is “death”, “time” and “immortality.” Many of her famous poems, including: “I heard a fly buzz when I died,” “Safe in their alabaster chambers,” and others deal with this theme. She often placed herself in the position of the person who was dying, in an attempt to convey some of what death must be like. At other times, for example in “The last night she lived”, she presents herself as one of the mourners who must watch a loved one dying and taking care of her body after dying. “Safe in the alabaster chambers” deals with death itself, rather than the death of an individual; here she contrasts the light and motion of life with the dark, timeless quality, which is death. It is important to note, as will be shown in the following poetic analyses that is none of the poems dealing with death does Dickinson indicate that she has any real faith in an afterlife. On the contrary, she contenplates on the complete removal of the dead, both physically and spiritually. Death to Dickinson, is the absolute
cessation of motion; apparently she felt that death was indeed the death of everything.

                     Other poets of comparable stature have made the theme of death
central in much of their writing. Emily Dickinson did so in hers to an unusual
degree. In one way or another she has drawn it into the texture of some five or six hundred poems. “All but Death”, she wrote in 1863, “can be adjusted”, and concludes:
                     Death-unto itself exception-
                     Is exempt from change.

                      Much later in her life she came to feel that “Maturity only enhances mystery, never decreases it.”  She viewed death from every possible angle, and left a record of her emotions and her ideas about it in her poems. Death is a terror to be feared and shunned. It is hideous and inequitable mistake; a trick played on trusting humanity by a sportive, insensate deity. It a welcome relief from mortal ills. It is the blessed means to eternal happiness. But which of the attitudes is most valid, what assump-tions about it are really true, she never decided.  (3)

                      It seems fair to assert that the most gripping of Emily Dickinson’s poems are poems entered around the questions of “what is death?”, “Why is death?” and “What is it like to die?”. Her besst poems on death were not inspired by personal experiences. They sprang instead from the inherent ambiguity of the grave, that obsessive image for poet and priest. ‘Death’, according to one of her very earliest poems, is “but our rapt attention/To immortality.”  What we experience at graves, “Death’s bold Exhibition”, she says in another, enables us to infer more precisely both what we are and what we may become. And again, nothing can reduce our mortal consequence like knowing that soon we shall not exist, nothing can exalt it like the belief that she shall exist again. The experience of this world, outer and inner, had furnished a center of gravity for tha majority of her poems, but an opposite pull drew the rest lik a lodestar:

                    Death is the other way-
                    It is the White Eploit.

                    She never found a better image for its ambiguity than this, man’s bold adventure into blackness. Obsessive concern with death is no more morbid than is a compulsion to escape from it. Attitudes toward death become valid when it is made the occasion of a search for meaning rather than an expression of emotion for its own sake. The natural compliment to an intense love of life is an intense fear of death! Dickinson’s poems are triumphant over this fear. She justified her own obsession in philosophical terms: “Death is the first form of life which we have had the power to contemplate, our entrance here being an exclusion from comprehension; it is amazing that the fascination of our predicament does not entice us more.”
In a letter following up this idea, she said: “Of our first Creation we are unconscious and of living, too, until death forces us to be conscious of it.” (4)

                    In her poems these abstractions find concrete embodiment, because she saw ‘New Englandly’, though with a difference. The stable society of a small town made death a more conspicuous part of daily life than is possible in the transient urban world. Modern man say seem more verbally realistic, but the circumstances of his life tend to make dying remote and abstract. On the other hand, the pious language of a hundred years ago may seem evasive, but people then dealt with the fact of death at firsthand. Her only problem was to revitalize the language. Two light verses show her trying to achive distance by wit. In one “There’s been a Death in the Opposite House”, she uses the mock-grotesque to paint a genre sketch of the whole sequence from death to burial in an old-fashioned Amherst, just a country town, made memorable by her figure for the undertaker as that man of the “Appalling Trade.” In the other, she saturizes the professional smoothness of modern funeral parlors with their satin-lined metal caskets “Sweet-safe-Houses'” corpses turned into people of ‘Pearl’ by the embalmer’s art, and “Muffled Coaches” that cushion the anguish of the tomb. The ‘undertaker’ has been transformed into the ‘mortician’, whose function is to no longer bury the dead but to obscure the fact of dying for a hedonistic society that has lost the belief in the soul; but by sealing out the reality of death it has out itself off from immortality too. For her serious poems she found her rituals in the village world of her childhood more dramatic, as the stark recital of her old custom of laying out of the body at home for burial. Here she reunites the personal experience of death with its religious meaning, as the long wake concludes:  (5)

                    And loe-we placed the Hair
                    And drew the Head erect
                    And then an awful leisure was
                    Our fate to regulate.

                     Her poems on death fall into three groups. There are those which are concerned with the physical demise of the body; some describing the cat of dying with clinical detachment; some with emotional vehemence. Others muse upon death or depict the face and form of the body on which the gazer’s attention is riveted. There are poems in which death, the suitor, is personified-in which the theme deals less with life here and now, or life to come, than with the precise moment of transitiın from one state to the other. And,, there are also the elegies and epitaphs-lyrical commomerations of friends and personages whom she has admired, like Elizabeth Barrett Browing or Charlotte Bronté.  (6)

                     There seems to be one persistent thought that binds together this very large number of poems on death. It is the knowledge that death snaps the lines of communication with those whom we have known and loved, and creates the uncertainity in the minds of all mortals whether that communication can ever be reestablished. She gave expression thus in 1864 to the basic human wonderment:

                     Those who have been in the grave the longest-
                     Those who begin Today-
                     Equally perish from our Practise-
                     Death is the further way-

                     Foot of the Bold did least attempt it-
                     It-is the White Exploit
                     Once to achieve, annals to power
                     Once to communicate-

                     Death, whether occuring in the recesses of the past or in accomlis-hing the one thing about which she felt a gathering terror. Each such event left her unrecoverably out of touch with those she had loved. “A Coffin-is a small Domain”, she says in the same year:

                     Yet able to contain
                     A rudiment of Paradise
                     In it’s diminished Plane.

                     A grave-is a restricted Breadth-
                     Yet ampler than the sun-
                     And all the Seas He populates
                     And lands He looks upon

                     To Him who on it’s small Repose
                     Bestows a single Friend-
                     Circumference without Relief
                     Or Estimate-or End-  (7)

                     Any death for Emily Dickinson was an experience which she too shared and the death of friends was one in which she emotionally participated. She witnessed it from two directions: through the eyes of the observer, and by constructions through the sensations of the dying. This compound vision she embodies in such poems as “No Notice gave she, but a change”, and ” ‘Twas Crisis-All the length had passed.” The quite irony of “To diee takes just a little while” is characteristic of Dickinson’s poetry…and here the images flash with sharp precesion.

                      The Dying need but little, Dear
                      A Glass of Water’s all,
                      A Flower’s unobstrusive Face
                      To punctuate the wall,

                      A fan, perhaps, a Friend’s Regret
                      And certainity that one
                      No color in the Rainbow
                      Perceive, when you are gone.

                      “How many times these low feet staggered” is written from the point of view of one who stands alone in a room gazing at a dead body. Intimate touches associate the deceased with her homely labors. One cannot move the ‘adamantine figures’ which will never again wear a thimble. Dull flies buzz, the sun shines bravely through the ‘frekled pane’, and a cobweb now swings ‘fearless’ from the ceiling.”  In “I’ve sen a Dying Eye”, she describes the search of dying one for sımething just before the sight is obscured by death:

                      Then Cloudier become
                      And then-obscure with Fog
                      And then-he soldered down
                      Without disclosing what it be
                      ‘Twere blessed to have seen-

                      The search, it is clear, is in fact being made by the poet who, in the presence of death, hopes to find an answer to the riddle of death. It belings to the same order of poems as ” ‘Tis so appaling in exhilirates,” in which she concludes that:

                      Looking at Death, is Dying
                      Just let go the Breath
                      And not the pillow at your Cheek
                      So Slumbereth-

                      Others, can wrestle-
                      Your’s, is done-
                      And so of Wo, bleak dreaded-come,
                      It sets the Fright at liberty-
                      And terror’s free-
                      Gay, Ghastly, Holiday.  (8)

                      In 1861, she wrote one of her more famous death poems, “A Clock stopped” with similar intent, and also at some remove. The moment of death when the heart ceases to beat, is metaphorically described in the first stanza.

                      A Clock stopped-
                      Not the Mantel’s-
                      Geneva’s fartherest skill-
                      Cant put the puppet bowing
                      That just now dangled skill-

                      By now no physician’s skill can restore life. The second stanza goes back to the moment before death. When the dying person hunched with pain, realizes tyhe awful moment is at hand and, at the final stroke of noon, succumbs.

                      An awe came on this Trinket!
                      The Figures hunched, with pain-
                      Then quivered out of Decimals-
                      Into Degreeless Noon.

                      The scene described is so entirely metaphorical that one suspects she is imagining the moment of her own death. Certainly she is not realisti-cally observing that of a friend. She projects a situation which concerns a person whose those who have some claim to love (the shopman, for instance) are powerless to help. Time thenceforth must be reckoned by “Decades of Arrogance”.  That which cannot be compared is indeed a trinket. (9)

                     It will not stir for Doctor’s-
                     This pendulum of show-
                     The Shopman importtunes it-
                     While cool-concernless No-

                     Nods from the Gilded pointers-
                     Nods from the Seconds slim-
                     Decades of Arrogance between
                     The Dial life-
                     And Him.

                     Equally remarkable for its virtuosity, “I heard a fly buzz-when I died,” belonmgs to a somewhat different order among the lyrics which ponder the crisis of sorrow. It appears to have in 1862. With that combination of condensed precision and eloquence which gave her best poems their rank, she transmits the sensations which she imagines she might feel during the last moments before death. The bereaved family at the bedside are past the point of tears, for the moment of death has arrived.

                     And Breaths were gathering firm
                     For the last Onset-when the King
                     Be witnes-in the Room-

                     A stillness such as that “Between the heaves of storm”, prepares the reader physically to hear the final agonizing gasp of the dying. The buzzing fly, so familiar a pat of the natural order of persistent household discomfort, is brought in at the last to give the touch of petty irritabilities that are concomitant with living-and indeed- with dying.

                     With Blue-uncertain stumbling Buzz-
                     Between the light-and me-
                     And then the windows failed-and then
                     I could not-see to see-

                     It is of course because Emily Dickinson had from childhood felt an unusual sensitivity about such events that she is here uniquely able to give reality to the moment.  (10)

                     Another poem noted as one of her best-known works shares this virtuosity of “I heard a Fly buzz-When I Died.” This poem contrasts the qualities of stillness with those of life. In the first stanza, she emphasizes the timelessness of death: “the meek members of the resurrection” sleep in their coffins untouched by dawn or noon. They are sealed in, closed off from time and the world, by the oppressive weight of rafter and roof. The second stanza lists spme of the joys of a summer day: the breeze laughs, the bees buzz, the birds sing. Their unknown wisdom is for nothing, however, since no one hears them. In the third stanza the poet goes from the movement of the natural things to the movements of time; the years preceed in their orderly fashion, plants make their own prescribed orbits, abd earthly things rise and fall-but again the dead are unaware of all this activity. Thus, the poem is a statement on the awful unknowingness of death, the complete removal of the dead from all activity, the largest and the smallest. The dead are “safe” in their “alabaster chambers“, but they are also completely removed from everything that a human being considers interesting or valuable.  (11)

                    A quite different order of poems are those which personify Death, a nebulous creature at first, who soon develops the stature of a true character of  fiction. “One dignity delays for all,” written in 1859, picture death as a potentate, almost oriental in the absoluteness of his sway and the splendir of his court. His colors are purple, and thus doubly associated with royalty and with the color of the ample bow of ribbons attached at the time of death to the front door of New  England houses. The “dignity which none can avoid includes, beside the purple, a coach, footmen, a chamber, and a state of gathering. There will be bells too for the processional march, with a solemn service and a hundred hats. This pomp surpassing ermine, death prepares:

                    “When simple you, and I
                    Present our meek escutcheon
                    And claim the rank to die!”

                    Exactly the same ceremony of investure is described in the slightly later poem “Wait till the majesty of Death/Invests so mean a brow”, where
“this democrat,” dressed in “ever-lasting robes,” receives the homage of “Obsequious angels.” Twice again -in 1862- he is the despot. Here too as earlier in “I heard a Fly buzz when I died”, we wait “For that last Onset-when the King/Be witnessed in the Room.” But in “Triumphant may be of several kinds” Death that “Old Imperator,” has not met and vanquished by his adver-sary Faith. This is the last poem in which Emily Dickinson imagines death as a swollen tyrant. She now returns the morality puppet to its box because she already has created one of the most extraordinary characters in American Literature.”  (12)

                     Emily Dickinson personified Death but her method of doing so reverses the usual procedure. She started with a symbol which she altered into a reality. The method is inherently necessary when the symbol intense-ly, have the artist’s endowment whereby the substance is made flesh. In respect to that ability as in other ways already noted, she calls to mind William Blake who, liked her, began with a symbol which demanded from the artist a concrete form. hus Death as Emily Dickinson delineated him is a protean figure, part element of nature, part erlking, part Grendel, but mostly country squire: a suave, elusive, persuasive, insinuating character, but always a very genteel and attentive Amhers friend and suitor.  (13)

                     Death first becomes dimensional in the following year in “Dust is the only secret.” He is identified as a neighbor’s  boy who has grown up in Amherst and who, because everybody has vaguely know him, is now somewhat legendary. He is:

                     “—- the only one
                     You cannot find out all about
                     In the native town-
                     Nobody was a Boy
                     Hadn’t  any playmates
                     Nor ‘Early History’-”

                     The biographical sketch becomes now more indistinct, fading into snatches of local gossip:

                     Bolder than a Fleet-

                     Builds like a Bird-too-
                     Christ robs the nest-
                     Robin after Robin

                     At the end he has metamorphosed into a father robin who, having turned suddenly into a smuggler, acts as agent for a divine robber barron.  (14)

                     Death is contained in most of her love poems which are concerned with a celestial betrothal. Several of them combine this with a metaphor of a funeral as the wedding journey to eternity, like the one beginning: “Tie the strings to any Life, My Lord, — Just a look at the horses.” The most original, written late in life, is an explicit rendering of death as the lover who transports her in his carriage, the theme that is only implicit in the major poem just discussed.

                       Death is the supple Suitor
                       That wins at last-
                       Conducted first
                       By pallid innuendoes
                       And dim approach
                       But brave at last with Bugles
                       And a biseated Coach
                       It bears away in triumph
                       To troth unknown
                       And kinsmen as divulgeless
                       As Clans of Down-

                       When “Death” first appears as a suitor, sha changes from a girl to a coy virgin. This must be a “stealthy Wooing,” for though she knows it will result in a glorious new status for her, she is vaguely aware that it will mean a renunciation of all the world she has known. Her maidenly reserve is indicated by the manner in which he is forced to conduct the courtship, by “pallid innuendoes” and a “dim approach.” But he is a “Supple Suitor” and attains his goal at last.  (15)

                         The second change comes with great suddenness for it is the kiss of death, transforming her from virgin to bride, or at least to the betrothed. Because of the protean character of “Death”, who is born envoy and groom-to-be, the ceremony itself does not occur in the poem but falls between the first six lines and the last six. Then without more ado he bears her away “in triumph”, both from the proxy wedding and towards a final one, to the sound of “brave Bugles” such as would announce a royal marriage, or the day of doom. The strange duality of this journey is reflected by the odd vehicle in which they travel, “a bisected Coach.” As a hearse it separates her body in the glass enclosure from the driver on the seat above, as a wedding coach it divides the wife-to-be from the virginal life behind as a heavenly chariot the mortal from the immortal. The third and final change of status lies beyond the poem because it lies beyond death. She only knows that she is going to a “Troth unknown”. The impossibility of describing her spiritual marriage is put flatly in this phrase and in the vagueness of her projection of the glorious life to come, with “Kinsmen as divulgeless/He clans of Down” or as the variant of the concluding lines reads: “Pageants as impassive/As Proselain.”
<The word comes from ‘prosevite‘, namely “one who changes onto some other religious person or thing; the beings who change-transform their previous existing states.I.E.>. The three stages of the poem  which also transform the suitor into a bride-groom and prospective husband correspond to the awareness of death, the act of death, and the state after death. The last, in relation to the Christian concept of entering heaven as the bride of Christ is rendered with typical Dickinsonian obliqueness.  (16)

                        “Because I could not stop for Death” is incomparably the finest poem of this cluster. Death now comes into a full stature as a person. It is a superlative achievement in which Death becomes one of the great charac-ters of literature. (17)  
                        It is almost impossible in any critique to define exactly the kind of reality which her character Death attains, simply because the protean shifts of form are intended to forestall definition. A poem can convey the nuances of exulation agony, exultation, agony, compassion, or any mystical mood. But no one can succesfully define mysticism because the logic of language has no place for it. One must therefore assume that the reality of Death, as Emily Dickinson conceived it, is to be perceived by the reader in the poems themselves. Any analysis can do more than suggest what may be looked for.

                     In “Because I could not could not stop for Death”, Emily Dickinson
envisions Death as a person she knew and trusted, or believed that she could trust. He might be any Amherst gentleman, a William Howland or an Elbridge Bowdoin, or any of the coming lawyers or teachers or sinisters whom she remembered from her youth, with whom she had exchanged
valentines, and who at one time or another had acted as her squire.

                     “Because I could not stop for Death
                     He kindly stopped for me-
                     The Carriage held but just Ourselves-
                     And Immortality.”

                     The carriage holds but the two of them, yet the ride as she states with quiet emphasis, is a last ride together. Clearly there has been no decep-tion on his part. They drove in a leisurely manner, and she feels completely at ease. Since she understands it to be a last ride, she of course expects it to be unhurried. Indeed, His graciousness in taking time to stop for her at that point and on that day in her life when she was so busy that she could not possibly have taken time to stop for Him, is a mark for special politeness. She is therefore quite willing to put aside her work. And again, since it is to be her last ride, He can dispense with her spare moments as well as her active ones.

                      “We slowly drow-He knew no haste
                      And I did put away
                      My labor and my leisure too
                      For His civility.”

                      She notes the daily routins of the life she is passing from, Children playing games during a school recess catch her eye at the last. And now the sense of motion is quickened. Or perhaps more exactly one should say that the sense of time comes to an end as they pass the cycles of the day and the seasons of the year, at the period of both ripeness and decline.

                      “We passed the School, where children strove
                      At recess-in the Ring-
                      We passed the Fields of Grazing Grain-
                      We passed Setting sun-”

                       How insistently “passed” echoes throıgh the stanza! She now conveys her feeling of being ouıtside time and change, for she corrects herself to say that the sun passed them, as it of course does all who are in the grave. She is aware of dampness and cold and becomes suddenly conscious of the sheerness of the dress and scarf which she now discovers that she wears.

                       “Or rather-He passed Us-
                       The Dews drew quivering and chill-
                       For only Gossamer, my Gown-
                       My Tippet-only Tulle-”

                        The two concluding stanzas, with progressively decreasing concreteness, hasten the final identification of he “House”. It is the slightly rounded “surface” of the vast ground with a scarcely visible roof and a cornice “in the Ground.” To time and seasonal change, which have already ceased, is now added motion. Cessation of all activity and creativenss is absolute. At the end, in a final instantaneous flash of memory, she recalls the last objects before her eyes during the journey; the heads of the horses that bore her, as she had surmised they were doing from the beginningg toward-it is the last word-“Eternity.”

