Edmund John Millington Synge (1871-1909), an Irish playwright, wrote ‘Riders to the Sea’, considered one of his first two one-act performs (the other one is ‘The Shadow of the Glen’). ‘Riders to the Sea’ (1904) is Synge’s dramatic response to the expertise of his frequent sojourns in the Aran Islands. ‘Riders to the Sea’ dramatizes the archetypal battle of man against the hostile pure forces and rends man’s inevitable defeat within the conflict in opposition to predestination which brings out a tragic effect at the finish of the play.
This one-act play is a tragedy that portrays a compressed and synthesized picture of hopeless wrestle of an Aran lady and her helplessness towards the fate. Ernest A. Boyd (American critic and author) in ‘The Contemporary Drama of Ireland’ states that ‘Riders to the Sea’, sums up the essence of the “constant wrestle of the Aran islanders towards their relentless enemy, the ocean. ” The protagonist in J. M. Synge’s one-act play Riders to the Sea, Maurya, is an old Aran fisher-woman, whose name echoes the Greek word moria, meaning fate.
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Riders to the Sea doesn’t match the mildew of classic Greek tragedy, as Aristotle outlined it, for its central character is a peasant, not an individual of excessive estate and she doesn’t bring about her personal downfall. Maurya is thus distinctly totally different from the classical protagonists similar to Oedipus, Agamemnon or Antigone, all of whom are highborn. While classical and Renaissance tragic protagonists bear struggling owing to their ‘hubris’ or ‘hamartia’, Maurya appears to be a passive and helpless sufferer in the palms of the damaging sea.
In Maurya’s case, no profound query seems to be raised about the complicated relationship between human will and predestination. Yet, she resembles the great conventional protagonists in her heroic power of endurance and the religious transcendence over her struggling. In J. M. Synge’s play, Riders to the Sea, the viewers is confronted with a story of an Aran mom of eight children living on an island off the western coast of Ireland.
When the play opens, we find out that she has lost her husband and 5 of her six sons to the ocean, which is important for livelihood as means of transport to the mainland and also for participation within the fishing trade. Her two daughters, Cathleen and Nora, are also current. The lone son, Bartley, needs to take the horses to honest throughout the bay, and Maurya begs him not to go away. But Bartley insists that he’ll cross the mainland regardless of winds and high seas. Mad and aggravated at Bartley for not listening to her pleas, Maurya allows him to go, however, without her blessing.
Cathleen and Nora persuade their mom to chase Bartley with the food they forgot to give him and to give him her blessing regardless of her fears. Maurya returns horrified with a vision she has seen of Michael riding on the horse behind Bartley. When the girls show her Michael’s garments her solely response is that the great white boards she had bought for his coffin would serve for Bartley as a substitute. Even as she speaks, the neighboring girls troop in, their voices raised in the “keen,” that monotonous Irish chant of grief.
Men comply with bringing the body of Bartley. The play crawls to the top through Maurya’s fatalistic submission. They’re all gone now and there isn’t anything extra the ocean can do to me. ” She can sleep now with no worry but that of starvation. In the everlasting battle between the life-giver and the destroyer, between the mom and the destructive sea, Maurya, eventually, paradoxically, is triumphant. Having misplaced all her sons, she has been liberated from the eternal cycle of suffering and grief.
At this point, she seems to withdraw her sympathy from the community of mankind when her disillusionment compels her to state – “I won’t care what method the sea is when the other ladies shall be keening. The last phase of Maurya’s suffering reveals a transition from distress to a profound tragic transcendence. Like the Sophoclean protagonists, she achieves knowledge and enlightenment out of distress and heroically accepts her tragic mess. Tragic wisdom illuminates her thoughts into the understanding that dying is an important episode in the universal cycle of life. Instead of accusing God, she reconciles to her destiny bravely and gracefully and accepts her distress because the sublime will of God. Reconstructing a broken life into a new existence of faith and self-sacrifice, she achieves tragic dignity and elevation within the eyes of the viewers.
She invokes God’s blessings upon all – “…. may He have mercy on my soul, Nora, and the soul of everyone seems to be left living in the world. ” Maurya, as portrayed by J. M. Synge in ‘Riders to the Sea’, is truly an unforgettable character who wins our admiration by her unusual energy of endurance, by her capability to resist her misfortunes, and by her dignified behaviour at a time when she has suffered the most painful bereavement of her life. Finally, she gives expression to her stoical acceptance of her and destiny in the following memorable words— “No man at all can be dwelling eternally, and we have to be happy. Declan Kiberd, an Irish author and scholar in his ‘Synge and the Irish Language’ (Macmillan: London 1979)notes that Synge’s dramatic language tries to allow the Aran islanders “to speak directly for themselves,” demonstrating that Maurya’s well-known words, “No man at all…………. have to be satisfied” (III, 27), are translated nearly immediately from a letter to Synge from an Inishmaan pal. Maurya is drawn to be regarded as tragic character within the proper sense of the word. After all we’re reading a one-act play during which an elaborated portrayal was not potential.
Besides, there isn’t any actual battle both in Maurya’s mind or between Maurya and circumstances. She has simply to stay passive as a result of there is no other selection for her. ‘Tess’ in Thomas Hardy’s well-known novel ‘Tess of the D’urbervilles’ is a tragic character because she places up a brave fight towards opposed circumstances, however nobody can struggle towards the ocean which is the reason for the tragedy in Synge’s play. The end comes inevitably and this again is traditional. Dunbar’s ‘Lament for the Maker’s’ could stand to embrace all of them. So to cite: “Since for the Death remeid is none,
Best is that we for Death dispone, After our dying that reside could we: Timor Mortis conturbat me. ” The drama by virtue of being a one-act play unavoidably limits Synge’s scope. But, in that restricted scope Synge has achieved outstanding effect of tragic impression. The result is doubtless considered one of the most deeply moving tragedies ever written. W. B. Yeats on Synge’s conception of favor states “The first use of Irish dialect, rich, abundant, and correct, for the purpose of inventive art was in J. M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea” (Plays in Prose and Verse Written for an Irish Theatre, London: Macmillan 1922).