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Yeats's Tragic Joy and Heroism

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2010, 23(2), pp.59-85
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

DOHYUN RIM 1

1서울시립대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article examines Yeats’s tragic joy on a theatrical level in order to explore how a heroic mind can be incorporated on the stage. In the first place, it builds up the complex definition of tragic joy, which emerges from an assortment of references scattered across Yeats’s prose writings. In tracing the mysterious significance of tragic joy, Nietzsche’s writings are also discussed as an important source for Yeats’s own conceptualization of tragic joy. In addition, Nietzsche’s theory functions as a basic concept to explain how tragic joy is associated with Yeat’s heroism. In the latter part of this article, Yeats’s plays are analyzed to show how tragic joy is presented on Yeats’s stage. On Baile’s Strand(1904) has the last scene where the Fool delivers with childlike exhilaration the hero Cuchulain’s tragic joy. Deirdre(1907) shows that the heroine fulfills her aim to commit suicide with a self-possessive attitude. Young Cuchulain in At the Hawk’s Well(1917) presents a process of depersonalization where his individual sufferings are extended to all human beings’ fates, and as a result he is able to transform his feeling into cold and calm one. Finally, Yeats’s last play, The Death of Cuchulain(1939), is explored as the best example to effectively present a hero’s death and the process of tragic joy. In conclusion, this article argues tragic joy is a ‘shaping,’ ‘astringent,’ and ‘creative’ joy gained as a reward for the painful struggle to overcome a tragic situation. Therefore, tragic joy is closely associated with heroism in the sense that only a hero who has a self-overcoming will is able to achieve it.

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