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Abstract

As Yeats made clear in his 1923 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, devoted (against all odds) to “The Irish Dramatic Movement,” he considered his involvement in the theater as a crucial part of his literary activity. He was also deeply aware of the various Western theatrical traditions out of which modern drama emerged at the end of the nineteenth century. Yeats’s lifelong concern with old age constantly intersects with his fascination with the great Western theatrical figures of old men, from the comic senex of classical comedy to the great tragic heroes who endure the mortification of failing bodies and impending madness, in particular Oedipus and Lear. From very early on, his plays explore both the anxiety, even revulsion, which the ageing process causes in him, and an acute awareness of the social violence exerted against the aged. ˜is tension, I want to argue, finds a privileged mode of expression in the theater, perhaps because there is something eminently histrionic in the “frenzy” with which his ageing heroes respond to this social violence, raging against the younger generations’ attempt to disempower and marginalise them.

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