                       “We posed before a House that seemed
                       A Swelling of the Ground-
                       The Roof was scarcely visible-
                       The cornice-in the Ground-

                       Since then-’tis  Centuries-and yet
                       Feels shorter than the Day
                       I first surmised the Horses Heads
                       Were toward Eternity.”

                       Gradually, too, one realizes that Death as a person has receded into the background, mentioned last only impersonally in the opening words
“We passed” pf the fifth stanza, where His services as aquire and companion are over. In this poem concrete realism melds into “awe and circumference” wity matchless economy.”  (18)

                       “I never hear that one is dead,” begins a significant poem. The bell tolled for Emily when anyone died. “Tilling the ‘abyss of death”, her mind

                       “Had madness, had it once or twice,
                       The yawning consciousness.”

                       “Beliefs are bandaged,” the poem continues. That is the idea of death is so terrible that the ordinary mind defendes against it. Emily knew no one so bold that she would dare look “that awful stranger, consciousness,” in the face. It is not too much to say that she looked at it more squarely-than any other poet: Emily Dickinson was extremely frustrated. She wrote poetry which she could not publish. She loved where she dared not to love. Again and again, she insisted that she had given up life on this earth and all her hopes on a life to come. The ensued life in her avenged itself by confronting her with the image of death.

                       It was a consumation tht Emily never knew. She died at the age of thirty-five, on a May evening of 1886, attended by Austin and Sue Dickinson, her brother, and sister-in-law, her sister, Lavinia, and a few friends. On the day of her burial, Higginton observed with surprise that she “looked 30, not a gray hair or wrinkle, and a perfect peace on the beautiful brow.” It was the only peace she ever knew. And from the grave to which the small coffin was born on a bright, flower-ladded May afternoon. She continues to fling her challenging and unanswerable questions. For those who have truly felt her poems she is an inquiet sleeper.

                       Emily Dickinson’s death poetry is her great poetry.Her gretness is this: that out of the grotesqueness of her private situation there was wrestled the insight she had into man’s tragic lot in a tragic world. Born of frustration, her work passes the supreme test which art demands of suffering. The frust-rations are important, since, lacking them Emily Dickinson might never have written a line of verse. What really counts, however, is the aesthetic leap to which frustrations give rise. By virtue of the leap, Miss Dickinson enjoys, as an artist, the very triumph that life denied her. She ceases to be the agonized maiden lady of Amherst, and becomes a profound moving irony, the poet of the tragic man. She deserves more than being called “the poet of the tragic man“. Critics hail her as the poet of modern sensibility. She is claimed as a poet of the twentieth century.


(1)    Alexander, Charlotte; “The Poetry of Emily Dickinson”, pp.:12-14.
(2)    Ward, Theodora; “Emily Dickinson’s Letters”, p.:87.
(3)    Griffith, Clark; ” The Long Shadow”, pp.:203-05.
(4)    Todd, Mabel; “Letters of Emily Dickinson”, p.:290.
(5)    Anderson, Charles; “Emily Dickinson’s Poetry”, p.:229.
(6)    Johnson, Thomas; “Emily Dickinson”, pp.:204-06.
(7)    Ibid, p.:208.
(8)    Longsworth, Polly; “Emily Dickinson”, p.:153-55.
(9)    Anderson, Charles; “Emily Dickinson’s Poetry”, pp.:240-45.
(10)  Alexander, Charlotte; “The Poetry of Emily Dickinsom”, p.:69.
(11)   Ibid., pp.:82-83.
(12)   Johnson, Thomas; “Emily Dickinson”, pp.:216-18.
(13)   Ibid., p.:219.
(14)   Ibid., p.:220.
(15)   Anderson, Charles; “Emily Dickinson’s Poetry”, pp.:245-7.
(16)   Ibid., pp.246-48.
(17)   Johnson, Thoas, “Emily Dickinson”, pp.:224-5 
(18)   Griffith, Clark; “The Long Shadow”, pp.: 138-40.

                                                             CHAPTER   III

                       The modernity of Emily Dickinson makes for a complicated issue. Her work has commanded the interest of many of the most sophisticated critics of poetry writing in our time. Sooner or later, virtually all of them have seen fit to “damn it” with a combination of “loud praise” and “bitter reproach”. To Yvor Winters, considered an intriguing, stimulating yet somewhat unorthodox critic, Emily Dickinson is one of the great Lyric
poets of all time. But, in the next breath, she has become “of all great poems” the one most “lacking in taste.” Winters admits that her technique is often ‘barbarous’ and ‘irresponsible”. Similarly,  R.P. Blacmur, a professor of English at Princeton and one of the most eminent and most original critics of our time, praises the occasional power in Miss Dickinson’s lyrics, even as he berates her for her ignorance, untidiness, and a failure to be objectively in control of poetic language.  Allan Tate, a very influential critic and teacher of our century, congragulates Miss Dickinson for being born at the right time for great poetry and for taking advantages of this opportunity, nevertheless laments the losseness and the self-indulgence which he detects in a good deal of what she wrote. A.C. Ward, author of  “American Literature“,  places Dickinson within the context of the cultural and literary history of the United States, focusing on her belief in “inviolability of selfhood”. He places her at an opposite pole from a vulgar, hurrying and materialistic America of the end of nineteenth century. “She was not, it is clear, a resigned and long-suffering spinster who took the world as she found it. To the world, she may have appeared placid and acquiscent, because it was within herself that the drama was played and judgements passed—”

                      Emily Dickinson’s real force lay in her almost contenptuously detached manner of stating truths. Percy Lubbock, whose “The Craft of Fiction”  is a masterpiece in the theory of modern fiction, saw her with judicious sympathy. He observes, as for her strange little poems, they too suffered in the end from the perverse artificiality of her life, their cryptic harshness, their bad rhymes and wild grammer.  “Emily came to believe, perhaps, but these were a mark of her originality and sincerity, disdaining rule. Her friends believed so, at any rate, and she hardly encountered the  criticism of any but frends.”  He concludes rather nicelyon what is the ‘spirit’ of this poet: “To this determined little anchoress, so carefully shut up in her provincial cell, nothing was sacred and nothing daunting; she made as free with heaven and and hell, life and death, as with the daisies and butterflies outside her window. She was small, she was obstinate. She was not as wise as she ended by thinking herself; but her voice was unique, and she flung out
the short joy of her, pain or mockery with a note that cannot be forgotten. It is much to say in a world where voices are so many.”   (1)

                       The modern view of Emily Dickinson, then, has been frankly reserved. At least, in the hands of major critics – the theorists whose tastes and preferences have tended to shape our conception of what poetry ought to be: she has come off, if not quite badly, then rather less than well. It is of the utmost significance that these critics, together with certain others who share their position, have consented to deal with Miss Dickinson at all. It is significant because they are the very writers who profess either disdain or indifference toward the every other nineteen century American poet. Of the Cambridge poets: Lowell, Holmes, Longfellow, Whitman: they simply do not speak at all. They ignore or drag in to exemplify everything wrong with poetry. With Emerson, they associate with a perniciousness that is moral as well as aesthetic.

                       Thus, by their willingness to read her closely and even, for that matter, to impose a severe judgment upun her work the New  Critics confirm an important point about Emily Dickinson: they asserted that she still has a voice. Despite their reservations, they make it clear that she continues to speak to us, as her American poet contemporaries ordinarily do not. What are the sources of her appeal? Why is it that she appears to have a unique claim upon the modern sensibility. It is with these questions, questions having to do not with popularity in the conventional sense, but with Miss Dickinson’s attractiveness to a highly intellectual ype of criticism -that this chapter will be concerned.-

                      Beyond any doubt whatsoever, one key to her modernity lies in the peculiar relationship which Emily Dickinson bears to the Emersonian point of view. In its pure form -that is as a set of hopes and beliefs identifi-able with Ralph Valdo Emerson – the point of view has not weathered well with critics. Emerson lay stress upon human perfection or in its harping upon the easy access man has to Nature and God, or in his sweeping denials of pain and evil. The case against his blandness has been made many times in the twentieth century though never more bluntly than by Robert Pen Warren who insists that, “after Emerson has done his work,”  life, literature, and culture in America were all divested of “tragic possibilities.”   (3)

                       Emerson does offend readers and critics with the shrillness of his optimism. There is a way he has of dismissing (or simply looking through) realities which, from the view point of our troubled age, makes him seem willfully blind and shallow, almost to the point of stupidity. Yet the Warren allegation remains no better than a half truth, because it falsifies the facts of history. After “Emerson had done his work,” there did indeed come into being tragic writers and the essence of their outlook was largely conditioned by what they had inherited from Emerson. It was the destiny of these writers to separate the Emersonian belief from the Emersonian hope. The results were psychologically painful, no doubt, but they also made for the greatest moments in nineteenth century American literature.   (4)

                        Emily Dickinson is the second major writer of the nineteenth century (Melville is the first) to discover tragedy in the Emersonian point of view, and to dramatize her insight by combining the old, jubilant expectations with a new and frustrating outcome. Her views of nature ten to invert the typically Emersonian view. If she takes pleasure from the beauty of natural forms, if the look of a sunset delights her or the sound of a summer wind fills her with ecstasy, Miss Dickinson still recognizes that in its deeper, more symbolic aspects, Nature, is an adversary, a creature who either withholds her meanings or yields them up in hints which the individual would be better off not discovering. The poet may deplore those who are totally indifferent to the natural order. But criticism is tempered by the realization that too deep an involvement can be hurtful:

                        “But nature is a stranger yet;
                        The ones that cite her most
                        Have passed her haunted house,
                        Nor simplified ger ghost.

                        To pity those who know her not
                        Is helped by the regret
                        That those who know her know her less
                        The nearer her they get.”   (5)

                        Sometimes this sense of the complex natural enemy without will shape a poem which is so similar to Emerson – and yet so utterly distinct from him- that is almost has the ring of cruel and conscious parody:

                        “Alone and in a Circumstance
                        Reluctant to be told
                        A spider on my reticence
                        Assiduously crawled
                        And so much more at Home than I
                        Immediately grew
                        I felt myself a visitor
                        And hurriedly withdrew.

                        Revisiting my late abode
                        With articles of claim
                        I found it quietly assumed
                        As a Gymnasium
                        Where Tax asleep and Tide off
                        The inmates of the Air
                        Perpetual presumption took
                        As each were special Heir
                        If any strike me on the street
                        I can return the Blow-
                        If any take my property
                        According to the Law
                        The Statue is my learned friend
                        But what redress can be
                        For an offense nor here nor there
                        So not in Equity-
                        That Lascony of time and mind
                        The marrow of the day
                        But spider of forbid it Lord
                        That I sould specify.”   (6)

                        The cardinal principle of Emersonianism is Emerson’s assertion that “natural facts are symbols of spiritual facts.” A chain of analogies links the world below to the wold above, so that by attending to what les openly before him or hearkening to its intonations, an observer can detect in immediate experience the larger rhytms of the realm of spirit. And, this is the principle to which Emily Dickinson has offered her unique revision. From the spider -from the concrete natural fact- her speaker learns the lesson which says that experience freely trespasses upon the self. There-after, her vision steadily enlarges, until it seems to her that the trespass cannot readily be restricted to the spider, but, that it is an offense “not here not there,” a transgression of such magnitude that is must be spiritual and must have originated with God. Thus for Miss Dickinson, no less than Emerson, Nature has been the symbol of spirit.  (7)

                       It might be argued furthermore that Emily Dickinson subjects the Emersonian doctrine of “compensation” to the bitter reversal. Compensation itself represents the core of Emerson’s ‘moral idealism.’  It proceeds from the point of view that the universe is so finely purposed and so harmonious a place that no evil or injustice can possibly accure to the individual. If an apparent evil does occur, it is explicable in terms of any or all of three different reasons. Either it is a deserved punishment, as when “The theif steal from himself.” Or, it is a preparation for some later good, as when “every defeat in one manner is made up in another; every suffering is rewarded.” Or, it is subsumable under a Total Plan (Emerson’s ‘Oversoul‘ or his “Spiritual Laws“) which negates the reality of evil. At all events, it is inconceivable that evil should exist as a concrete fact, an actual and positive principle. The idea repels human intelligence, which as Emerson says: “refuses limits and always affirms an Optimism never a Pessimism.”  (8)

                        There is no mistake about it, Emily Dickinson looked at life in an identical fashion. That is, she too was conscious of some overlying plan in moral experiences. In addition, she wanted to see identical relationships. In other words, her moral idealism would have been satisfied, had she, like Emerson, found grounds to believe that ‘good‘ is the only reality possessed by ‘man’. Once again, however,  the wish she carried to experience was confounded by the fact. For her, the crucial truth is not that an apparent evil will be offset by the actual good; it is just the opposite of that happy proposi-tion. Miss Dickonson beholds a world in which the momentary and the appa-ritional thing is good itself, in which the dream of pleasure only enlarges one’s susceptibility to suffering, and which the ‘total Plan’ dispenses one misfortune a top another. In her poetry, agony is the price paid for each ecstatic moment; men are lost in the very hour of salvation; an unexpected gift of is followed by the certain betrayal; one discovers that if today is bad, tomorrow will be twice horrible. What may we are shown, in short, is a torture-chamber universe, where Emerson’s logic is tested by experience and made to seem hopelessly woolly-headed. To his theory that life will always make amends. Emily Dickinson simply adds that the amends appear always to be further pain and further evil. It is a cruel addition made all the bleaker by our realization that, however different the conclusion they reach, the two writers have had a common startting point.  (9)

                        The idea of ‘Nature’s treachery‘ and the sense of the ‘supremacy of evil’  mark Emily Dickinson as a modern. By the first, she aligns herself spiritually and intellectually with a poet like Frost, whose sardonic qualities have never quite concealed the fact that he too sees existence as a post-Emersonian tragedy. By the second, she gives to her work the sort of syste- matic precariousness which we associate nowadays with such influential moderns as Kafka and Dostoevsky. Irony of the history though it is, then, the fact remains that Emily Dickinson learned from her Emersonian lagecy just those insights into darkness and despair which have preserved her hold on the twentieth century. But her most intriguing connection with Emerson, we need to study a single image which the two of them shared: the image of the eye. In Emerson’s scheme, the eye stays open, and masters life, masters it by appearing to look, but by keeping very vague and general nonetheless what is actually to be seen. Emily Dickinson began at the same starting place. She too hoped to perceive “Universal Being”, to spell out oracular disclosures with the eye. The difference, though, was that Miss Dickinson had little talent for Emersonian generalization. Even as she hungered to see, she also saw. Out of the difference came the tragic viewpoint which Emersonianism forced upon her. When according to the fashion of the day Emily Dickinson brought her eye to bear on life, she found hard, blunt facts, recalling to her that human vision is finite. When following Emerson’s dictum she essayed to keep the eyeball open, the facts asserted themselves again, too ugly to be easily endured, and compelling her retreat into self-willed sightlessness. It was precisely because she cultivated the eyes of optimism that Emily Dickinson ended up looking through the eyes of doom.  (10)

                       In our time, the eyes of optimism continue to be a genial institution perhaps, but they are hardly a force. Indeed, so easy and facile does the Emersonian way now seem to be that we have a taste for flagellate it for us. This is the case with Emily Dickinson. There is absolutely no reason to think of her as a critic of Emersonianism. She was far too deeply involved that, and far too reluctant to give up the Emersonian position. Nevertheless, her inversions have the ring of criticism. The paradoxical truth is that she used Emerson’s means to pursue Emerson’s ends, until she discovered that those ends could have their cruel and tragic opposites. However painful the discovery -what-ever it cost her in peace of mind- this inverted “shock of recognition” is among the qualities in Miss Dickinson’s work that makes her one of ours.  (11)

                        The second quality which makes Miss Dickinson one of ours is her tendency to show emotions.  The quality in Romantic poetry which is most often scorned in the twentieth century is the quality of an undisciplin-ed emotionalism. Among the New Critics, it is commonly asserted that the Romantics failed as a group, because, instead of dramatizing emotions, they were content to list and label them, to tick them off, one by one, on their fingers. The romantics d not show us how or why we should feel deeply. Rather they are content to say to us: “Look! I feel this way! You must feel this way too!”  One supposes that Shelley and Poe are the worse offenders in this respect: poets whose shrieks and posturings have sorely impaired their current reputations.  (12)

                        Emily Dickinson is capable of writing sentimentally. She too can present bald emotions which seem to have little foundation in fast, or which at any rate, strike us as being greatly in excess of the facts she supplies. This is the case in those of her love poems which betray the influence of magazi-nes and gift books. It also holds true for certain of the philosophical or des-
criptive texts, wherein Miss Dickinson seeks to conceal, with a thick coating of sanctimony and platitude, the same grave issues that had plagued her elsewhere. This latter type of sentiment appears to be a part of the irony, appears a way if poking fun at statements uttered on the surface of the poem. But one cannot invariably depend upon this interpretation. A certain amount of time, Emily Dickinson wrote off the top of her mind, without both-ering to watch or to listen. Finding her in this vein:

                        “Nature-The Gentlest Mother is,
                        Impatient of no Child- 
                        The fublest-on the waywardnest-

                        Inebriate of Air-am I-
                        And debauchee of Dew
                        Ruling-thro endless summer days-
                        From inns of Molten Blue-  (13)

                        We are not sure whether an obscure joke is intended, or whether, for the moment, she really means it.

                        In the main, though Miss Dickinson’s usage of language of emotion was a good deal more painstaking. Typically her finest poems sprang from the profound sense she had of how the self is preyed upon by outer realities. There is an exact, effective correlation between the tumult of feeling within the speaker and those circumstances beyond her which have brought the tumult into being. We are made to see precisely how and why death and time, man and God and Nature, each occasion such ovewhelming responses. Consequently, the responses themselves have seemed rooted in actuality and properly pinned down to some specific reference. Even if we are not always prepared to sympathize with the reactions to life that Emily Dickinson presents, we are still able to accept them as dramatically true.(14)

                        Furthermore, Miss Dickinson was directly concerned with the problem of communicating an emotion. As a poet who wrote of suffering in its various forms and stages, she had the liveliest interest in those verbal devices which could be used to render visible and articulate the nebulous and the private inner state. This interest shows up in a number of her excel-lent poems, including one that many readers would probably think of her supreme achievement:

                        “After great pain a formal feeling comes-
                        The nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs-
                        And Stiff Heart questions Was it He, that bore,
                        And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

                        The feet, mechanical, go round-
                        A  Wooden way
                        Of Ground, or Air, or Ought-
                        Regardless grown,
                        A Quartz contentment, like a stone-

                        This is the Hour of Lead
                        Remembered, if outlived,
                        As Ireezing persons, recollect the Snow-
                        First-Chill-then Stupor-then the
                        letting go-

                        No attempt in this poem is being made to explain why the pain occured. We are simply told that agıny has existed, without any reference to external causes. The poem portrays an emotion which comes after the initial shock. Its location is completely inward. It seeks to give body to a state of mind; to say with force and clarity, what a particular feeling is like. What the reader seen then is an emotion which is paradoxically, the absolute absence of emotion. In tense suffering has dehumanized the person described, redu-cing her to a collection of bodily parts which are no longer being willed into action, but which perform only automatic gestures. The most remarkable thing about about the poemm is that it provides us with an exact transcrip-tion of interior realities. The mind, the nerves, the heart are laid bare; their contents, during a particular period of time, are fully divulged. We are not told about an emotion, or asked to linger over it; we are compelled to see the feeling directly, to lay our hands on its size and shape. In effect, we have stood face to face with the time of depression that follows after some name-less and unspecified anxiety.  (15)

                        At her best, Emily Dickinson exercised great care where the communication of feelings was concerned. Either she used the conventional means of supplying a concrete motive for emotions or she followed the more difficult process of finding descriptive images which would dramatize the emotions in their pure form. At all times, in her most memorable poetry, she undertook to do three things: to embody emotional and psychological states in a hard, specific language; to prevent the states from becoming abstract, or ultra-personal; to endow the states, in short, with the life, the substance, the dramatic impact which would make them suitable for objective statement.(16)

                        Writing in seclusion and without any real critical training or knowledge, Miss Dickinson could easily have filled her little booklets with page after page of sentimental gush. The circumstances were right for her to produce a poetry in which swoons succeeded tremors, in which the palpi-tation was as standard a feature as the exclamation point, and in which emotion became the ultra-personal cry of:

                        “Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
                        I fall upon the thorns of life!
                        I bleed.”

