The application of Jungian archetypes to the analysis of character in three early plays by W. B. Yeats
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The purpose of the following study is to explore and examine three early plays authored by the iconic late-19th and 20th-century Irish poet-playwright W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) through the identification and conscious consideration of archetypes, or collective, archaic patterns present in the deepest levels of the human psyche. Although the concept of archetypes dates back to classical antiquity, it was in the pioneering work of the Swiss analytical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) that the idea of archetypes and archetypal image projection in myth and literature were first deeply and categorically surveyed. Although subsequent literary analysts and cultural anthropologists have expanded upon Jung's conception of archetypes, the work of these scholars remains firmly established upon a foundation first laid by Jung in his exploration of archetypes and archetypal content. Therefore, this essay limits itself to Jung's propositions regarding archetypal material. This work asserts that, while archetypal images are present in all works of art and literature (including those of the theatre), comprehension of their influence is of particular significance to the critical examination of drama written by Symbolist playwrights such as W. B. Yeats. Chapter I of this essay is devoted to a general exploration of Jung's theorem of archetypes and to a discussion of those recurrent, primordial images which Jung believed to be of greatest importance with regard to human phenomenology. Chapter II examines the presence of archetypal images in Yeats's first published drama, The Countess Cathleen, specifically with regard to that work's representation of the Maiden, the Mother, the Anima, and the Trickster. Chapter III centers upon the first of Yeats's dramas to be professionally produced, The Land of Heart's Desire, and focuses on the significance that images of the Maiden, the Wise Old Man, the Child, and the Trickster hold in that work. Chapter IV revolves around two versions of Yeats's play The Hour-Glass, and upon the manner in which two archetypal images of the Wise Old Man underpin the dramatic action and character presented within that drama.
Table of Contents
Jungian archetypes and their significance -- The miracle play of Saint Cathleen; archetypal images in The Countess Cathleen -- The stolen child; archetypal images in The Land of Heart's Desire -- Wisdom and foolishness; archetypal images in The Hour-Glass -- Conclusion.