Commentary on The cap and Bells
By: Rahiwa Abdulalim
Word Count: 1369
William Butler Yeats’s “The Cap and Bells” depicts the behavior of love through an account of actions between a jester and a queen. Through the use of many symbolic references, the characters accurately reflect a lover’s actions towards his loved one. For example when Referring to jester-like men throughout many of his works (“A Coat”, “The Fool by the Roadside”, “Two Songs of a Fool”, etc.), Yeats is continually portraying the actions of humans towards love as foolish. Furthermore, "Cap and Bells came to Yeats in a dream most likely steaming from his obsessive infatuation he had for Maud Gonne. Being an acclaimed actress, Yeats most likely perceived Gonne as exceeding him in status; her queen and him the jester. Like many of Yeats poems, “The Cap and Bells” develops a lyrical tone full of emotion and images. Through this song-like piece, the reader strongly feels both the growing despondency of the jester and the eventual affection in the queen. Through his strong use of symbolism and imagery, Yeats suggests that love makes a fool of every man. From forfeiting the soul, the heart, and finally physical life, Yeats emphasizes mans’ willingness to sacrifice all the elements of his existence to feel the complete and irresistible passions of love. Throughout “The Cap and Bells” Yeats constantly uses symbolism to express various elements of love. With the whole poem existing as a subtle analogy. As Yeats opens with “The jester walked into the garden” he immediately establishes the idea of the garden of Eden as it is the first place of affection and romance between man and woman. As the garden “falls still”, Yeats also depicts the balance between nature and love. Continuing, we read how the jester “bade his soul rise upward.” Here, the man is offering his soul to rise to the queen who is above him both physically and in social status. It rises in a “straight blue garment” until it...
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