                        She usually avoided these extremes which is perhaps less a tribute to her artistry than it is  measure of her intense personal suffering. It may be, in other words, that the everyday acuteness of pain caused her search for ways in which pain could be expressed. It may be that by her profound sense of personal instability, she was driven to find refuge in the stabilizing force of words. But regardless of the reasons, Emily Dickinson’s precision with the language of feeling is a mark for her work from the worst defects in the poetry of her time; the tendency is a second quality in her writing which confirms Miss Dickinson as one of ours.  (17)

                         The third area which makes Emily Dickinson one of ours is her philosophy. Emily Dickinson was in no sense a systematic phylosopher. Her unresolved metaphysical ponderings were the result of the determination that she had to know, rather than of logical thinking or of an active interest in philosophy. One might even say that the ponderings reflect a mind too vain and petulant to be at ease with the ordinary inescapable limitations on human knowledge. Miss Dickinson chose to see through God’s eyes; her philosophical poems are protests against all the aspects of experience-whether natural, human, or divine – which seemed to interfere with that impossible project. Yet for all its naivité, her philosophical point of view will bear comparison with (for it represents an amateurish varition of) the crisis
of philosophy that has been of influence in our own time. There is more than one trace of Christian Existentialism in the relationship which Emily Dickin-son establishes between existence and essence, in her stress upon God’s unreliability, and in her conception of man as the pawn and prisoner of obscure cosmic factors.

                         The existentialist sees a thoroughly disjointed world. He seems overwhelmed by verytable clutter of activities, all of which declined being patterned, and from every shred of significance appears to have been removed. As it confuses, however, experience still has a way of proffering vague hopes. Hemmed in by chaos, the existentialist is haunted by the feeling that order might be realized, provided he took a fresh approach to the problem or looked at life in a new way, or chose a different perspective from which to survey the world before him. Kierkegaard, the father of existentialism, illustrates this frustration. The attempt to find order or more specifically, the sttrugle to offer rational proofs for God or to reduce God’s existence from the facts of experience is in Kierkegaard’s notorious phrase, as “excellent subject for the comedy of the hidden lunacy.” But to recognize the folly of the attempt it by no means to be free of making it. None except the foolish deny God outright, and to give up looking for Him is simply to be reminded of His presence all over again. The real heart of the existentialistic dilemma is that one perceives meaninglessness everywhere, even as one is prodded to search anew for meaning.  (19)

                        Confusion is also an aspect of Emily Dickinson’s world view. It informs her poetry, shapes her style, and enters into the basic theme to which she repeatedly returns.
                        Confusion is an observed fact. Or rather it is the fact since con-fusion is, for Emily Dickinson, the essential condition of every experience. Looking to the world she dwells in, Miss Dickinson perceives a bewildering proliferation of events. Time, change, the physical and mental deterioration of the self: these are her eternal mysteries. The delusive gift, the unlooked for bereavement, the surprising intrusion, the sudden betrayal, the abrupt looming of a new threat to security: these constitute daily shocks which she has no power to comprehend. Yet, mysteries though they themselves are, the events point to a mystery that is still greater than themselves. So regular
is there appearance, so steady the rhytme of suffering which they evoke that they seem the effects of some dim and indecipherable cause. This is no
aimless succession which Emily Dickinson beholds. Rather it is (or at least, appears to be) a strangely determined flow.  (20)

                        Emily Dickinson’s relations with experience were expressed through identically the same paradoxes as Kierkegaard’s. Her quest for certainity could have been consummated in either of two ways: through an exact knowledge of whatever purpose life possesses or through the final rea-lization that since all is rush and disorder, there is no purpose and can never be any. But both these fixed views were luxuries that life never permitted her to enjoy. One of her most powerful symbols, is the springtime light, which comes, hovers, beekons, and withdraws-but in the act of withdrawal gives promise of a later return. This is the symbol of an essentially existenti–alist universe, and in which experience simultaneously invites and rebuffs, and in when the individual can no more deafen himself to the invitation than he can follow it through to a satisfactory conclusion.  (21)

                         There is an anxiety from which Emily Dickinson is rarely free. She suspects that Nature whispers about her, and in the presence of Nature’s “Haunted House”, she represents her identity in the form of cracked cave, dreadfully exposed and open to invasion. In lines that are still more Kafkawsque, she can say of herself:

                         “Nature and God-I neither Knew
                         Yet both so well knew me
                         They startled like Executors
                         Of my identity.”

                         The problen of Emily Dickinson’s speaker is that of knowing nothing, but of laboring under the realization that she is terribly known. A two-way conversation with God and Nature is ouf of the question, for both are too vague for definition and far too remote to be reached. But there is no denying them either. They are indisputably “out there” someplace operating as existential menaces, who have the insight to see at a glance and the power to destroy in an instant.  (22)

                        Emily Dickinson stands, therefore, at a crucial turning in the history of the religious-poetic sensibility. Behind her stretch the old, out-moded systems arguing in their placid way that life is merely a finite enact-ment of the Infinite. Before her lies a situation in which the infinite seems to have disappeared or in which, if Infinity can be demonstrated at all, the demonstration is a result of a long and arduous effort. In her poetry the easy way breaks up, and the difficult way begins to crystallize. By the very ques-tions she asks, the transition from the one to the other is made necessary. Emily Dickinson is one of those writers who causes us to see, with renewed understanding, the literature that comes both before and after them. She remains one of ours because her attitudes break with “Theirs,” and continue to shape-in fact, continue to be our own.


                     Thus Emily Dickinson may be referred to us a “paradox”, as the representative of divided and ambiguous things. It is an American trait, if we consider the split in the American consciousness beween idealism (echoes of both Puritan Christianity and American Transcendentalism, along with the “American Dream“, of pioneer conquest and cultivation of rewards from the great riches of land), and, “pragmatism” (the materialistic core of Ameri-can life; the other part of that American dream, that every boy can be president; and more importantly to a true definition of pragmatism, the clear-eyed capacity to look at life as it really is, not as it ought to be or we’d wish it to be). That these elements would be in conflict, in American writers particularly, is inevitable. Not surprising then, that she was both puritan and free-thinker, desirous of listeners yet perversely secretive, devoted to poetry rebellious to its rules, brilliantly concise yet indifferently redundant, sharply ironic yet sentimental, original and trite-all of which make Emily Dickinson a modern poet.


(1)    Alexander, Charlotte; “The Poetry of Emily Dickinson”, p.3.
(2)    Griffith, Clark; “The Long Shadow”, pp.220-24.
(3)    Ibid., pp.224-25.
(4)    Whicher, George; “This Was a Poet”, pp.203-04.
(5)    Griffith, Clark; “The Long Shadow”, pp.228-29.
(6)    Idem.
(7)    Ibid., pp.229-30.
(8)    Todd, Mabel; “Letters of Emily Dickinson”, pp.126-28.
(9)    Johnson, Thomas; “Emily Dickinson”, pp.196-98.
(10)  Whicher, George; “This Was a Poet”, pp.265-66.
(11)   Ibid., pp.267-68.
(12)   Alexander, Charlotte; “The Poetry of Emily Dickinson”, pp.93-5.
(13)   Griffith, Clark; “The Long Shadow”, pp.239-41.
(14)   Anderson, Charles; “Emily Dickinson’s Poetry”, pp.210-12.
(15)   Ibid., pp.214.
(16)   Griffith, Clark; “The Long Shadow”, pp.248-49.
(17)   Anderson, Charles; “Emily Dickinson’s Poetry”, pp.198-200.
(18)   Griffith, Clark; “The Long Shadow”, pp.261-62.
(19)   Sartre, Jean Paul; “Existentialism”, pp.261-64.
(20)   Alexander, Charlotte; “The Poetry of Emily Dickinson”, pp.9-14.
(21)   Griffith, Clark; “The Long Shadow”, pp.26-30.
(22)   Ibid., pp.270-72.


Alexander, Charlotte;   “The Poetry of Emily Dickinson”, Monarch Press,
                         New York, 1965.
Anderson, Charles;   “Emily Dikinson’s Poetry”, Holt Rinehart & Winston,
                         New York, 1960.
Bingham, Millecent Todd;   “Ancesors’ Brocades”, Harper & Brothers, Publ.,
                         New York, 1945.
Bradford, Gamaliel;   “Portraits of American Women”, Houghton Mifflin Co.,
                         Boston, 1919.
Griffith, Clark;   “The Long Shadow”, Princeton University Press, Princeton,
                         N.J., 1964.
Johnson, Thomas;    “Emily Dickinson”, Harvard University Press,
                         Cambridge, 1955.
Longsworth, Polly;   “Emily Dickinson”, Thomas Y. Crowell Company,
                         New York, 1965.
Moore, Virginia;    “Distinguished Women Writers”, E.P. Dutton & Company,
                         New York, 1934.
Patterson, Rebecca;    “The Riddle of Emily Dickinson”, Houghton Mifflin Co.,
                         Boston, 1951.
Porter, David;     “The Art of Emily Dickinson’s Early Poetry”, Harvard Univ.
                         Press,  Cambridge, 1966.
Sartre, Jean-Paul;     “Existentialism”, The Philosophical Library, Inc.,
                         New York, 1947.
Todd, Mabel Loomis,   “Letters of Emily Dickinson”, Harper & Brothers, Publ.,
                         New York, 1931.
Whicher, George;     “This Was a Poet”, Charles Scribner’s Sons, Publ.,
                         New York, 1938.  



                      The USE of SONGS in SHAKESPEARE’s COMEDIES

            <Written and prepared by Sr. Maria Cecilia Polka, the ‘Master’ student at the Salve Regina College  (Now University) in Newport, R.I., and her Psychology Professor and supervisor Prof.Dr. Ismail Ersevim as her graduation thesis in 1967 -USA>

                           M u s i c  has been frequently called “the universal language” and rightly so. There is no other means of communication which has so adequately spoken to peoples of all nations and cultures. Through its flowing measures, sometimes vibrant, light and fanciful, and at other times, solemn, majestic, and awe-inspiring, music has satisfied the need of expression and fulfillment in the human personality.

                           Whether he is aware of it or not, man is engulfed in and attuned to a world of music. Music is very much part of him, as well as all around him. Tne music of nature, continually speaks to him and the music of life man can never escape. It is no wonder that Shakespeare has mainingfully said through the character of Lorenzo, speaking to Jessica in “The Merchant of Venice”: “The man that hath no music in himself… Is fit for treasons strategems and spoils…”  Being the man of such universal appeal in the literary field, Shakespeare has not overlooked this universal power of music. In addition, living in a century which considered music a required culture and an integral part of man’s life, Shakespeare found it almost necessary to include it within his many masterpieces. In his plays he can very readily spot diverse musical allusions with regard to instruments, terms, nd techniques as well as numerous songs.

                            In the first chapter of the following thesis, I have tried to establish the musical background of the Elizabethan period by making detailed references to the prominent role music played in the education, the homne life, and lastly the social life of the people of the age. I have also tried to show how Shakespeare, being a product of his time, incorporated this musical spirit into his work. This he accomplished with the technique of a true artist. Since every musical reference made in his plays could not possibly be treated of in one thesis, I have considered the use of song in six of Shakespeare’s comedies in my second and third chapters. Chapter two specifically deals with the songs in the comedies: “Love’s Labor’s Lost“, “The Merchant of Venice“, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“; while chapter three considers the songs in “As You Like It“, “Twelfth Night“, and “The Tempest“. The order of which the plays are taken is significant since they follow a gradual, progressive development of the author’s use of song in his comedies. For example, in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” song is merely used as an added entertainment in the play while “The Tempest” song moves to a peak, being used as the life and plot of the play. We, therefore, witness Shakespeare’s progress as a dramatist as well as being a true product of tyhe musical spirit of the Elizabethan Age.

                                                             If Music and Sweet Poetry agree
                                As they must needs, the sister and the brother,
                                Then must the love be great, twixt thee and me,
                                Because thou lovest the one and I the other.
                                Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch
                                Upon the lute doth ravish human sense;
                                Spencer to me, whose deep conceit is such,
                                As passing all conceit, needs no defense.

                                                                                       THE PASSIONATE PILGRIM

                        With these words, Shakespeare signs of the estimate relation between music and poetry. No other dramatic post has exhibited in his works such great admiration of music and such technical knowledge as did Shakespeare. “Of all his dramatic works, but five are without allusion to music.” (1)  As we can see there is a very intimate association between Shakespeare and music, for he lived at a time in which much vitality was exhibited in musical circles. The voice of  music was abroad. Every aspect of life was accompanied by appropriate strains. “Across the wooded hills, on the village common, in mansion and cottage, a real love of the art revealed itself in diverse manners.” (2)

                        Yes, England in the reign of Elizabeth was young again with the sound of music. The reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII had given time for the middle class to develop, and for minds to turn to culture. With ERASMUS came a new interest in the humanities; and increasing intercourse with Italy brought in Italian literature, architecture, art and music. The last quarter of the sxteenth century, in particular, witnesses a tremendous growth of wealth and consequent luxury. In certain directions this led to much vulgarity, a feature that has always accompanied a sudden access of wealth. Fortunately the taste of the day was by no means generally on the side of vulgarity. “The fine taste that was inherent in the Elizabethan resulted not only in the composition of so much splendid music, but also in the widespread custom of singing and playing it.” (3)  Music shared in the great movement towards expansion and development which was so conspicuous a feature of the sinteenth century throughout the whole Europe. It is a well known fact that Elizabeth herself had a great love for music. The following lines prefixed to a musical publication in 1573, show how the queen’s encouragement of music appreciated:

                               The queen, the glory of our age and isle,
                               With royal favour bis this science smile;
                               Nor hears she others’ labor’d lays,
                               But artist-like, herself both signs and plays.”  (4)

                         Yes, the Age of Elizabeth was an age of music – not the music of great composers, but the native song, the familiar playing of instruments, the continual breaking out into country rounds or court measures. “In Elizabethan England there was much much less professionalsim, but town and country rang with the melody and song of the amateurs, and there is very little to suggest that this was done by incompotent handlers.”  (5) If England had no opportunity of hearing and of creating church music, her people found widespread joy in madrigals, glees and catches. Every house had its lutes and viols, every barbar’s shop had an instrument ready for the hands of the waiting customers. In the theatres, particularly song was an integral part of plays, and music before and during the performance formed part of the attraction of the private houses. Ballads were sung in the streets and at innummerable fairs.

                         To indicate more specifically the significant role played by musiz in the sixteenth century in England, we will attempt to give an expose of musical life in the areas of education, the home and the society. The value of music in school was urged by most writers. Their reasons were gravely heard because of the feeling that “original sin had closed the ear to heavenly harmonies and education might possibly correct the deficiency.”  (6)

                         In 1561, Sir Nicholas Bacon drew up a curriculum for the education of the Queen’s wards according to which the hours from twelve to two and before retiring at nine, were to be spent with the music master. In the scheme for Queen Elizabeth’s Academy, about 1572, there was to be one teacher of music “to play the lute, the bandora and cittern, 26 1., per annum.”  (7)   In 1857, William Byrd of the Chapel Royal published a treatise on why all people should learn to sing, though from the time of Henry VIII and even before, England had been noted for her ‘sweet singers’. The following states the reasons set down by the author to persuade everyone to learn how to sing:

                         1. First it is a knowledge easily taught and quickly learned where
                              there is a good master and an apt scholar.
                         2. The exercise of singing is delightful to Nature and good to pre-
                              serve the health of man.
                         3. It doth strenghten all parts of the breast and doth open the
                         4. It is a singular good remedy for a stuttering and stammering
                              in speech.
                         5. It is the best means to procure a perfect pronuncation, and
                              to make a good orator.
                         6. It is the only way to know where Nature hath bestowed the
                              gift of a good voice; which gift is so rare, as there is not one
                              among a thousand that hath it, and in many, that excellent
                         7. There is not any music of instruments whatsoever compara-
                               ble to that which is made of the voices of men; where the
                               voices are good, and the same well-sorted and ordered.
                          8. The better voice is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God
                               therewith; and the voice of man is chiefly to be employed to
                               that end. (8)

                           Henry Peacham in his work “Complete Gentleman” devotes a
chapter to music. In it he speaks of those who dislike music, and quoting an Italian proverb (which he admits he dare not adopt -):
                               “Whom God loves not, that man loves not music  – But I am
                               verily persuaded that they are by nature very ill-disposed,
                               and of such a brutish stupidity that scarce anything else that
                                is good and savoureth of virtue is found in them.”  (9)

                           He adds: “I desire no more of you than to sing your part sure, and at first sight.”  (10) 
                           We have thus evidenced that during Elizabeth’s reign, music became a necessary part of every gentelman’s education, without the exclusion of women.

                            Besides being interwoven with education, music for the Eliza-bethan was an intimate portion of home life. It can be adequately expressed that the Elizabethan tenaciously held to two faiths: “faith in home and faith in music.”  (11)  These two faiths were the essential means by which thoughtful Elizabethans sought to order their private lives. Where the home was, there was also music. “If music round the universe to make of it one harmonic whole, then men mast let music creep into his ears till he, like the stillness of night or the very smallest activities of day, was touched by immortal sounds.” (12)   Although these two faiths in home and music did not fully arm Elizabethans against the usual frailties of human beings, they did produce  manner of living sufficient to inspire any age.

