Riders of the Sea

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Riders to the sea
This story begins with a young Irish girl baking and spinning in a fisherman''s cottage on the west coast of Ireland. Her sister comes in, bearing the clothes of man washed up drowned up the coast. They are waiting for their brother Michael to be found--he disappeared over a week earlier, and they know he is dead, though hope never dies really until one knows for sure. They do, and they finally have to tell their mother, and that he got a decent burial by the parish priest in a place several days to the north. Meanwhile, their younger brother has come by, getting ready to go on a very dangerous journey to sell some horses at the Fair. His mother is angry with him for wanting to go at all, as the weather is bad. The sisters send her out to give hime some bread and her blessing, but she comes back and says she could not--and worse, that she saw her dead son, Michael, riding one of the horses, the little grey one. She is telling how her other menfolk died and the women came keening, as they actually do with her youngest and only son left. She had bought wood for Michael''s coffin and it finds its use for Bradley, whom the grey pony knocked into the sea, where he drowned.  This play lacks, I think, the characteristic HAMARTIA, the deep flaw in the character, that brings about the tragic character''s downfall, unless you consider the hero to be her son Bradley, who refuses to listen to his mother, and went to his death as a consequence. To me it seems merely an unrelenting punishment of an underserving innocent, which the ancients said aroused only horror, and not the pity, terror, and catharsis that true tragedy grants us. The view of life is bleak, stark, and horrible--even nihilistic, where the only peace is death, and the death of all those one loves.

Riders to the Sea begins in a cottage where two sisters are conspiring to hide a bundle from their mother. The small bundle, wrapped in a shawl, consists of a shirt and a stocking...
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