Academic Writing on 'Riders to the Sea'

Topics: Aran Islands, John Millington Synge, Tragedy Pages: 3 (1169 words) Published: April 11, 2012
Edmund John Millington Synge (1871-1909), an Irish playwright, wrote ‘Riders to the Sea’, one of his first two one-act plays (the other one is ‘The Shadow of the Glen’). ‘Riders to the Sea’ (1904) is Synge’s dramatic response to the experience of his frequent sojourns in the Aran Islands. ‘Riders to the Sea’ dramatizes the archetypal struggle of man against the hostile natural forces and rends man’s inevitable defeat in the conflict against predestination which brings out a tragic effect at the end of the play. This one-act play is a tragedy that portrays a compressed and synthesized picture of hopeless struggle of an Aran woman and her helplessness against the fate. Ernest A. Boyd (American critic and author) in ‘The Contemporary Drama of Ireland’ states that ‘Riders to the Sea’, sums up the essence of the "constant struggle of the Aran islanders against their relentless enemy, the sea." The protagonist in J. M. Synge's one-act play Riders to the Sea, Maurya, is an old Aran fisher-woman, whose name echoes the Greek word moria, meaning fate. Riders to the Sea does not fit the mold of classic Greek tragedy, as Aristotle defined it, for its central character is a peasant, not a person of high estate and she does not bring about her own downfall. Maurya is thus distinctly different from the classical protagonists such as Oedipus, Agamemnon or Antigone, all of whom are highborn. While classical and Renaissance tragic protagonists undergo suffering owing to their 'hubris' or 'hamartia', Maurya appears to be a passive and helpless victim in the hands of the destructive sea. In Maurya's case, no profound question seems to be raised about the complicated relationship between human will and predestination. Yet, she resembles the great traditional protagonists in her heroic power of endurance and the spiritual transcendence over her suffering. In J.M. Synge’s play, Riders to the Sea, the audience is confronted with a story of an Aran mother of eight children living on an...
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