                           From 1560 on, pious homes of Puritans depended much upon singing of psalms for their enjoyment of music, and this custome continued until long past the sixteenth century. In the home gardens, however, the singing was bound to be more informal. For more formal entertainment of guests in the gardens of the cultivated Elizabethans, there might be instrumental music in the banquet house, either for its own sake or for those who wished to dance, and if the household had its own band of musicians, they were an important part of the establishment.  (13)

                           Because musicians were obtainable singly or in groups, it was customary, even in taverns, to demand music at meals or to while away the time. Fine inns, of course, had lutes, bandores, and sometimes virginals to entertain their guests. Since few households were so poor that among the servants no singers or musicians could be found to entertain the master or mistress, music was a popular and favorite means of relaxation for husband or wife. It was common to see a 
                            “mistress, while sitting busily sewing with her maids, often
                            calling one of them to entertain their group by singing or
                            playing on some instrument, particularly the lute, which ser-
                            ved as both instrument and decvoration in the house.” (14)

                            The elizabethans may not have been above reproach in his choice of certain pastimes, but he undoubtedly had music in his soul.

                            More important tan musical instruments was the musical voice, of which there were many. “Each village, for example, had its own 
choir as well as a team of bell ringers that was likely to be the chief pride of the community.”  (15)  In the home when guests dined, they were expected to contribute to the madrigal singing between courses or at the end of the meal. All through the Tudor Age singing voices of fine quality were always in demand that England became famous for its ‘choir of sweet singers’.  “It was music, then, that made life go around for these people, and it was music in one form or another that took most room on the shelves of their libraries.”

                            In spite of the fact Elizabethans lived at such a quick tempo they did not direct their music toward a frenzied or distracting mode of entertainment. At home, especially they sought for expansion of the soul by means of a cultivated living, in spite of what, to us, may seem like flagrant vulgarities in their way of life.

                            “The tinkling notes of an instrument, accompanied perhaps,
                            by the voice of the child or servant, was their relief from the
                            tension caused by some  exciting or dangerous or merely
                            monotonous enterprise. Even among the poor, the love of the
                            music was not stifled.”  (17)

                           Thus far we have seen that music was very much a part of the
domestic life of the Elizabetan home. It would necessarily follow that musical life would overflow into the social life of the Elizabethans.

                            “They had music at dinner, music at suppper, music at wed-
                            dings, music at funeral, music at dawn, music at night… He
                            who felt not, in some degree, its soothing influences, was
                            viewed as a morose unsocial being whose converse ought
                            to be shunned and regarded with suspicion and distrust.” (18)

                            An Elizabethan expected a social caller to pick up a music book and read an elaborate part song for four or five voices and sing his part at sight; when the dinner was over he called his music books and he and his guests, his children and servants sang them as probably no haphazard gath-
ering or ordinary folk has been able to sing since.

                             In Morley’s “Plain and Easy Instruction to Practical Music” – 1597, we read of a dinner party, a ‘banket’ at which the conversation was entirely concerned with music. After supper, Morley relates, “according to custom” parts were handed round by the hostess. One guest, a Philomathes, has to make many excuses as to his vocal inability, and finally is obliged to confess that he cannot sing at all. At this the rest of the company ‘wonder’ and some whisper to their neighbors: “Haw was he brought up?” Certainly a gentleman with any social ambitions would see that his children were brought up to sing and play.” (19)  In Elizabeth’s reign it was “… the custom for a lady’s guests to sing unaccompanied music from parts, after supper;”
(20)   and that inability cast a doubt on the person having any title to
education at all.

                              There are numerous examples of personages of the sixteenth century who considered music a vital part of social life. It appears from the diary of King Edward VI that he was a musician, as he mentions playing on the lute before French Ambassadors as one of several accomplishments which he displayed before that gentleman. There is also a letter from Queen Catherine of Arragon, the mother of Queen Mary, in which sher exh0rts her “to use her virginals and lute.” As for Elizabeth there is abundant evidence that she was a good virginal player. George Herbert, who was by birth a courtier, found in music “his chiefest recreation, and did himself compose many divine hymns and anthems in Royal Chapel and would play his part exactly well in the bass-violl.” (22)  His love for music was such that he went usually twice every week to the cathedral church in Salisbury; at his return he would say that his time spent in prayer and cathedral music elevated his soul, and was was heaven on earth. We evidence, then, that in this period of England’s history a practical acquaintance with music was a regular part of the education of both sovereign, gentlemen of rank and the higher middle class.

                              However, musical lifa was not restricted to just the upper and middle classes of society. There is plenty of evidence, though more indirect in kind, that the lower classes were enthousiastic about music as the higher. A large number of passages of several authors shows clearly that singing in part (especially of ‘catches’) was a common amusement with blacksmiths, colliers, clothsworkers, caloblers, tinkers, watchmen, country persons and soldiers. In “Old Wives’ Tales” Feele says: “This ‘smith’ leads a life as merry as a king; Sirrah Frolic, I am sure you are not without some ’round’, or ‘other, no doubt but Clunch <the smith> can bear his part.”  (23)  Beaumont and Fletcher’s “Coxcomb” has the following: “Where were the watch the while? good sober gentlemen.” ” They were like careful members of the city, 
/Drawing in diligent ale, and singing catches.” (24)  In Sir William Davenant’s
The Wits“, Snore, one of the characters, says: “It must be late, for gossip Nock, the mailman, / Had catechized his maids, and sung three catches/  And a song ere <Eski dil’de: Önce, evvel -poetic language- İ.E.> set forth.”

                              All the aforesaid leads to the just conclusion that if ever a country deserved to be called musical, that country was England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. King and courtier, peasant and ploughman could eacah ‘take his part'; with each, music was part of his daily life. But more than all else concerned with the musical field, as we have evidenced, England was a country of SONG.

                              Shakespeare has truly proven himself a product of his time. His frequent tribute to the power of music, his apt use of musical terms and his many allusions to musical instruments, are well-known. His excursions in the musical providence are a direct outcome of a great joy in its charms. “He is always happy when speaking on music and its place in life. To him it is something real. It is the human side of its that attracts him.”  (26)  It is  evident that to Shakespeare, the art of sound was full of fascination. Whether his reference is humorous or full of enhusiasm, he speaks with the voice of one who knows and understands. The numbers and diversities to music in its many forms proves an active interest in it. A clever man can write eloquent-ly about it, without being particularly sensitive to its influence, but that by Shakespeare it was regarded seriously, must be obvious to the careful student of his works.

                              Certainly even that trained musician who idly turns the poet’s leaves to all the musical allusions he makes, is astounded at his intimate knowledge of music, that art which so many of the poets rave about he was talking about, and could move at ease among musical techniques. Music with Shakespeare was a natural and powerful means of expression; he used it to carry his purpose a little further than the spoken word would take. Yes, Shakespeare’s knowledge and appreciation of music is obvious. “Harmony to him, and to the Elizabethan’s mind was one of the principles of a good life in politics as well as in the arts. He loathed a discord in affairs of state as much as he loathed a jarring note upon his ear.”  (27)

                               The prevalent study of a prominent position of music in Elizabethan times would make it advisable for any clever dramatist to introduce lyrics and instrumental music onto his plays. And this is what Shakespeare did to a remarkable extent.

                               “Music in the Tudor Theatre was plentiful. The trumpets
                               proclaimed the opening of the play; the historical dramas
                               resounded with the drums. The strings heightened the emo-
                               tion of the tragic scene. The song and dance of the jig sent the
                               spectators away with a laugh and a melody. In between, there
                               had been incidental music and the songs written into the      
                               plays by the dramatist.”  (28)

                               As we have previously mentioned a careful study of Shakes-peare’s plays will reveal innumerable allusions to the musical world. Out of thirty-seven plays there are no less than thirty-two which contain interes-ting references to music and musical matters in the text itself. There are over three hundred stage directions which are musical in their nature and these occur in thirty-six out of thirty-seven plays.

                               “The musical references in the text are most commonly    
                               found in the comedies, and are generally the occasion or
                               instrument of word quibbling and witticisisms while the
                               musical stage directions beling chiefly to the tragedies, and
                               are mostly of a military nature.” (29)

                               Song, particularly in Shakespearean drama played a useful, and at times, significant role. The songs were composed for both dramatic and practical purposes. “They were neither interludes nor mere decorative flourishes, garlands, nor amorini.”  (30)  Many of them on the open, uncurtained stage of the period were a graceful and ingenious cover for entry or exit.

                               “…The Elizabethan theatre lacked modern front, drop 
                               curtains, pictorial painrted scenery, and means to change  
                               the amount of light. Shakespeare therefore, in several
                               situations introduced songs to get characters on and off the   
                               stage gracefully… and also to create atmosphere and to con-
                               jure up imaginary stage settings to the audience.”  (31)

                               The songs, again are incantation; they were intended to be sung. Shakespeare’s natural language indeed was that of poetry, and so always related to music. “Song writing, then must have been a curious joy to Shakespeare, a sort of busman’s holiday.”  (32)

                               An admirer of Robert Frost‘s poems lately declared and justly, that “the very sound of his poem is true. In some the sound is not only as important as the meaning, but most of the meaning.”  (32)  So, too, the same can be said of Shakespeare’s songs with a slightly different bearing. They also are true, though not in a personal sense. They are true in their context, aesthetically right. They have a natural singing quality and many of them were written with a specific air of melody in Shakespeare’s mind. He lived, as we have stated, in the supreme hayday of English music, a music so much beloved by him and so frequently in his remembrance. Truly, the more closely we examine the Songs of Shakespeare’s plays, the more we marvel at his consummate mastery over words.

                                The ease, brevity of expression and rapidity of development, all markedly characteristics of Shakespeare’s Songs serve to distinguish them from those of any other dramastist of his period. Although other dramatists, notably Ben Johnson, Thomas Dekker, and John Fletcher, wrote many songs occupying deservedly a high place in our literature; yet theirs appear to some disadvantage when contrasted with those by Shakespeare. They do not exhibit a like spontaneity of effort, and their art is not concealed in the same degree. So skilfully has Shakespeare hidden his craftsmanship, that Milton’s “Wood notes wild” has been specifically applied to the songs. Such a description is not altogether fortunate, for it has begotten the impression that the lyrical excellence of Shakespeare is some wild, uncultivated product, whereas a close examination of the songs reveals evidence of the most painstaking labor. Otherwise the words of Milton are singularly felicitous, “…for in all the songs there is a seemingly careless invitation to sing… A presence of a distinct, natural singing quality may be taken as an essential constituent in any song it may be sought to ascribe to him.”  (34)

                              While it is true that Shakespeare did not invent the use of songs in play, he it was who made the play with song occurring in it, a consistent are form. It was he who “grasped all possibilities afforded by song for forwarding the action and who made it vital part in his dramatic sceheme.”  (35)

                                                   FOOTNOTES   –   CHAPTER  I

(1 )    F.J. Kelly, “Shakespeare and the Art of Music”, The Catholic World,    
(2)     Idem.
(3)     Edmund H. Fellowes, “The English Madrigal”, p.10.
(4)     “English Music”, p.16.
(5)     Ivor Brown, “Shakespeare and His Time”, p.26.
(6)     Morrison Comegys Boyd, “Elizabethan Music and Musical Criticism”,
(7)     Idem.
(8)      Henry Thew Stepehenson, “The Elizabethan People”, pp:200-1.
(9)      The same as (4), p.168.
(10)   Idem.
(11)    Lu Emily Pearson. “Elizabethans at Home”, p.517.
(12)    Idem.
(13)    Idem., p.520.
(14)    Idem.
(15)    Idem.
(16)    Ibid, p.608
(17)    Idem.
(18)     The same as (8), p.220.
(19)     Edward W. Taylor, M.A., “Shakespeare and Music”, p.5.
(20)    Ibid., p.7.
(21)     Ibid., p.10.
(22)     Ibid., p.11.
(23)     Ibid., p.16.
(24)     Idem.
(25)     Ibid., p.17.
(26)     The same as in (1), p.498.
(27)     The same as in (5), p.152.
(28)      Idem.
(29)      The same as in (19), p.8.
(30)     Tucker Brooke, Ed., “The Shakespeare Songs”, p.xvı
(31)      The same as in (6), p.192.
(32)      The same as in (30), p.xıx.
(33)      Ibid., p.xxııı.
(34)      Richmond Noble, M.A., “Shakespeare’s Use of Song”, s.9.
(35)      Ibid., p.12.

                                                                 CHAPTER    II


                                 A variety of song used for a variety of purpose is found particularly in Shakespeare’s comedies. This particular chapter will be devoted, as was mentioned in the preface, the three fairly early comedies of Shakespeare: “Love’s Labour’s Lost“, “The Merchant of Venice“, and, “Midsummer Night’s Dream“. In this consideration the reader will evidence a certain progression in the drama and dramatist through his use of song in the following plays.

                                  “Love’s Labour’s Lost“, is generally agreed, in its main part to be Shakespeare’s first venture in comic drama. It was a conversa-tional, satirical comedy, and appears to be devoif of any moral or serious intension. It represents his nearest approach to the true comic attitude to life. “Its very little contains an alliterative joke not unlike the pun in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ “. (1)  Such a comedy, dependent as it is on conversational brillance for effect, is very difficult to act, and even when well-presented, requires a special kind of audience to appreciate it.

                                  “It is, therefore plausible to assume that, in its original
                                  form without the Epilogue Songs, it was intended for an
                                  audience more exclusive than that to be found in a public
                                  theatre; its pointed shafts would be more likely to be
                                  appreciated by an educated audience, keenly alive to the
                                  foibles of the age.”  (2)

                      Shakespeare’s satire was directed against and extravagant form of utterance. He derided not only pedantic ornamentation of language but also the pseudopastoral romanticism which pervaded the dainty sonnets to whose composition courtiers and their imitators were addicted. Hence, on the revival of the comedy in 1597, Shakespeare appropriately added “two songs as Epilogues, wherein pretty pastorales and sententious verses are mercilessly ridiculed.”  (3)

                        The two songs help to clear the stage and as Epilogues, they are used to sustain, even at the end, the laughing character of the comedy. Evidently the play in its original form had ended with Browne’s “That’s too long for a play.” Not only was such an ending too abrupt and ineffective for clearing the stage, but also something had to be done to restore the spirit of the comedy, banished by the news of the death of the Princess’s father. The songs relate to three characters – ARMADO, with his “mint of phrases, who presents the songs; HOLOFERNES the Pedant with his Latin and Latinized words and Sir NATHANIEL the Curate, their two authors.”  (4)  Armado announces the songs in Latin as well as in English:” This side is Hiems, Winter/ This Ver, the Spring:/ The one maintained by the owl, the other by the Cuckoo. Wer begin.”  (5)   The spectators are thus prepared for a learned and tedious argument according to academic precedent. Instead there follows the inimitable Cuckoo Song:

                     Spring:   When daisies pied of violette blue
                                       And lady-smocks all silver-white
                                       And cuckoo-birds of yellow hue
                                       Do paint the meadows with delight,
                                       The cuckoo then on every tree,
                                       Mocks married men; for thus he sings,
                                       Cuckoo, cuckoo, O word of fear,
                                       Unpleasing to a married ear!

                                       When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
                                       And marry larks are ploughman’s clocks, 
                                       When turtles tread, and rooks and daws,
                                       And maidens bleach their summer smocks,
                                       The cuckoo then, on every tree,
                                       Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
                                       Cuckoo, cuckoo: O word of fear
                                       Unpleasing to a married ear!   (6)

                     Here, everything is bright and gay, all except married men, whom the Cuckoo’s call makes fearful of their freehold. The comic intent, in keeping with the play, is manifest.

                                        “All the learned men’s idealism of the meadow flowers,
                                        the shepherd’s piping on oaten straws and the merry
                                        larks waking the ploughmen is dissipated by the fear
                                        of the woeful tragedy with which, as the Cuckoo’s habits
                                        remind them, married men are threatened in the Spring,
                                        when inclinations are suppose to be amorous and lovers

                      The song feigns seriousness in its conceits just like any of the pretty verse of the time. However, there is a fall from the sublime to the ridiculous, a transition from serious conceit to the ludicrous and comic in the lines:

                                        The cuckoo, then on every tree
                                        Mocks married men, for thus sings he.

                       Then there is a long drawn out cuckoo as is indicated by the full stop, followed by a couple of sly echoing calls where the singer shivers fear and shakes his head at the impropriety of such a call being sounded in the presence of married men. “A joke of such a kind was dear to Elizabethan hearts and Shakespeare was never tired of resorting to the theme.”  (8)

                       When learned men came to compile “The Owl Song“, obviously the same joke could not carry:

                                     When icicles hang by the wall
                                     And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
                                     And Thom bears logs into the hall,
                                     And milk comes frozen home in pail,
                                     When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
                                     Then nightly sings the staring owl,
                                      Tu-who, a merry note,
                                      While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

                                      When all aloud the wind doth blow,
                                       And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,
                                       And birds sit brooding in the snow,
                                       And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
                                       When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
                                       Then nightly sings the staring owl,
                                       Tu-who, a merry note,
                                       While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.  (9)

                       In the first stanza romance is contrasted with reality, the picture-
esque with the disagreeable, and in the second comic objects are cunningly interspersed among ordinary objects of natural history. In the first, on the one hand we have icicles hanging by the wall, and on the other, the frozen milk, the nipped blood and the muddy roads; and in the second, we have the coughing, drowning the parson’s saw. “But the most disagreeable by the sight and smell of the sluttish Joan ‘keeling the pot’ ” (10)  She makes the farm kitchen uncomfortable which is the only refuge from the inclement weather of the winter season. The unmusical laughing hoot of the owl acts as a diversion where all else is depressing. “Pastoral romance gives way to pasto-
ral realism.”  (11)

                       Both the Cuckoo and the Owl songs are Elizabethan comic songs without any aerious intention whatever.
                                     “That the affected learning of the lean and cadaverous
                                     looking Holofernes could evolve nothing more serious,
                                     enriches the comedy and there can be no doubt that,
                                     then the songs are well and significantly rendered, the 
                                     fooling is admirable.”  (12) 

                        It is frequently said that songs in Shakespeare’s festive comedies are usually composed with explicit or implicit reference to a holiday occasion. The cuckoo and owl songs are cognate to such compositions. These two songs of summer and winter are the Shakespeare used instead of a wedding dance or masque; and  “they are exactly right, not an afterthought, but a last and full expression of the controlling feeling for community and season. The songs evoke pleasures of the most traditional sort, at the opposite pole from facile improvisations.”  (13)

                        Who were the singers of the songs? The stage direction for entrance is “Enter All” which presumably implies all the actors in attendance and not merely those who have been taking part in the ‘show’. Whatever may have been the standard of singing demanded by the songs “The Cuckoo Song” requires the better actor. It is usually that Moth is one of the singers, but for this assumption there is little support.  (14)
                        Composers have frequently set these two Epilogue Songs as genuine pastorals, simply because they have culled them from antologies and their obvious prettiness has appealed to them.

