“Riders to the Sea” is an Irish play about a mother who lost many of her loved ones to the sea. Maurya, the mother, had been grieving for her missing son, Michael, and was in a fitful sleep at the beginning of the play. Her daughter Cathleen had been taking care of the household tasks while her younger daughter Nora enters with a bundle of clothing from the priest. When Maurya shows signs of waking up the girls hide the bundle from their mother, for it might be Michaels clothing. Besides grieving for Michael, Maurya now begins to worry about her only remaining son, Bartley. She has already lost 5 sons and her husband to the sea but Bartley is determined to cross over to the mainland regardless of the rough weather. With protest Maurya lets him go without her blessings. The girls persuade her to stop him with the lunch they had forgotten to give him and so to make an opportunity for the blessing she should have given him. While Maurya is gone the girls open the bundle and find out that the clothes were Michael’s. Their only comfort is the thought that his body has been given a good Christian burial there in the north where it was washed up. Maurya returns terrified with a vision she had of Michael riding on the led horse behind Bartley. Now she is sure Bartley is doomed. When the girls show her Michael's clothes her only response is that the good white boards she had bought for his coffin would serve for Bartley instead. As she speaks, the neighboring women troop in, their voices raised in the "keen," (a monotonous Irish chant of grief) and men follow bringing the body of Bartley who has been knocked off a cliff into the surf by the horse he was leading. The play closes on the with of Maurya's acceptance of all that has happened and she says that she can sleep now with no worry but that of starvation.
Although it is very morbid and depressing, this play is very significant to Irish Theatre. John Millington Synge was not the leader... [continues]
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