Experiments in Form and Theme
It is often said that At the Hawk’s Well is a ritual of initiation and that is true to a large extent, but it is difficult to say exactly what Cuchulain is being initiated into since he shows no real awareness or understanding of what his confrontation with the guardian of the well might mean. Although the protagonist is the central figure in the Celtic cycle of the Red Branch of Ulster, the action of this particular play is taken from outside that body of material. Its meaning as well as conception and overtones are indeed alien to Irish legend. For Yeats Cuchulain represented the archetypal hero and completed individual who contained in his own person the objectivity of the man of physical action with the subjectivity of the man of imagination and intuition. In general Cuchulain characterises the unity of culture as well as of being, in the cycle or age which preceded the Christian era and provided its opposite or mask. The series of five plays which chronicle the significant turning points in Cuchulain’s life and assert his symbolic significance begins with At The Hawk’s Well although that was not the first to be written. In it we see the transformation of a reckless and over-reaching youth into a hero who enters upon his life’s pursuit, his true role.
KeywordsFoam Assimilation Ghost Burial Heroine
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