                                    “Both songs require very simple treatment and they 
                                    ought to be regarded as music-hall songs; but, of 
                                    course, of a type considerably better than we are
                                    accustomed to hear hearing from artists on such a
                                    stage.”  (15)

                        In considering the next play “The Merchant of Venice“, we find only one song. The song, however, which occurs in Act III, scene 2, is significant, for it serves as a “device to confer distinction on Bassanio’s approach to the three caskets and as a means to allow him time consider his choice.”  (15)  The lyrics, in its felicitous choice of the subject suitable for the occasion, is one of the most charming in the whole range of the comedies:
                                   “Tell me where is fancy bred,
                                   Or in the heart or in the head?
                                   How begot, how nourished?
                                                           Reply, reply.
                                   It is engender’d in the eyes,
                                   With gazing fed; and fancy dies
                                   In the cradle where it lies.
                                   Let us all ring fancy’s kneel
                                   I’ll begin it, -Ding, dong, bell.”  (17)

                        As we see, the song opens with the query as to where is fancy bred? Is it of the heart? or is it of reason, of the head? That is to say is it of affection, of true love, or is it born of calculation? Then the query proceeds:
Whence does it come? Hos is it sustained?  “The answer is that it is of the eyes, by gazing fed, a mere whim, a delusion of the senses which never attains maturity, but vanishes before even it can be weaned.”  (18)  The tenor of the song and the very plain hint is to beware of that which is pleasing to the sight, for it has no substance and at best its superficial glory is transient, for, when it ceases to be present to the view, it is forgotten and its power to attract no longer exists. Such evidently was the line of thought it suggested to Bassanio, “whose sensitiveness of ear was enhanced by his anxiety and by the hazard of fortune he was essaying.”  (19)  Almost without waiting for the last strains of song to fade away, he observes very abruptly:

                                   “So may the outward shows be least themselves
                                   The world is still deceived with ornament.”  (20)

                         This comment is clearly enough inspired by the song. The injunction to distrust fancies bred of the view was sufficient, and it was natural for Bassanio to include:

                                   “. . . But thou, thou meagre lead,
                                   Which rather threatenest than dost promise
                                   Thy paleness moves me more than elooquence:
                                   And here choose I.”  (21)

                        To perceive progress in the part songs play in Shakespeare’s dramatic scheme we could compare  “Tell me where is fancy bred?” with its immediate predecessor  “Who is Sylvia?” from “The Two Gentlemen of Verona“, a song not specifically treated of in this thesis. The serenade, “Who is Sylvia”, is made to serve as a covering device for linking the action up and it only faintly, in its contents, reflects it context. Here, in this comedy, the song practically performs “the function of dialogue and its relation to its situsation is vital, for it is largely on the understanding of its message that the fırtunes of those, who have good wishes of the audience, depend.”  (22)

                        In another respect the two songs are of the same kind. Neither of them is properly a dramatic song, neither requires action from its singer, and either it is suitable to the concert room as to the theatre. Otherwise the songs differ slightly.

                                   “For the serenade the action is suspended, but for the
                                   other it continues – Bassanio examines the exterior of
                                   the caskets, then his attention having been caught by
                                   the words of the song, he listens eagerly, and excitedly
                                   opens his soliloquy.”   (23)

                      Again for “Who is Sylvia”, the musicians who participitated in the ‘consort’ came specially on stage, and on the completion of their appointed task they retired. Here, for this later song, “the musicians were presumably of Portia’s household and were included in all their trains, which the stage direction indicates.”  (24)   The musicians remained on stage till the conclu-sion of the episode.  “In  ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’  and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ solo singers come on for the occasion only.”  (25).  However, in
“The Merchant of Venice” some of the minor actors & attendents were ‘All’ is indicated in the scene, “bear the burden”, i.e., they sing the refrain: “Ding, dong, bell.”  “Very few Elizabethans, on stage or off, would not have been able to so that respectably.”  (26)

                      In general no vital, dramatik significance has been attached to this song in “The Merchant of Venice”. However, its presence as a specific device related to Bassanio’s approach to the three caskets indicates a gradual progression in Shakespeare’s use of song in contrast to the Owl and Cuckoo Songs which are simply added to the end of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” to prevent an abrupt termination of the comedy. The song in “The Merchant of Venice” definiyely gives a suggestion to aid in Bassanio’s choice of caskets. Even the lines, if we were to examine minutely, end in words rhyming with lead: ‘bred’, ‘head’, ‘nourished’.  (27)   The lead casket, as the reader knows, of course, contains what Bassanio is looking for. There is, therefore a definite place and purpose for this song.

                      However, “A Midsummer’ Night’s Dream” marks a very important stage in Shakespeare’s song career. Shakespeare up until 1595, had had to resort to professional musicians. Here, in this play “he would appear to have
at his disposal, plenty of children able both to sing and to act.”  (28)  The play was written for a special occasion – there is no evidence that it was ever seen upon the public stage at all – for such occasions  “children could easily be recruited”.  (29)  Chorister schools in England at this time contributed their strength to the adult company.

                      Apart altogether from the question of singers in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Shakespeare exhibits a great advance on his previous efforts in his management of song, although, here it must be noted, that except for Bottom’s breaking into song, to show that he was not afraid, “we have only one indisputably genuine song in the whole piece.”  (30)  There are, however, several passages which may have been songs but are not definitely so marked. This one song is sufficient to demonstrate what it meant. In the two plays previously considered, the songs were all in the nature of vocal entertainments. The action was restrained in order to enable them to be performed; and although none of them could be said to occur abruptly, “yet the preparation was obvious and there was not an entire absence of awk-
wardness.”  (31)  It is far otherwise with the lullaby in Act II, scene 2, where at Titania’s command, the fairies gather around her and sing and dance her to sleep. The song is as follows:

                               “You spotted snakes with double tongue,
                               Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
                               Newts and blind-worms, do no wrong,
                               Come not near our fairy queen.

                               ‘Philomel, with melody,
                               Sing in our sweet lullaby;
                               Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby;
                                                   Never harm,
                                                   Nor spell, nor charm,
                               Come our lovely lady night;
                               So good night, with lullaby.’

                               Weaving spiders, come not here,
                               Hence, you long-egg’d spinners hence!
                               Beetles black, approach no near;
                               Worm, nor snail, do no offense. (32)


                      If the reader examines the scene, he will observe how easily and naturally the song somes into being, how it relieves from awkwardness and makes Titania’s retirement interesting: “how it imparts to the whole play a fairy-like atmosphere, how perfectly it is ended and the continuation provided for, and how it leads us to and facilitates Oberon‘s little plot.”  (33)
These are all very important points: never before had Shakespeare exhibited such easy mastery in the setting of the songs. With the exception possibly of “As You Like It“,  a comedy to be considered in the following chapter, Shakespeare was “to show the same command in the perfectly natural way the songs were to occur.”  (34)  Always in regard to the songs in his plays Shakespeare had striven to avoid artificiality, but henceforward, beginning with this play, he was to be more successful.

                      A greater part of this comedy has been set to music than is the case with any of the others. This is because all the “fairies’ parts are in singing lyrical verse, and recitative with occasional aria might not be altogether inappropriate.”  (35)  Care would, however, have to be taken to avoid violence; and musical treatment of passages not definitely marked for music, must be in accord, as regards management, with the standard set by “You spotted snakes”, and the action must be continuous.  This standard is, however, is difficult to achieve.  (36)

                      In the forgoing pages there has been evidenced a gradual deve-lopment in Shakespeare’s use of song in three early comedies:  “A Midsum-
mer Night’s Dream” being the most significant since its song is naturally woven into the action of the play. As  Shakespeare continued to write his comedies he naturally progressed as an artist, therefore, the songs Shakespeare utilized in his later comedies reflect his artistic perfection. The use of song in the three comedies considered in the next chapter becomes most significant, since song unfolds as the very life of these plays.

                                                  FOOTNOTES   –    CHAPTER II

(1)    Richmond Noble, “Shakespeare’s Use of Song”, p.34.
(2)    Idem.
(3)    Idem.
(4)    Idem.
(5)    William Shakespeare, “Love Labor’s Lost”, Act V, ıı.
(6)    Idem.
(7)    Noble, p.35.
(8)    Idem.
(9)    Shakespeare, Act  V, ıı.
(10)  Noble, p.36.
(11)  Idem.
(12)  Idem.
(13)  C.L. Barber, “Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy”, p.113.
(14)  Noble, p.37.
(15)  Ibid., pp.36-7.
(16)  Ibid.,  p.45.
(17)  Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, Act III, ıı.
(18)  Noble, p.45.
(19)  Ibid., p.46.
(20)  Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, Act III, ıı.
(21)  Idem.
(22)  Noble, p.47.
(23)  Idem.
(24)  Idem.
(25)  Harley Granville-Barker & G.B. Harrison, Eds., “A Companion to
           Shakespeare Studies”, p.154.
(26)  Ibid., p.155.
(27)  Leonard F. Dean, Ed., “Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Critism”, p.69.
(28)  Noble, p.52.
(29)  Granville-Parker, p.155.
(30)  Noble, p.53.
(31)   Idem.
(32)   Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Act. III, ıı.
(33)   Noble, p.53.
(34)   Idem.
(35)   Idem.

                                                            CHAPTER    III


                     In three of Shakespeare’s later comedies: “As You Like It“, “Twelfth Night“, and “The Tempest“, we observe a more concentrated use of song and music in general. While it can hardly be maintained that “As You Like It” attains the high perfection of gay comedy of “Twelfth Night”, there can be no doubt that none of Shakespeare’s comedies surpasses its appeal to the hearts of men. “It is the comedy of romantic unreality, the Arcadian existence.” (1)
To such a comedy the service of song is indispensable, for without the aid of music, we should be unable to realize its ideality or its entire removal from any kind of life with which we are acquainted. “The interest of the play lies in what its characters think and say and as to how they dispose of their leisure, of which despite the hardness of the plot, they seem to have an ample supply.” (2)   The plot is a minor consequence. It appears to be an excuse for conveying to us as a picture of the simple life in the forest, far away from the frequented hunts of men. All men delight to dream of an existence in picturesque surroundings, far removed from the drab conditions of their everyday life, as it is possible for the imagination to make it. It is there that the secret of the charm of the comedy lies.

                     Since the plot of “As You Like It” is lazy and moves by violent fits and starts, it is not surprising that none of the songs helps to develop the action.

                                “Neither is there any song, if we execpt those by Hymen,
                                which is part and parcel of the action… In fact, in the case
                                of all the songs except ‘Blow, blow, thou winter wind’, the
                                scenes would appear to have been created in order that
                                the songs might be sung.”  (3)

                     Nevertheless each song fulfills a very important dramatic function – “that of conveying color of scene and sense of atmosphere to make good the lack of the assistance of a scene painter in appealing to the imagination of the audience.”  (4)   In this play, therefore, song is employed definitely as scenery and for this reason “As You Like It” constitutes a considerable advance in the dramatist’s use of song.

                     Amiens, the principle singer, is a poet and a gifted amateur. His two songs are favors besought not commanded. They are both extremely important in the history of English dramatic song, for they are the first where in the temperament of the singer is reflected in lyric.

                                     “Both songs are charged with poetic emotion, tinged
                                     with misanthropy – their object is to extol unsheltered
                                     solitude and thereby by contrast to make society appear
                                     unfavorably.”  (5)

                      The first song “Under the Greenwood Tree”, serves to make us
personally acquainted with Jacques.

                                      “Under the greenwood tree
                                      Who lives to lie with me,
                                      And turn his merry note
                                      Unto the sweet bird’s throat,
                                 Come hither, come hither, come hither:
                                       Here shall he see
                                       No enemy
                                  But winter and rough weather.”   (6)

                     “In this scene Jacques is the champion of realism just as event-
ually his contrary spirit leads him to become a convert to romanticism on the restoration of his friends’ fortunes.”   (7)  Amiens sings of the joy of careless existence, where one lies under the tree and emulates the notes of the birds with nothing to annoy but the inclemency of the season. Jacques finds the singing so pleasing that he importunes Amiens for a second stanza in which all are required to join:

                                  “Who doth ambition shun
                                  And loves to live in the sun,
                                  Seeking the food he eats,
                                  And pleased with what he gets,
                             Come hither, come hither, come hither:
                                   Here shall he see
                                   No enemy
                              But wind and rough weather.”   (8)

                      Then Jacques turns around and parodies the whole theme of the song – “I’ll give you a verse to this note, that I made yesterday in spite of my

                                   “If it do come to pass
                                   That any man turn ass,
                                   Leaving his wealth and ease
                                   A stubborn will to please,
                              Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame:
                                    Here shall he see
                                    Gross fools as he,
                              And if he will come to me.”   (9)

                     Unfortunately, when this scene occurs on the stage, it is usual for Jacques to recite his parody, whereas it would be more effective were he to make some effort to sing it. “It is not clear in the original whether Jacques was meant to sing or not, but probably he was, for did he not sing in the second stanza?” (10)   No serious meaning ought to be attached to “Ducdame” which occurs in this parody instead of “Come hither“. It is just ‘Jacques’ jargon, improvised or imitated from some stray vagabond.” (11)  Most likely he uses it as “a token of their eaasy-going acceptance of order”  (12)  in the 
forest of Arden: “This a Greek invocation,” he explains, “to call fools into a circle.” 

                         The second song, “Blow, blow, thou winter wind”, Act II, vıı, is sung by Amiens in response to Duke‘s “Gives us some music; and, good cousin, sing”.  Amiens then begins:

                              “Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
                              Thou art not so unkind
                              As man’s ingratitude;
                              Thy tooth is not so keen,
                              Because thou art not seen,
                              Although thy breath be rude
                        Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
                        Most frienship is feigning, most loving more folly:
                               Then heigh-ho, the holly!
                               This life is most jolly.

                               Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
                               Thou dost not bite so nigh
                               As benefits forgot:
                               Though thou the waters warp,
                               Thy sting is not so sharp
                               As friend remember’d not.
                        Heigh-ho!  sing, etc.

                        This song affords an opportunity opportunity for the Duke to be informed of Orlando‘s circumstances without the spectators being wearied by the repetition of that which is already familiar to them. “The theme of the song is variant of ‘Under the greenwood tree’, only its misanthropic vein is more pronounced.”  (14)  Winter, with all its harshness is more tolerable than the ingratitude and insincerity of man.            

                        This song, like the Cucoo and Owl song in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is also considered a seasonal song. The lines:

                              “Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
                               This life is most jolly.”

are a “crystallization of the mood of Christmas cheer, when it was customary for the men to sing songs in praise of holly, as their emblem… This custom explains why the ‘As You Like It” chorus begins with a vocative: “Heigh-ho, sing high-ho, unto the green holly!”  (15)   Shakespeare uses the gesture of group singing in the hall ogether to express the solidarity of the banished Duke and his merry men in Arden. He takes the Christmas feeling of “mastering the cold by good life around a great fire and uses it to convey the exiles’ feeling of mastering ingratitude by pastoral fellowship.”  (16)

                       In a side scene, Act IV, ıı, usually omitted in modern representations, we have, at Jacques‘ request, a song “What shall he have that killed a deer?”  The scene itself is evidently intended to cover up the break of two hours agreed upon in the previous scene between Rosalind and Orlando – a device rendered superfluous by the modern drop-curtain. The song sung by the foresters, is as follows:

                              “What shall he have that killed a deer?
                              His leather skin and horns to wear.
                              Then sing him home:
                              Take thou no scorn to wear the horn;
                              It was a crest ere thou wast born:
                              Thy father’s father bore it,
                              The horn the horn, the lusty horn
                              Is not a thing to laugh to scorn.”  (17)

                      After the conclusion of the song, the scene ends very abruptly in a manner quite unlike Shakespeare’s usual practice. “That Jacques should be dumb after the song has been rendered, passes belief.”  (18)  Possibly some lines have been dropped by the printer. More probable it is “that the party, which Jacques has encountered is on its road home to the Duke, and it stops for a moment by the way and that the last strains of the song are uttered as the singer and his companions are leaving the stage.”  (19) 

                      Finally in Act IV, ııı, we have the ever-delightful Spring Song, “It was a lover and his lass”, sung by two page boys sitting on either side of Touchstone who presumably joined in the lines common to all stanzas.

                              “It was a lover and his lass,
                              With a hey and a ho, and a hey nomino,
                              That o’er the green corn-field did pass
                              In the spring time, the only pretty ring time
                              When the birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:
                              Sweet lovers love spring.

                              Between the acres of the rye
                              With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nomino,
                              How that a life was but a flower
                              In spring time, etc.

                              And therefore take the present time,
                              With a hey, and a ho, and a hey romino,
                              For love is crowned with the prime
                              In spring time, etc.”  (20)

                      From the context it may be presumed that two pages sing in unison, “both in a tune like two gypsies on a horse.”  (21)

                      The scene wherein the song is contained was most likely added. It has no bearing on the development of the action, unless we assume that it was designed that by means of the song, lapse of time should be iindicated and that the season’s change from winter to summer be made evident. “It is, however, more probably that the episode was specially devised to meet the growing taste for song and possibly to counter the attraction of the children at Brickfriars, where there were the best-trained choristers the metropolis possessed.” (22)   But while the addition may have been made for and for the motive named, yet it is no less clear that Shakespeare did not allow the feature to go to waste, but caused it to serve the same dramatic end, as did the other songs in the comedy, namely to act as scenery.

                     By universal consent the very height of gay comedy is attained in “Twelfth Night” and therefore, this play lends itself to an abundant atmosphere.

                              “In his comedy, Feste, the clown does all the singing,
                              if we except a few maudlin snatches by Sir Toby and
                              a part in a catch by Sir Andrew; and this concentration
                              enables a modern manager to engage a better man to
                              fill the part than would be possible were the singing
                              distributed among several players as in “As You Like It.” (23)

                      Feste in this comedy is not only a witty fool and a plausible beg-gar, but domestic minstrelsy in his profession, and Malvolio distinguished him from Sir Topas by his breaking into song.

                      The first song “O Mistress Mine” in Act II, ııı, is as follows:

                              “O Mistress mine where are you roaming?
                              O stay and hear; your true love’s coming,
                              That can sing both high and low;
                              Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
                              Journey’s end in lovers meeting
                              Every wise man’s son doth know.

                              What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
                              Present mirth hath present laughter;
                              What’s to come is still unsure:
                              In delay there lies no pleny;
                              Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
                              Youth’s a stuff will not endure.”  (24)

                      The song serves as a prelude to a good evening leading to a ‘catch’
                              “From that to snatches of ballads, and generally to so
                              noisy and riotous a time that Malvolio is constrained
                              to intervene, and the resentment bred by this interfer-
                              ence with the revellers’ gaiety gives birth to the conspi-
                              racy against him.”  (25)

                      The whole scene is contrived skilfully – the episode is a development of the song.  “There is a deliberate variation from the expected in the fact that it is a love song about spring pleasures, and not the within-doors drinking party.”  (26)

                      It is interesting to note that this particular song has presented problems to the Shakespearean student. “Twelfth Night” is assumed to have been a new play in 1601-2; but “O Mistress Mine” was the title of a consort which appeared in Morley‘s “Consort Lessons” in 1599, and likewise was used as a theme for the virginal by Bird. It was of the opinion, ten, that this was a popular song of the day which Shakespeare incorporated in the play. However, the late Dr. Furneas, as authority on Shakespeare observes:

                              “Oxen and wainropes cannot hale me from the belief that
                              this song is Shakespeare’s very own. Its phraseology, its
                              histrionic quality (it is a drama in miniature), its senten-
                              tiousness – ‘Journey’s end in lovers’  meeting’, ‘Youth’s
                              stuff will not endure’ (the very word stuff is Shakespearean),
                              its interrogation – ‘What is love?’ (like ‘Tell me where is
                              fancy bred?), its defining love by what it is not than what 
                              it is – all these proclaim its author to be either Shakespeare
                              – aut Diabolus.”  (27)

                      Feste is make to sing the second song:  “Come away, come away death” by a convenient and very obvious device. Duke Orsino is an exotic in search of sensation; his love affair and his attachment for music move him to ask Feste to sing. Perhaps the most delightful feature of Feste‘s song is its humorously playful pity for the Duke‘s sad love grief; ‘no one takes the poor nobleman’s passion at a high value’, and Feste hints that a beneficial medicine for such constancy might be found in employment. ”  (28)  It pro-
ceeds as follows:

                              “Come away, come away, death,
                              And in sad sypress let me be laid;
                              Fly away, fly away breath;
                              I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
                              My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
                                                   O, prepare it!
                              My port of death, no one so true
                                                   Did share it.

