Plays in Prose and Verse

Plays in Prose and Verse  (1922) 
by William Butler Yeats
Plays in Prose and Verse - Frontispiece.png

PLAYS IN PROSE AND VERSE

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PLAYS IN
PROSE AND VERSE

WRITTEN FOR AN IRISH THEATRE,
AND GENERALLY WITH THE HELP OF A FRIEND

BY




MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
ST. MARTIN’S STREET, LONDON

1922

COPYRIGHT

First Edition November 1922
Reprinted December 1922





PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN

PREFACE

In this book are all Plays of mine played at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, except "The Land of Heart's Desire" and "The Countess Cathleen," which are in Poems (T. Fisher Unwin). I have also written Four Plays for Dancers, but I leave them under separate cover as they were written for private performances in studio or drawing-room, and are a different form of art. "On Baile's Strand," though produced for the first time at the opening of the Abbey Theatre in December 1904, was planned when I had no hope of that, or any, theatre, and the characters walk on to an empty stage at the beginning and leave that stage empty at the end, because I thought of its performance upon a large platform with a door at the back and an exit through the audience at the side, and no proscenium, or curtain; and being intended for a platform and a popular audience—no other audience at the time caring a straw about us—is full of what I thought to be good round speeches. It makes one of a series of plays upon events in the life of Cuchulain, and if placed in the order of those events the plays would run: 1. "The Hawk’s Well" (Four Plays for Dancers); 2. "The Green Helmet"; 3. "On Baile’s Strand"; 4. "The Only Jealousy of Emer" (Four Plays for Dancers): but they were so little planned for performance upon one evening that they should be at their best on three different kinds of stage.

"The Player Queen" is the only work of mine, not mere personal expression, written during these last twenty years, which is not avowedly Irish in its subject matter being all transacted in some No-Man's-Land. I wrote it, my head full of fantastic architecture invented by myself upon a miniature stage, which corresponds to that of the Abbey in the proportion of one inch to a foot, with a miniature set of Gordon Craig screens and a candle; and if it is gayer than my wont it is that I tried to find words and events that would seem well placed under a beam of light reflected from the ivory-coloured surface of the screens.

No verse play of mine requires much more than an hour for its performance; and most, being intended for a theatre where every evening winds up with comedy or satire, are much shorter.

"Deirdre," "The King’s Threshold," "The Hour-Glass," in its verse form, are more difficult to play than "The Green Helmet" or "The Countess Cathleen" because in each some one personage is upon the stage through the whole, or all but the whole play, and should not be attempted where the principal player lacks subjectivity and variety.

I have explained at the end of this book how often Lady Gregory has collaborated with me. I have sometimes asked her help because I could not write dialect and sometimes because my construction had fallen into confusion. To the best of my belief "The Unicorn from the Stars," but for fable and chief character, is wholly her work. "The Green Helmet" and "The Player Queen" alone perhaps are wholly mine.

W. B. YEATS.

Thoor Ballylee,
May 1, 1922.

CONTENTS

page
Cathleen ni Houlihan 1
The Pot of Broth 19
The Hour-Glass (in Prose) 37
The King's Threshold 63
On Baile's Strand 115
The Shadowy Waters (Stage Version) 159
Deirdre 187
The Unicorn from the Stars (in collaboration with Lady Gregory) 231
The Green Helmet 303
The Hour-Glass (in Verse) 329
The Player Queen 361
Notes 415
Music for Plays 433

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.


The author died in 1939, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.