'On Baile's Strand'

"On Baile's Strand"

Manuscript Materials

On Baile's Strand, W. B. Yeats's first play based on the Cuchulain legend in the Ulster cycle of Irish myths, features themes of vengeance, free will and fate, personal and dynastic survival, love and loyalty, betrayal and trust, the nature of heroism, the horror of filicide, and the costs of remorse and madness. The mythic tale with which he began has these elements at its core, but Yeats worked and reworked his play over a period of six years before reaching a text that fully satisfied him. In the summer of 1901 he began outlining, and then drafting, what he first called simply "Cuchulain," refining it through several drafts until publication in August 1903, and again, with minor changes, in March 1904.

The play was first produced at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in December 1904. Over the next two years, as he watched it performed in Dublin, London, and at provincial theaters across England, Yeats recognized its shortcomings and began to rewrite it. The completely revised text was first published in October 1906 and remained largely unchanged through its final publication in 1935, Yeats by then feeling that he had made it "technically efficient at last." On Baile’s Strand exists, therefore, in two remarkably different versions, reflected in the organization of this edition of all the surviving manuscript materials of the play, including the manuscripts and typescripts written between 1901 and 1904, and the manuscripts, typescripts, and revised proofs of 1905–1906.

The Cornell Yeats edition presents photographs and transcriptions of the manuscripts, typescripts, and revised proof pages by which we may trace the author’s textual revisions for On Baile’s Strand, leading to its publication in 1903 in a collection of his narrative and lyric poetry titled In the Seven Woods: Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age, the first book printed by his sisters’ Dun Emer Press. The revised text was published in October 1906, in Poems 1899–1905. Appendixes present the text of On Baile’s Strand as it first appeared in In the Seven Woods; manuscripts of a list of cast members of an early production; program notes for the 1906 touring production; stage designs for the Abbey Theatre; Edward Gordon Craig’s drawing of the Fool’s mask and costume, 1911; a note for Plays in Prose and Verse, 1922; and a collation of later revisions, made by Yeats between 1907 and 1939.

Jared Curtis and Declan Kiely preface the text with a census of all the surviving manuscripts of Yeats’s play. An introduction discusses the history of the play’s composition, the evolution of the text, its significant place in Yeats’s development as a dramatist, and its standing among classic tragedies. The arduous process of revision through which the author mastered stagecraft and the art of the tragic theater, learned to present dramatic character and conflict through dialogue and action rather than by narration, and worked to simplify his adaptation of source materials is revealed with fullness and clarity.

Jared Curtis

Jared Curtis is Emeritus Professor of English and Visiting Scholar in English at the University of Washington. He is Coordinating Editor of The Cornell Yeats and editor or coeditor of several volumes, including "The Resurrection": Manuscript Materials. He is the 2013 recipient of the M. L. Rosenthal Award for distinguished contributions to Yeats studies.


The Resurrection
Manuscript Materials
W. B. Yeats
A documentary edition of Yeats's 1932 play that traces multiple textual revisions.

Sophocles' "Oedipus at Colonus"
Manuscript Materials
W. B. Yeats
This edition presents photographs and transcriptions of three revised typescripts of "Oedipus at Colonus" that Yeats prepared and extensively revised over a period of eight-and-a-half months and a reading text based on the first publication of the play.

The Tower (1928)
Manuscript Materials
W. B. Yeats
Materials include transcriptions and photographs of the earliest recoverable drafts and selected transcriptions from the most interesting manuscripts and annotated typescripts.

The Land of Heart's Desire
Manuscript Materials
W. B. Yeats
This edition includes transcriptions and photographs of the surviving manuscripts of the play, reproductions of Yeats's own notes and revisions, and other materials related to stage productions and the resulting changes he made to the text.

Last Poems, 1821–1850
William Wordsworth
This book presents much of Wordsworth's poetic output from the last three decades of his life. Approximately two hundred poems are featured, including On the Power of Sound, the sequence of Evening Voluntaries, and the poet's tributes to the dead...

Early Poems and Fragments, 1785–1797
William Wordsworth
This volume is made up of work from the beginning of Wordsworth's career, when he was a Hawkshead schoolboy, until the end of his time at Racedown in mid-1797. Like other volumes in The Cornell Wordsworth series, this book is based on detailed study...

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The Cornell Yeats


Literature : Fiction, Poetry, and Drama
Literature : Literature / Britain and Ireland
Religion : Mythology & Folklore
Art : Performing Arts / Theater

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