                              Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
                              On my black coffin let there be strown;
                              Not a friend, not a friend greet
                              My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
                              A thousand thousand sighs to save,
                                                   Lay me, O, where
                              Sad true lover never find my grave,
                                                   To wheep there.”   (29)

                     The third song “I am gone Sir” in Act IV, ıı, occurs at the end of the very scene where Feste tantalizes Malvolio. Feste again sings:

                              “I am gone sir.
                              And anon, sir,
                              I’ll be with you again,
                              In a trice,
                              Like to the old vice,
                              You need to sustain:
                              Who with dagger of lath,
                              In his rage and his wrath,
                              Cries, ah ha, ‘  to the devil:
                              Like a mad lad,
                              Pare thy nails dad;
                              Adieu, goodman devil.”  (30)

                      The interest of the song lies entirely in its illustration of Shakes-peare’s dramatic craftsmanship, and helps to bear out Irwing’s remark “that no actor could ever complain that Shakespeare had sent him tamely off the stage.”  (31)  The genius of this song is in covering the clown’s exit; Feste is enabled to withdraw gradually and with mock ceremony and to disappear of the final insult ‘devil’, hurled decisively at the much-wronged Malvolio.

                     Appropriately enough Feste winds up this high-spirited comedy with an Epilogue in the form of a song round – a popular refrain, which in all probability the groundlings would take up. Though the clown actually sings five stanzas, the first two stanzas will be sufficient here to give an expose of this type of song it is:

                               “When that I was a little tiny boy,
                               With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
                               A foolish thing was but a toy,
                               For the rain it raineth every day.

                               But when I came to man’s estate,
                               With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
                               ‘Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
                               For the rain it raineth every day.”  (32)

                     “To Warburton, Steevens, Staunton, and a host of other grave Georgian and Victorian editors the song was anatema, and they would have consigned the ditty to the footnote as being the gag of an actor.”  (33)  It is of importance to remember that Shakespeare was not a dry antiquarian cast of mind like some of his commentators. He was an actor and a practical man of affaires, out to entertain all those willing to pay for their amusement, and he well knew the value of nonsense in attacking that end.

                               “Every one, whose life is at all worth living, has a 
                               capacity for nonsense in its proper in its proper
                               season, and where could it be more timely than at
                               the end of ‘Twelfth Night’, for the wise nonsense
                               contained in this ditty serves as a commentary on
                               the events of the play, and is a fitting corollary to
                               the first song, ‘O Mistress Mine’ ”   (34)

                    We have thus seen in the consideration of “Twelfth Night” the vital part music and song plays. Song has become almost essential to sustain the tenor of gaiety throughout. Here, Shakespeare has progressed to such an extent in his use of song that now scenes result from the songs; while, at the same time, the songs fulfill a need for Shakespearean audience. We, however, reach the height of Shakespeare’s use of song in the “The Tempest”.

                    Music is the very life of “The Tempest“; without its aid in the play would be impossible for presentation. Caliban says of the scene of its action:

                             “… the isle is full of noises,
                             sounds and sweet airs that give delight
                                   and hurt not.”  (35)

                    In addition Stephano says that the island “will prove a brave king-dom to me, where I shall have my music for nothing.”  (36)  There are frequent opportunities not only for vocal music but also for instrumental music as well. “The Tempest” is a dream, through a wonderful prophetic dream on Shakespeare’s part, of the effect which music drama was to achieve. Even as it is, Shakespeare came nearest in the play to “making a musical play natural and free from absurdity.”  (37)   “The Tempest”, then, marks the culminating point in the use made of song. The more Shakespeare gained in experience, the more relevant did he make his songs to their context, and the more important was their office in promoting his dramatic ends.

                    In “The Tempest”, with the exception of the characters in the Masque, which Prospero discloses, Ariel, Stephano and Caliban do all the singing. The singing in every time in character – Ariel’s is distinctly ethereal, Stephano has a very human, work-a-day note, and caliban has all the intensity of a primitive in giving in to his hatred of drudgery.”  (38)

                    Of Ariel’s songs, Hazlitt observed that “without conveying any distinct images (they) seem to recall all the feelings connected with them, like snatches of half-forgotten music heard indistinctively and at intervals.”(39)  This is just the effect in Act I, ıı, of the first two songs -“Come unto these yellow sands“, and, “Full fathom five”.

                    The first song, a laughing invitation, has drawn Ferdinand hither from the sea and the illusion of firm soil is given by dogs barking and cocks
                               “Come unto these yellow sands,
                               And then take hands:
                               Courtsied when you have and kiss’d
                               The wild waves whist:
                               Foot it featly here and there;
                               And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
                                                    Hark, hark.
                               The watch dogs bark:
                               Hark, hark, I hear
                               The strain of strutting Chanticleer
                               Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow.”  (40)

                  The singing has hardly ceased when it recommences with Ariel‘s second song. “Full fathom five” is in another strain and from the waters rather than from the sands:

                               “Full fathom five thy father lies;
                               Of the bones are coral made
                               Those are pearls that were his eyes:
                               Nothing of him that doth fade,
                               But doth suffer a sea-change
                               Into something rich and strange.
                               Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
                                                                  Ding, dong.   (41)

                  Here, Ferdinand is mocked into the belief that his father is drowned and the nymphs no more than formerly grieve. The impression is given that Ariel has translated into song Ferdinand‘s imaginings and fears.

                  Ariel, as an unsubstantial creature of the air, can hardly talk otherwise than in song. Where music in any form is, he is there too. It is Ariel who intervenes and corrects with tabor and pipe the following ‘catch’ which Stephano and Trinculo are endeavoring to sing in Act III, ıı.

                              “Flout  ‘em and scout  ‘em,
                              And scout  ‘em and flout  ‘em;
                                                 Thought is free.”  (42)

                  When in Act II, ı, Gonzalo is to be warned of the assasination, Sebastian and Antonio are devising, it is by singing in Gonzalo‘s ear that
Ariel awakens the sleeper:

                              “While you here do snoring lie,
                              Open-eyed conspiracy
                              His time doth take.
                              If of life you keep a care,
                              Shake off slumber and beware:
                                                 ware, awake!”   (43)

                  Finally, in Act V, just as he is about to be freed, Ariel sings of himself, as if to himself.

                              “Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
                              In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
                              There I couch when owls do cry.
                              On the bat’s back I do fly
                              After summer merrily.
                              Merrily, merrily shall I live now
                              Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.”  (44)

                  Here Ariel exposes an ideal life in just a few words. It is this brevity and speed of development which distinguish Shakespeare’s songs from all others. “There is motion also suggested; one can almost see him pirouetting with ecstasy as he sings:  ‘Merrily, merrily, shall I live now!’   (45) 

                  In contrast to Ariel are Stephano and Caliban, and a song is made to be the means of Stephano‘s introduction to the audience in Act II, ıı.  “We
observe Stephano, ‘reeling ripe with wine’, stagger onto the scene wherein
he, Trinculo and Caliban form their stupid and vicious alliance against Prospero.”  (46)

                              “The master, the swabber, the boatswain, and I,
                              The gunner, and his mate,
                              Loved Moll, Meg, and Marian and Margery,
                              But none of us cared for Kate;
                              For she had a tongue with a tang,
                              Would cry to a sailor, Go hang!
                              She loved not the savor of tar nor of pitch;
                              Yet a tailor might scratch her where  ‘er
                                          she did itch,
                              Then, to sea, boys, and let her go hang.”  (47)

                  Of course, Stephano sings because he is drunk, but the nature of both the singer and the song reveals symbolic connotations.  “In contrast to the spirit – music provided by Ariel, this is a scurvy tune sung by a carnal oaf much befuddled by drink.”   (48)    The bawdy song, the gross nature of Stephano, his drunkenness – all these reveal in the character of Stephano the earthiness, sensuality and disharmony personified. A modern dramatist probably would have put into Stephano‘s mouth a landman’s song of the sea, but Shakespeare, with his usual artistic truth, “provides us with a genuine article – a song which a sailor might sing and his fellows would relish.”  (49)

                  Our third singer Caliban, stands in a class by himself. The only near-human creature lower than Stephano and Trinculo in the chain of creatures, soon gilds himself with the celestial liquor borne by Stephano. In his drun-ken condition, delighted by the license promised him by his new god, Caliban burst into song:

                            “No more dams I’ll make for fish;
                            Nor fetch in firing
                            At requiring;
                            Nor scrape trencher, nor wash dish:
                            ‘Ban, ‘Ban, Cacaliban
                            Has a new Master: get a new man.”   (50)

                   The song is here used to suggest license and lack of harmony.
Caliban cannot sing as does Ariel, or even Stephano. What he ‘howls’ as Trinculo describes his performance, is “strange doggerel quite different from the music heard previouslyin the play.”  (51)   An interesting feature of the song is the ‘Ban, ‘Ban, Cacaliban which is characteristic of the triumphal chorus aboriginal savages in its emphasis and repetition of parts of a name. If it does not indicate, on Shakespeare’s part, a study of music more search-ing than he has hitherto been credited with, it does at any rate illustrate the minute care he bestowed on his characters at crucial dramatic moments. 

                            “It is highly improbable that Shakespeare had knowledge
                            of tyhe music of man in a primitive state, but it is evident
                            that Shakespeare had observed the improptu musical efforts
                            of young, untrained boys who, like savages, make a chorus 
                            by emphasizing and repeating parts of a name, and with an
                            instinct unerring in its judgment he thought fit to invest
                            Caliban’s ebulition of defiance with the same peculiarity.” (52)

                  We have thus evidenced Shakespeare at the height of musical effort in his late comedy “The Tempest”.  The songs sung by the individual characters are significant not only in giving insight into the specific treats of the characters but also in contributing to the plot and action of the comedy. We cannot overlook the constant employment of instrumental music throughout the entire play which adds to the airy and fanciful atmosphere. Truly we can say the “Tempest”, Shakespeare’s final great comedy, with the world of love and harmony and it surges of language reveals Shakespeare at the peak of his artistic treatment of song.


                   The foregoing study has attempted to illustrate Shakespeare’s interest in music as a handmaid in drama. Being the product of his age, the
sizteenth century, imbued with tyhe musical spirit of the period. We have seen how music was an integral part of the educative, domestic and social life of Elizabethan England; music, therefore, would be a natural, appealing element for audiences of the drama of the time. Shakespeare did not neglect this element, but employed it in his plays, not only to satisfy his audience, but also to effect specfic dramatic ends.

                   To use of song in six of Shakepeare’s comedies has been treated with somewhat  in detail. The early comedies, “Love’s Labour’s Lost”, and “The Merchant of Venice” in particular, manifested the use of song in an elementary fashion while “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” depicted a prog-ression in its use of song as part of the action. Three later comedies, “As You Like It”, “Twelfth Night”, and “The Tempest”, revealed the use of song as a significant factor in the plays’ action, characterization, and plot.

                  Studying te comedies in this order we have also witnessed the prog-ression of Shakespeare as an artistic dramatist. Shakespeare tried as far as possible never use song and musiz as an additional element, but rather as a means of fulfilling a dramatic purpose.  The plays of Shakespeare have spoken to peoples of all ages; and the music employed in the plays have contributed to their universal appeal to all audiences.

                                              FOOTNOTES   –    CHAPTER  III

(1)    Richmond Noble, “Shakespeare’s Use of Song”, p.71.
(2)    Idem.
(3)    Ibid., p.72.
(4)    Idem.
(5)    Idem.
(6)    William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, Act II, v.
(7)    Noble, p.73.
(8)    Shakespeare, Act II, v.
(9)    Idem.
(10)  Noble, p.73.
(11)  Noble,  p.73.
(12)  John Russel Brown, “Shakespeare and His Comedies”, p.154.
(13)  Shakespeare, Act II, vıı
(14)  Noble, p.73.
(15)  C.L. Barber, “Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy”, pp.115-6.
(16)  Ibid., p.116.
(17)  Shakespeare, Act. IV, ıı.
(18)  Noble, p.75.
(19)  Idem.
(20) Shakespeare, Act.IV, ııı.
(21)  Idem.
(22)  Noble, p.72.
(23)  Ibid., p.80.
(24)  Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night”, Act II, ııı.
(25)  Noble, p.82.
(26)  Barber, p.115.
(27)  As quoted from ‘Dr. Furness in Richmond Noble’, “Shakespeare’s Use Of
           Song”, p.81.
(28)  Noble, p.83.
(29)  Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night”, Act II, ıv.
(30)  Ibid., Act II, ıı
(31)  Noble, p.84.
(32)  Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night”, Act IV, ı.
(33)  Noble, p.85.
(34)  Idem.
(35)  Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, Act III, ıı.
(36)  Ibid., Act II, ıı.
(37)  Noble, p.100.
(38)  Idem.
(39)  As quoted by Hazlitt in Richmond Noble, “Shakespeare’s Use of Song”,
(40)  Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, Act III, ıı.
(41)  Idem.
(42)  Ibid., Act III, ıı.
(43)  Ibid., Act II, ı.
(44)  Ibid., Act V, ı.
(45)  Noble, p.101.
(46)  John H. Long, “Shakespeare’s Use of Music – The Final Comedies”, p.142.
(47)  Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, Act II, ıı.
(48)  Long, p.103.
(49)  Noble, P.102.
(50)  Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, Act II, ıı.
(51)  Long, p.102.
(52)  Noble, p.103.

                                                                 -B o o k s-

Arthos,  John:   “The Art of Shakespeare”, Barnes & Noble, Inc., New York,
Barber,  C.L.:      “Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy – A Study of Dramatic Form
                                 & Its Relation to Social Custom”, Princeton University Press,
                                 New Jersey, 1959.
Boyd,  Marrison Comegya :    “Elizabethan Music & Musical Criticism”, Univ.
                                 of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1940.
Bridge,   Sir Frederick :    “Shakespearean Music in the Plays & Early Operas”,
                                 J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., London & Toronto, 1923.
Brooke,   Tucker;  Ed. :    “The Shakespeare Songs”, William Morrow & Comp.,
                                 New York, 1929. 
Brown,   Ivor:   “Shakespeare in His Time”, Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd.,
                                 Edinburgh, England, 1960.
Brown,   John Russel :   “Shakespeare & His Comedies”,  Methuen & Comp.,
                                 Ltd., London, 1957.
Byrne,   M. St.Clare :    “Elizabethan Life in Town and Country”, Methuen &
                                 Comp., Ltd., London, 1925.
Chute,   Marchette :    “Shakespeare of London”, E.P. Dutton & Comp., Inc.,
                                 New York, 1949.
Dean,    Leonard F.,  Ed.:     “Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism”, 
                                  Oxford University Press, New York, 1957.
Dodd,   A.H. :      “Life in Elizabethan England”, G.P.Putnam’s Sons,
                                  New York, 1961.
Elson,  Louis C. :    “Shakespeare in Music”, L.C. Page & Comp., Boston,1900.
English Music :   Being in the Lectures given at the ‘Music Loan Exhibition’
                                  of the Worshipful Company of Musicians held at Fishmonger
                                  Hall, London Bridge, June-July, 1904.
                                  The Walter Scott Publishing Company, Ltd., London, 1904.
Fellows,   Edmund H. :    “The English Madrigal”, Oxford University Press,
                                  London, 1925.
Granville-Barker, Harley & G.B. Harrison, Eds. :  “A Companion to Shakes-
                                  peare Studies”, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1949.
Long, John H. :   “Shakespeare’s Use of Music – The Final Comedies”,
                                  The Gainsville Univ. of Florida Press, 1961.
Naylor,  Edward W. :   “The Poets and Music”,  J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.,
                                  London & Toronto,  1928.
Naylor,  Edward W. :   “Shakespeare and Music”, J.M. Dent & Comp.,
                                  Aldine House, E.C., 1896.
Nicoll,   Allardyce :    “The Elizabethans”, Cambridge University Press,
                                  Cambridge, 1957.
Noble,    Richmond :     “Shakespeare’s Use of Song”, Humphrey Milford,
                                  Oxford University Press, 1923. 
Pearson,    Lu Emily :     “Elizabethand at Home”, Stanford University Press,
                                  Stanford, California, 1957.
Shakespeare,    William :      “As You Like It”, The Complete Works of William
                                  Shakespeare; William Aldis Wright, Ed., Doubleday & 
                                  Comp., Inc., New York, 1936.
—————————- :       “Love’s Labor’s Lost”, The Complete Works of
                                   William Shakespeare; William Aldis Wright, Ed., Doubleday
                                   &  Comp., Inc., New York, 1936.
—————————- :        “The Merchant of Venice”, The Complete Works
                                   of William Shakespeare; William Aldis Wright, Ed.,
                                   Doubleday & Comp., Inc., New York, 1936.
—————————- :        “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, The Complete
                                   Works, William Aldis Wright, Ed., Doubleday & Comp., Inc.
                                   New York, 1936.
—————————- :         “The Tempest”, The Complete Works, William 
                                   Aldist Wright, Ed., Doubleday & Comp., Inc., New York,
—————————- :          “Twelfth Night”, The Complete Works, William
                                   Aldist Wright, Ed., Doubleday & Comp., Inc., New York,
Stepehenson,   Henry Thew :  “The Elizabethan People”, Henry Bolt & Comp.,
                                   New York, 1910. 
                                                        -P e r i o d i c a l s-

Kelly,    F.J.:    “Shakespeare and the Art of Music”, The Catholic World,
                              CX  658,  January 1920.




                                       IRISH DRAMA and the ABBEY THEATRE

               <Written and prepared by Barbara J. Sherry, student in the ‘Master’ program, Salve Regina College (Now University), Newport, R.I. and her professor of Pychology and supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ismail Ersevim, as a thesis for her graduate program, 1967 -USA>


                        The Irish people have been a  people of song, legend and myth.  As all literature is a direct reflection of the people of a country, so are these old songs, legends and myths a direct reflection on the people of the tiny, emerald island. They are a people whose great sense of patriotism has had its roots in the ancient Gaelic tradition of the peasants, and it was in his ancient traditin that the true literature culture of the Irish people lay hidden for centuries under the domination of England.

                        During the seven centuries of English domination, the Irish culture was preserved mainly through the efforts of the peasants. They handed down the songs and legends orally from generation to generation, preseving much of their great heritage within their families. Shanachies, or “story-tellers” were prevalent during this time whose tales were generally characterized by tragedy. Eventually, poetry and short stories became popular and flourished among the peasants. Many of the so-called Irish novels were really English novels written about Ireland, but with the novelist Kickham, came the genuine Irish novel. The one literary form which had not blossomed during this period as a means of reflecting the Irish heritage was drama.

                      The so-called literary renaissance followed the political aftermath of 1848, when the patriotic literature of the Davis School made way for a literature whose patriotism in the old literature of Irish culture began once more to live in the songs and stories of the poets, instead of dying slowly in the folk-tales of the peasantry. Because the dramatic form was so little known it became necessary to create an atmosphere in which the people of Ireland could formulate and appreciate thier own drama.

                      There were three people immensely concerned with the creation of a genuine Irish drama: William Butler YEATS, Lady Augusta GREGORY and John Millington SYNGE. They initiated the movement through the creation of the Abbey Theatre, the purpose of which would be to produce plays by Irish authors, about Irish people, played by Irish players. The purpose of this thesis is to provide a brief background of Irish Literature, and trace the establishment of the Abbey with its initial problems, the flourishing Abbey in its prime, and a consideration of the Abbey in later years.

                                                                CHAPTER: I

                                           THE COMING OF THE ABBEY

                      For seven hundred years the old folk tales, myths and legends
of Ireland were hidden underground. During that period, the tiny Emerald Isle was under the control of the British Empire which had ona aim: to wipe out all traces of old Irish tradition. Their efforts were partially successful in the political sense, however, the Irish poeple possessed a great spirit of nationality that refused to be suppressed. The sould of the Irish people stood for freedom and they refused to relinquish their old traditions which stood for that freedom. By keeping their precious heritage alive through underground imaginative creativity the Irish were able to withstand the pressures of England. Until the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland had been without any national drama, either in Irish or English. In the  nineteenth century there came an awakening in Gaelic folklore and traditions. It eventually led to the establishment of the Gaelic League, the Irish National Society and the Irish Theatre Movement.

                      By the nineteenth century, Ireland was “ripe for deliverance” from the English. Writers began to take up the cause; among them were William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, George Moore, George Russell, John Millington Synge, and James Joyce. It was these men who kept the Irish spirit alive at this time. What the tiny country really needed was a strong leader.
                      William Butler Yeats realized the need for leadership especially for the peasants who were ready for deliverance. Yeats gave them their hero in the character of the legendary “Cuchulain“. This ancient Irish hero had grown out of Celtic legends not only provided the peasants with a weapon which further stimulated their Irish nationalistic spirit, but also provided Yeats with an ideal dramatic here for his ‘poetic theatre’. Cuchulain stood for the order and law, these people had been striving as long as for, and resulted in a great national response.

                        Yeats also realized that the Irish had naturally assumed much similarity with England during seven hundred years under the English rule. Much of the literature produced by Irıshman was being absorbed into England’s tradition leaving no individuality to Irish literature. as George Bernard Shaw had left Ireland for London to start his career so were many more of Ireland’s writers doing the same in order to gain stature in the literary world. By not producing a literature of its own, Ireland was in great danger of losing her individuality. There was one chance, however, for Irish literature, and that was through the old Gaelic literature of Ireland’s own tongue.

                        Although Ireland had had a theatre as early as 1637, when George Bernard Shaw left Ireland for London in 1876, there was still nothing could be called an Irish dramatic tradition. Because the theatre of 1637 had been created by the English, any local authors went to London to establish themselves. (1) Yeats had to overcome this domination of England over Irish literature. He was born in Ireland and had collected Irish fairy tales of the peasants which greatly enchanted him and he considered the peasants as very close to the spiritual world. As early as 1899, he wrote to a friend:
                        “I have worked at Irish Mythology and filled a gerat many pages of notes with a certain arrangement of it for my own purposes; now I find I have a rich background for whatever I want to do and endless symbols to my hands.” Even before Yeats systematized  that mythology, his mind had turned toward Ireland for subject matter and he commented:
                        “England is old… but Ireland, has still full tables. Here in Ireland the marble block iz waiting for us almost untouched, and the statues will come as soon as we have learned to use the chisel.” (3)

                        Yeats’ memory and imagination always took him back to the Irish countryside and especially to the wild beauty of the west country, hundred by its legends of the past and the events of the near present. He considered the Irish writers as people who should write of the familiar landscapes they love for they loved best what is nearest and most interwoven in their ordinary lives.

                        Yeats recognized that one writer alone could not create a literature. A group, united together in one aim and an audience educated to appreciate them were also necessary. He once said that one wants to write for one’s own people, who come to the playhouse with a knowledge of one’s subjects and with hearts ready to be moved. Having achieved this, literature will then once more become folk art.

                        Writers of Irish literature at that time could be regularly separated into three main parties:
(1) “West Britons” or ‘Literary Unionists’ whose residence in Ireland from a literary point of view seemed a mere accident;
(2) The true Anglo-Irish writers, who if not always writing for Ireland, wrote of it; and,
(3) The Gaelic, written in Ireland’s native tongue was unknown to the rest of the world. It was the latter that Yeats placed his faith in, eventually creating legendary past was to be found.

                         In 1891 Yeats founded the “Irish Literary Society” in London and in 1892, he founded the “National Literary Society” in Dublin. Later in the same year, he met with Lady Augusta Gregory and Edward Martyn and discussed the possibilities of the Irish plays and theatre. They drew up a manifesto in 1897 to illustrate their plans and to show that Ireland was not the home of “buffoonery and easy sentiment”, which read, “We propose to have performed in Dublin, in the spring of every year certain Celtic and Irish plays, which whatever be their degree of excellence will be written with a high anbition, and so build up a Celtic and Irish school of dramatic litera-ture.” (4)  They expressed their confidence in all the Irish people, who were “weary of misrepresentation” in carrying out a proposal that was outside all the political questions that devided them.

                         The Irish people had a long history in oratory – the only means they had had for centuries to hand down their heritage to other generations. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Martyn agreed that with this practice in listening for so many years, would come a natural interest in the plays they hoped to produce. They went ahead with their plans to establish an Irish theatre which would be noted for one characteristic that the English theatre lacked, and was experimentation. This was very definitely to be a theatre of experiment.

                         “A literary revival is necessarily more thana renovation, the restoration of an obsolete language, the refurbishing of outworn literary froms.” (5)  The Irish Literary Revival was the recovery of the ancient heritage of the Irish people. It was the recovery of even more than that because it went deeper to uncover the original spirit, the creative genius that produced this culture. The revival produced not just a mere imitation of the past but a fresh, new viewpoint toward literature, yet at the same time keeping what was the cherished ancient culture alive. This was especially true with the creation of a native drama, often referred to as the most important single contribution on the part of the Revival.

                         The great revival had to come in the field of ‘drama’, because as it was already pointed out, this was the one aspect of literature which Ireland lacked. Up to the nineteenth century, all the literature produced by Irishmen was considered English rather than Irish. Irish actors and actresses performed on the English stage, many of whom were Elizabeth O’Neill, George Ann Bellamy, James Quinn and Charles Nacklin. It was easy to note the ability of Irishmen in this field and the importance of it would have in the development of the Irish Theatre.  

                          There seems to be a question as to who the real initiator of the Irish Theatre really was. Some give credit entirely to Yeats and others to Edwand Martyn. In any case, the two men paid Lady Gregory a visit in 1898 at Coole. Lady Gregory evidently not known Yeats before this visit. It was on this day that the suggestion for an Irish Literary Theatre, out of which grew the  A b b e y   T h e a t r e , was first discussed.

                          MARTYN was one of those writers who came under the “gloomy
spell” of Ibsen. He had written two plays that were rejected in London and he hoped with the coming of an Irish theatre to get them produced. Yeats was also a dramatist, but his interest in drama had grown from his love for poetry. He had been a keen desire to implement the establishing of an Irish theatre for his homeland, a poetic theatre of ancient Irish heritage. Lady Gregory shared no great enthousiasm for the theatre with Yeats and Martyn. Her chief interest was in poetry but she developed such a keen liking for Yeats that she readily agreed to do research in old Irish folklore and Gaelic in order to contribute something toward their idea of an Irish National Theatre.

                          In the winter following the first meeting with Lady Gregory, Yeats wrote from London of a meeting arranged with Barry O’Brien, the President of the Irish Literary Society to discuss the “Celtic Theatre”. During the summer of 1898 a request for subscriptions amounting to three hundred pounds was circulated and with the help of W.E.H. Lecky they secured a license to open a theatre and in January 1899, the Irish Literary Theatre was founded under the auspecies of the National Literary Society.

                                              “As soon as the Irish Literary Theatre was assured
                                              of nationalist backing, is started to dissociate itself 
                                              from any political aim. One the one hand, support was
                                              required to achieve the avowed aim of establishing ‘a
                                              kind of racial festival.’ ”  (6)
                           Their work was to be for the countryman and the artisan and although they appealed to the minority, they were confident that Ireland
was on the verge of awakening. It was hoped that the Theatre itself would eventually furnish a vehicle for intellectual literary expression and national thought appealing to people of all sections who desired to aid in serving the higher intellectual and artistic interest of their country.

                          After securing the funds and a license, the group then faced the problem of finding a place. The Ancient Concert Rooms in Dublin were decided upon and a company of actors was acquired. The problem of a producer was solved in George Moore. Much of his career lay outside of Ireland. He had been living abroad for years and was thoroughly familiar with the stage from his working in Paris. In 1899 they began their work on the production, and two plays were presented during the week of May 8. The first was Yeats’ “The Countess Kathleen“, which tells the story of a noble woman who sells her soul to demons in order to save her people from famine. The Irish people protested and regarded it as blasphemy. However, Yeats was seeking to stir up his countrymen intellectually and he succeeded with his first play. He appealed to what they knew, from the folklore of their old culture. “The Countess Kathleen” uses as its material the convergence of pagan and Christian of pagan and Christian Irish tradition” (7), both of which they knew well. The second play, Martyn’s “Heather Field” was produced on the following evening and was much better received than Yeats’ had been. It is concerned with a wealthy idealist who has courted disaster by his marri-age. It reflects the influence of Ibsen although the scene and characters are Irish.

                          From the very beginning, there was a vast difference of opinion between the theories of these two men. This was mainly the result of Martyn’s great admiration for Ibsen, and it was eventually caused a lasting separation between the two men. Actually, there was no reason for the rupture because they could have joined together and worked for the new drama movement but the difference was too great in their temperaments. “Martyn’s was undoubtedly was the keener and more profound intellect, while Yeats’ literary gifts were of a higher order.”  (8)

                       When the first few plays of the Irish Literary Theatre were presented, it was necessary to employ English actors, even though the plays were were by Irishmen. In 1901 a theatrical group, under the leadership of W.G. Fay and F.J. Fay, impressed Yeats and when Martyn and Moore went their separate ways, be became associated with them, and the name was changed from the Irish National Theatre to the Irish National Drama Company. In the same year, the first Gaelic play ever produced, was staged with amateur actors under the direction of W.G. Fay. In the audience were John Millington Synge and F.J. Fay. The whole point was to determine whether or not Irish plays could be acted by professional actors. The results were negative and it was determined that actors as well as audiences would have to be trained. Through the efforts of the Fay brothers, who had become interested in drama from observing the efforts of the Irish Literary Theatre, produced Alice Milligan’s ” Deliverance of Red Hugh.” Present in this audience were Yeats, Lady Gregory A.E. who were all very much impressed. It was the first time in the literary movement that results were beginning to show. The people were accepting the challenge offered them by this group determined to preserve Ireland’s culture.

                                              “In these first three years of experiment, therefore,
                                              the principles were established and the dual aim
                                              acknowledged; the theatre would be ‘national’, but
                                              first it must be art.’ ”  (9)

                       Yeats, felt sufficiently encouraged to write:

                                              “We have brought the literary drama to Ireland, and 
                                              it has become a reality… In Ireland, we had among 
                                              our audience almost everybody who is making  
                                              opinion in Ireland, who is part of his time, and num-
                                              bers went out playhouse thinking a little differently
                                              of that Ireland which their work is shaping; some went
                                              away angry, some delighted, but all had seen that
                                              upon the stage at which they could not look alto-      
                                              gether unmoved….”  (10)

                        Yeats’ remaining plays fall into three categories:

(1)  Those with stress on the heroic age put to verse,
(2) Those with historical qualities – folklore,
(3) Those with experimentation of new stage and dramatic techniques.

                         Except for one play, “The Pot of Broth“, which he wrote with Lady Gregory, Yeats concentrated on “the activity of the souls of the characters”. He was more involved with poetry and art and became greatly influenced by the Japanese theatre – “Artificiality became the very essence of Yeats plays.”  (11)  He brought in the new dramatic technique with the use of masks in his aesthetic theory, and he said in his ‘Autobiographies’ that active virtue as distinguished from passive acceptance of a current code is therefore theatrical, consciously dramatic, the wearing of a mask. He disliked the contemporary theatre because he felt it did not deal with mas as man. He said playwrights were not concerned with structure and language. He felt that the language should be their own poetic, native language of the peasants which again was fond in their ancient culture. It was through these new ideas that Yeats hoped to replace the Irish Literary Theatre which after its three years had terminated. He considered the new theatre as one in which scenery was simple, language poetic, and very little explanation on the part of actors to the audience.

                         It has already been noted that in many of these first plays, English actors were employed. This was out of necessity – All Irishmen were going to England and Yeats himself left for England in 1901 to write and wait for the opportunity to begin work on the new theatre. During this time, Irish playwriting continued. George Russell who chose to go by initials “A.E.”, published two scenes of his one-act play “Deirdre” which was read by the Fays. They urged him to finish it  so they could produce what they had been anticipating for three years – an all Irish play.

                         In April of 1902 under the joint leadership of Yeats and the Fay brothers, the first performance of the Irish National Dramatic Company was given. The two plays presented in St. Teresa’s Hall were: Russell’s “Deirdre” and Yeats’ “Kathleen ni Houlihan”, the first to be written, acted and staged entirely by Irishmen, and they performed without pay.

                         In December of 1902 the National Irish Theatre Society secured a small hall in which to give their performances. A year later Molesworth Hall was acquired and proved to be much more accessible than the previous one. It was in Molesworth Hall that Lady Gregory’s play “Twenty Five” was presented. It was the first of her plays to be staged. They also featured Yeats’ “The Hour Glass.”

                       One of the best known of the Abbey Group was John Millington Synge, who joined them in 1903. He met Yeats in Paris and was persuaded by him to return to Ireland and study its racial types and utilize them as the basis of his contribution to the new Irish drama. He lived right in with the peasants of the Aran Islands and the Irish-speaking West and learned as much as possible about them. His first play produced in 1903 was “In the Shadow of the Glen“. It was considered an ‘insult to Irish womanhood’ in its portrayal of the conventions of society. The following year, “Riders to the Sea” was produced. It was directly influenced by Synge’s contact with the peasants of the Aran Islands in that it dealt not with social issues as his others did but with life as it was to these people. He was most influential and a valuable asset to the formation of the Abbey.

                         In May of 1903, the Irish National Theatre Company went to London and staged a few of their plays. They were seen by  Miss A. Elizabeth Horniman, a wealthy woman who had become very interested in the arts and had known Yeats for about ten years. She was completely taken taken in by the freshness and richness of the Irish plays. She began helping with the costumes for the Irish players and became so involved with the theatre group that she offered money for a hall to be made into a theatre. “I searched to see if there were any possible places in Dublin. Some money came to me quite unexpectedly – enough for me to hire the halls of a derelict Mechanics’ Institute in Marlborough Street. There was no space for a vestibule, but the deserted morgue of the city was adjoining, so I hired that from the corpora-tion.”  (12)  The building eventually was to be called the “Abbey Theatre“.

                                            FOOTNOTES   of   CHAPTER  I

(1)    Sylaan Barnet, “The Genius of the Irish Theatre”, p.1.
(2)    Ann Saddlemyer, “The World of William Butler Yeats: The Cult of the
          Celt”, p.24.
(3)    Saddlemyer, p.24.
(4)    Saddlemyer, p.19.
(5)    Blance Kelly, “The Voice of the Irish”, p.253.
(6)    Saddlemyer, “Worn Out with Dreams”, p.108.
(7)    David R. Clark, “The World of William Butler Yeats”, p.159.
(8)    As same in (5), p.258.
(9)    As same in (2), p.109.
(10)  As same in (6), p.109.
(11)   William Butler Yeats, “Plays and Contraversies”, p.334.

                                                                CHAPTER   II

                                                                The ABBEY

                          It seemed ironic that the hall Frank Ray advocated the Theatre group build it 1901 materalized due to help from England,   “….. Not for  nationalist reasons, but for cosmopolitan ideals, and not to the society itself but to William Butler Yeats.”  (1)  The donor of course was Miss Hornimann who stressed the Samhain principles which had previously been advocated by Yeats. In her personal letters to the Directors of the Irish National Theatre Society, she made even more clear her own high ambitions and intense dislikes:

                                                 “The theatre is a means for carrying out a
                                                 certain theatrical scheme and as long as
                                                 you continue in the same path, the theatre
                                                 is at the disposal of you and your friends –
                                                 under whatever title you may choose to use.”  (2)

                          She stressed that her main interest in art, not Yeats when she said:
                                                  “I wanted to make the nucleus of an Art Theatre,
                                                  not for your work particular, but a theatre where
                                                  such work would be done and other good work
                                                  too of all kinds. The Dublin theatre was to be the
                                                  nucleus – the factory – the school – for an interna-
                                                  tional theatre.”  (3)

                          In 1904, Willie Eay was chosen as stage director and general manager of the new theatre. In December of that year the Abbey Theatre opened, named after the street on which it was located. The two plays presented were Yeats’ “On Baile’s Strand” and, Lady Gregory’s “Spreading the News.” The following year it was decided that changes must be made. The Society could not continue to exist under such “chaotic conditions.” During three years of the dramatic movement Yeats had always been considered one of the leaders, but as in every group or society, there was trouble over the balance of power. For several years it had been Yeats, Lady Gregory and eventually Synge on one side and on the other, A.E. and the nationalists as the opposition. The theatre was considered a politiclal group and many actors had backed A.E. for President because he was conscious of their feelings and sympathetic toward them. Yeats had become forceful in determining policies and theories both in England and Ireland but A.E. had become just as forceful. In 1904 the actors objected to the way in which they were completely ignored concerning decisions on which plays were accepted or rejected. A.E. suggested that actors be given a note on the decision and since there were more of them they would have control of the situation. Following this dispute came trouble concerning a tour to the
United States. A.E. opposed saying that he had no interest in work outside Ireland and if it was hopeless to expect success by working in Ireland with occasional tours in England, then he thought it was useless to continue taking any interest in the Society. With this opinion in mind he resigned a few days later, explaining that the Society was fully dependent upon Yeats and his work and since the two men varied so much in opinion, he felt it “…unfitting to retain an official position…” in the Society.

                          During that same year plans were begun to make the theatre group a professional society. A.E. offered to help draft a constitution and Miss Hornimann generously produced eight hundred pounds to meet with expense. There was a great deal of discussion and meetings but finally they agreed to appoint a Board of Directors who would be in charge of hiring and firing all employees, including the stage manager and business manager. The theatre was developing more than ever into Yeats’ idea of a ‘literary theatre.’ The nationalist group led by Marie Nic Shuibhlaigh felt the Society too far from a national theatre, and, they severed their connection with the Society.
Now the Directors were, who were Yeats, Lady Gregory and Synge were finally left to develop their idea the way they had intended to all along. However, they soon found there was difficulty even between them for each said his own thoughts of how the theatre was to be developed. Yeats’ idea was of course that the drama should be poetic and romantic while Lady Gregory and Synge differed.

                                                  “From the beginning, Lady Gregory made use of the
                                                  Anglo-Irish idiom which she has termed ‘Kiltartan’
                                                  after the district in which she heard it spoken and its
                                                  more obvious quaintness has given special quaint-
                                                  ness to her comedies. She did not secure the beauti-
                                                  ful effects of Synge; his ear for the harmonics of lan-
                                                  guage and his sense of poetic and dramatic style
                                                  were part of his genius.”  (5)

                         Both Lady Gregory and Synge required a different treatment for their peasant plays. Lady Gregory considered the theatre one in which beauty was what the writer should strive for an yet at the same time, he should be realistic. here was a “naturalist’ tradition evident with new playwrights such as William Boyle and Seuman O’Kelly, and in the “Arrow” of 1906, Yeats assured the Society that the “building of our theatre” took years of hard work and spoke of the representation of country life in future plays.

                         In August of 1905, W.A. Henderson was appointed business secretary to the National Literary Society to take care of the land of business transactions going on at the time. This gave the rest of the theatre group more time to devote to the artistic side of their work, but still there were more problems to face.

                                                  “In December of that year, Yeats addressed a
                                                  lenghty memorandum to his fellow directors,
                                                  elaborating the problem and suggesting a solution.
                                                  The popularity of the theatre at the moment depen-
                                                  ded he felt, on Lady Gregory and William Boyle who
                                                  would eventually tire the audience or create a
                                                  school of ‘bad imitators.’ On the other hand, no
                                                  second verse writer had appeared, and his own
                                                  work would not draw large audiences for a conside-
                                                  rable time.” (6)

                         Yeats offered a solution to the problem through the training of actors, audience and future dramatists as well as adding more capital in order to acquire more actors, who could express themselves in other aspects of the work. Also he suggested that Willi Fay be freed from all activities in order to improve and work on his own comedies. Since Yeats was the only writer of verse drama, he felt he should be allowed to choose his own players. His proposals resulted in much agitation from Synge and Lady Gregory. Synge felt that to turn their efforts to a dramatic literature in which the interest was in “the novelty of the new work” rather than the “quality of execution” and where the main interest would be in the inter-pretation of works “already received as classics” would be against the whole idea of the Irish Theatre and Ireland herself. Miss Hornimann who was dis-
satisfied with the Fay’s, offered to pay a new man to replace Willie Fay who she termed as ‘incapable.’ Lady Gregory was against the proposals especially in the changes of the Fays. She saw it inevitable that they would be dropped from the group were these ideas approved. She proposed that the Society continue for another six months and at the end of that period if the public does not appear pleased with what they have done, then a meeting would be held concerning any new decisions. It was offered for Yeats’ consideration and Synge and Lady Gregory agreed to accept a new man on certain terms: that Willie Fay be given a raise of one hudred pounds a year and a contract;
that writers be allowed to withdraw their plays if they want to at the end of six months; that Synge’s suggestions for a national theatre be agreed upon; and that a new man be a thoroughly theatrical businessman and preferably Irish.
                          When the new men was finally hired, in the form of Ben Iden Payne, he produced Lady Gregory’s translation of Maeterlick’s “L’İnterieur”  nd Wilfred Blunt’s “Fand”. But after all the discussion and trouble caused over the problem, he left in October. Because Synge and Lady Gregory employed much realism in their plays, they knew that the Fays were actors first, and producers second. The trouble reached a climax with the “Playboy”. Fay objected to the Directors’ interference with actors and demnded the right to choose the plays. The Directors rejected their requests and by rejecting it, lost their last oportunity to join the traditional theatre.

                          One last break was to occur between the Society and Miss Hornimann who finally recognized that the theatre she and Yeats had been dreaming about was not materializing, and she had seen his waisting his time. Miss Hornimann told them she did not intend to renew her subsidy and prepared to establish her reportory theatre in Manchester. She invited Yeats to join her but he refused, determined to continue to strive for his poetic ideal in the theatre.

                          In 1907 Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” was produced and on its appearance all the antagonisms were aroused to a pitch of unusual violence, a veritable cult of hostility arose. He found himself , after four years, famous. The charm of the play lies uniquely with its verbal and imaginative qualities. During the play, there was constant noise and yelling on the part of the audience. The play continued despite of the fact that the players could not be heard. The press issued statements condemning the scandal of Synge’s play on the grounds that it portrayed murder as the country’s greatest tendency. The audience missed the whole point of Synge’s play. The first night of the play brought objections to the bad language used throughout the play on that occasion. Previously, Lady Gregory and Yeats who had objected to it also, directed that it be deleted and this order was overlooked by accident. Most of his work did at first provoke violence from the Irish public, especially “The Playboy”, but understandably so. These people, who after so many years of being treated by the English as shiftless, childlike people, were overly self-conscious about anything that might be construed as a slur on the Irish character. It now seems hardf to believe that the opening week of ‘Playboy’ in 1907 was marred by nightly rioting in the Abbey, despite of all Yeats’ pleas. This demonstration was repeated again in 1911 on the Abbey Players’ first American tour, when the Irish residents of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other cities alerted by their relatives in the old country, greeted the play with hurled vegetables and cat-calls. What was meant as a comedy was taken as a vicious attack on the Irish. The people were quite obviously not ready for this type of play. The arguments against Synge’s ‘Playboy’ were most definitely emotional attacks with emotional reasons that no “amount of logic could refute.” It was the opinion of Lady Gregory that these demonstrations against Synge’s work contributed to the shortening of his life. (7)  “Deirdre of Sorrows” is filled with pathos supposedly of Synge’s state of mind at this time, but it still has a beauty all his own and a tragedy which goes back to the songs of the Shanachies in ancient Irish tradition. There is no question of his importance as an early Abbey Playwright, and his death in 1909 marked the greatest loss the Abbey experienced.

                         When Payne resigned after only about five months with the Abbey, Willie Ray assumed his old job. The old “pet peve” that the Directors should not have all the say in choosing of the plays was once again brought up. Willi Fay demanded the power of choosing the plays and controlling the actors. He received a negative reply and both Willie and Frank left the Abbey for good taking with them a good part of the theatre group. The Abbey was saved however through the development of new talent, including men such as Fred O’Donovan, a yoıng actor; Seuman O’Kelley a new author of several plays, including “The Matchmakers” presented in 1907 and “The Homecoming” in 1910. And, Lennox Robinson who became manager of Abbey in 1910.

                          Among the more important playwrites of the early Abbey were William Boyle and George Fitzmaurice. Their plays made the Abbey history and were considered quite successful. Among Boyle’s plays were “The Mineral Workers” (1906) and “The Family Failing” (1912). Fitzmaurice’s “The Country Dressmaker” (1907) presents some excellent character studies and dream motif. It owed much to Synge both in spirit and structure. His realism was a blend of the colorful fantasy of Synge’s and Lady Gregory’s world. His reality was considered harsher than any other playwright before him. “The Pie-Dish” was completely beyond the audience who could not understand the “Faustian fable”. His next play, “The Magic Glasses” wasn’t produced until 1913 and shortly thereafter he left the Abbey. He never succeeded in breaking through the barrier of misunderstanding, and overshadowed by Synge’s “Playboy“, his plays were not well received during the American tour of 1911, and Yeast lost in him, a force with which he could have harnessed in his battle against the “traditionalists” of the Abbey.

                           Following the American tour, Yeats gave Lady Fregory full control of the Abbey and left for England where he continued to write plays with much Japanese influence on them. He remained the Abbey underwriter but had given up his idea of ever making it entirely a poetic theatre. The theatre continued to remain a “storm center” but it developed its internatio- nal reputation. “The outbreak of the First World War and the controversies over conscription in Ireland, precipitated several crises, the climax coming with the Easter Rebellion of 1916.”  (8)  None of these developments helped the Abbey and it was forced to lessen its productions due to the small audience at this time. However, the Abbey continued on to uphold what was stated of the Samhine Principles: “We must name and number the passions and motives of men… There is no laughter too bitter; no irony too harsh for utterance, no passion is too terrible to be set before the minds of men…”  (9).

                                                      CHAPTER  II  FOOTNOTES

(1)   Ann Saddlemyer, “Worn Out with Dreams”, p.115.
(2)   Saddlemyer, p.115.
(3)   Blanchhe Kelly, “The Voice of the Irish”, p.116.
(4)   Saddlemyer, p.114.
(5)   Kelly, p.269.
(6)   Saddlemyer, p.119.
(7)   Kelly, p.267.
(8)   Kelly, p.234.

                                                    The Abbey in Later Years

                            The coming of World War I and the Easter Rebellion did nothing to help the Abbey as it has already been pointed out. Trouble began breaking out in the Dublin slums with the Easter Rebellion in 1916 and it was during this time that a new name came upon the scene-that of Sean O’Casey
. He actually made his name between 1923 and 1928 and in certain ways he is considered closely related to Irish dramatists who had gone before him. At first glance, he appears quite different from the founders of the Abbey, but upon closer examination, one finds that even though his subjects and scenes are different, his reading of life, like that of all Irish dramatists, is at heart’s poet’s, even when his method and treatment are clear-cut and satiric. His work brings Irish drama well past another milestone in its history especially by reason of the fact that he has made contraversial use of a phase of current history. This is well illustrated in the “The Plough and the Stars” with its disillusioned and and embittered portrayal of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. Many other of his plays are filled with bitterness which is evident even though there are various scenes of comedy.

                O’Casey was born on March 30, 1891 into a world he describes as “… filled up with needs, ambitions, desires and ignorance of others, to be showed aside, pressed back, beaten down by priviledges carrying godwar-rants of superiority because they had dropped into a world a couple of hours earlier.” (1)  He was brought up in the Dublin slums and knew the life there well. He suffered ulcers of the eye as a child because his family was impower-
ished and couldn’t afford the proper treatment. He knew well what the slums of Ireland were like and and with his pen he vividly portrayed them. He began writing short stories while quite young but eventually took to play-writing. In 1919, he supposedly sent “The Frost and the Flower” to the Abbey but it was returned with a comment that the central characters stood out too dominantly, “dwarfing the others.” He corrected this but the play was returned again with the comment that the stature of the characters had been reduced ‘too much’. A long-time friend of Lady Gregory, O’Casey knew more than his share of playwriting not from an education in drama but to his observation of the plays presented in the Abbey Theatre. He was a frequent visitor to the theatre and learned a great deal from mere observation.

                 It was Yeats who advised him “to write of life as he knew it – it chanced to be the life in Dublin slums.”  (2)  He obviously listened to Yeats’ advice from the realism of his plays produced at the Abbey and his gratitude to Yeats is found in the words inscribed in a copy of “Juno and the Paycock” which he gave him:  “The man who by the criticism of a bad play of mine, made me write a good one.”  (3)

                  The immediate result of Yeats’ advice to O’Casey was “The Shadow of a Gunman“. There is a bit of mystery surrounding the early history of this play. One story is that Yeats came to him and asked him to change the name of the play “On the Run” since it was the title of another play in existence. As the story goes, O’Casey fell asleep and dreamt he saw a “gunman in a mirror” which reminded him of another name for his play. It is true that the play was first named “On the Run” and that the name was changed to ” The Shadow of a Gunman“, but that is all we know for certain. Another story is, Lady Gregory declared that they were “putting on the play for three nights, to let the poor fellow see how bed it was is fantastic.”  (4)

                  There seems to be many reasons for these stories but the most logical is the fact that the Abbey was  “facing bad days.” Synge was no longer appealing to the audience nor was Yeats writing many plays; he was more involved in poetry. The theatre was near bankruptcy, the plays were un-
exciting to the audience and there were no new dramatists to interest anyone. Then came O’Casey’s “Shadow of Gunman“;  his success was so sudden and unexpected that some actually were convinced that Sean O’-Casey was a “myth” and that one of the Directors had adopted the pen name.  (5)  The play was first presented at the Abbey on April 12, 1923. The reac-tion of the Irish press was a good indication of how the play was received:

                                                        “It was indeed a welcome and wholesome sign
                                                        to sit last nght in he Abbey Theatre and listen
                                                        to an audience squirming with laughter and 
                                                        revealing boisterously in the satire which Mr.
                                                        Sean O’Casey has put into his two-act play. Not
                                                        for a very long time has such a good play come
                                                        our way. It was brillant… truthful… decisive…
                                                        His characters were as perfect as his photogra-                                                        phy, for one really felt his men and women were
                                                        photographs, was nothing less than the work of
                                                        a genius.”

                 “The Plough and the Stars” was written in 1929. The title symbolized the flag that the short-lived Irish government set up during the rising. The main criticism of this play was that the characters were unrealistic and that the plot was not very strong. The reason it was so successful was apparently due to O’casey giving each character such an interesting part. The main character, Davoren has often been considered a picture of the author him-self – Davoren is portrayed as poetical and uses poetry to escape reality.
Through the conversations of Seumas and Davoren, O’Casey speaks his own mind concerning the state to which Ireland has been reduced through the Anglo-Irish wars.

                  The poetic theatre which Yeats had hoped for had not been realized by the time O’Casey became established as a playwrite. In fact it had become a realistic theatre and with O’Casey, this point was emphasized even further.
He had grown up in the slums and knew that tenement life was like. In telling this, he portrayed a very objective view, although personally involved. These early experiences became the basis for his plays.

                It is interesting to note the importance O’Casey places on the women in his plays. This could be due to his strong feelings for his mother, a poor, very hardworking Irishwoman whom he loved dearly. There is a bit of her portrayed in each oof his famous women characters: the brave but rash Minni Powell in the “Shadow of a Gunman”, in the nagging but heroic Juno in “Juno and the Paycock”; and the weak but affectionate Nora Clitheroe in “The 
Plow and the Stars.” In Mrs. Mrs. Grigson of the “Shadow of a Gunman”, O’-
Casey describes the typical woman of the slums:

                                                        “She is a woman about forty, but oooks much
                                                        older. She is one of the cave-dweller of Dublin,
                                                        living as she does in a tenement kitchen, to which
                                                        only an occasional sunlight filters through a gra-
                                                        ting in the yard; the consequent general dimness
                                                        of her abode has given her a habit of peering
                                                        through half-closed eyes. She is slovenly dressed
                                                        in an old skirt and bodice; her face is grimy; her
                                                        hair is constantly falling over her face, which she
                                                        is as frequently removing by rapid movements of
                                                        her right hand.”  (7)

                “The Shadow of a Gunman” brought a great amount of praise from the critics, and “Juno and the Paycock” became instantly popular in Dublin as well as in England. The Shadow and Juno had approximately the same theme, even though Juno is sonsidered in the long run to be a much better play, that of the tragedy of poor people were the only signs of courage are in the women. The men are portrayed as evading reality through drink.

                “The Plough and the Stars”  was presented for the first time in February of 1926, and the action took place during the Easter Week of 1916. The audience became as violent as the night Synge’s “Playboy” was presented
. The play had aroused trouble in the Abbey even before its performance due to the introduction of a prostitute. “It was denounced by rioters for bringing shame of the fair name of Ireland. They objected to the flag being shown in a public house, to certain of Rosie Redmond’s utterances, to the characterization of Clitheroe, Nora and Langon and in general to the ridiculing of the men, who had laid down their lives in Easter Week.”  How-ever, with all the trouble that he aroused, O’Casey remains a realist of the most uncompromising kind; one who has sympathy in abundance for his characters, but little for the audience; a dramatist who places life before us just as he sees it, without any preconceived motions or ideas.”  (9)

                Sean O’Casey brought throngs to the Abbey which had never happened before. It was fortunate for the Abbey that he turned up when he did because the state of the theatre had reached a very low ebb and he menaged to raise it up. He had developed a very strong friendship with Lady Gregory that lasted until her death in 1932. With the “Plough and Stars” came the end the of O’Casey’s career at the Abbey. His next play was the “Silver Tassie” which he sent to the Abbey because he wanted to remain an Abbey playright. However, with its rejection, the theatre lost O’Casey. He was very bitter toward the whole theatre group, although not much is known concer- ning exactly what happened. What is known is that he left Ireland for England <where he died at Devon, on April 18, 1964>.

                 The Abbey continueed with the works of such writers as Tutherford Mayne in the north, and, Lennox Robinson and T.C. Murray in the south, of the nineteen-thirties and forties. The most recent drama in Ireland includes
Rutherford Mayne’s “Bridgehead“(1934), Lennon Robinson’s “Church Street”  (1934); and,  “Killycraggs in Twilight” (1937);  T.C. Murray’s “Michaelmas Eve”  (1934). In 1939, William Butler Yeats died and with him, passed all the order of the Abbey Theatre. Even though it has managed to survive, it needs once more, a leader that is found in Yeats.

                In 1951, the original Abbey was destroyed by fire. Since then plans have been in process for a modern, very elaborate theatre to be erected on the same spot that the original once stood. Until the new Abbey is complet-ed, the plays have been presented at a temporary theatre called “Queens Theatre“.  The plays continue in quite an active schedule and perhaps with the new Abbey, will come a new Yeats, a man who will give new vitality to the old so that once again the Abbey’s fame will rise above its home in the Emerald Isle.

                                              CHAPTER  III    FOOTNOTES

(1)   Saros, Cowasjee; “Sean O’Casey, The Man Behind the Plays”, p.1.
(2)   Lennox Robinson, “The Irish Theatre”, p.138.
(3)   Robinson, p.139.
(4)   Gabriel Fallon, “The Irish Digest”, p.25.
(5)   Cowasjee, p.29.
(6)   Cowasjee, p.30.
(7)   Sean O’Casey, “Shadow of a Gunman”, Act:II, p.138.
(8)   Cowasjee, p.81.
(9)   Robinson, p.150.


                 The Irish poeple have struggled for many centuries to preserve what they possess in a pure, rich, Gaelic heritage. During the many years under English domination, their culture grew and was enhanced through the efforts of the simple Irish peasants. The Irish literature, poetry and drama therefore, has more than a touch of simplicity and this simplicity gives it the rich flavor it has been known for.

               The Abbey Theatre was the greatest instrumental force in strength-ening and unifying the Irish people to produce a literature of its own. The Abbey represents a long struggle for the preservation of Irish literature for which William Butler Yeats provided the necessary leader ship for its production. His efforts, combined with those of Lady Gregory and John Millington Synge, brought the Abbey its national fame. Under him, the Abbey flourished and thrived. For the first time Irish plays were written by Irish playwrites and played by Irish players. Ireland finally had a theatre of its own.

               With the death of William Butler Yeats came the temporary end of the Abbey’s thriving life. The Irish people once again faced the problem of find-ing a strong leader, and with the fire that destroyed it in 1952, they also faced the necessity of constructing a new Abbey. Although it has lessened its productions, Irish writers have never ceased their writing. Within the next few years the world of literature and drama will await the rebirth of the Abbey and the coming of a new leader. Perhaps the present lull is a signifi-cant “calm before the storm”. The Irish people are not a people to allow their heritage to lie dormant for long. It remains only a matter of time before the tiny, emerald isle will once more bring forth its contributions to the world of literature and drama.


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