Volume 92, Issue 35

Thursday, November 5, 1998

a little bit louder now


Tait elucidates woman behind Yeats

©Photo by Rob Allen

THERE'S MORE BEHIND YEATS THAN PEOPLE THOUGHT. Yeats in Love is at The Grand Theatre Nov. 5-8.

By Serena Leyes

Gazette Staff

Once upon a time, there was a boy who met a tall, luxurious girl. The boy fell in love with this girl at first sight and proposed to her. Unfortunately, the girl denied. But the boy never gave up and followed the girl across the continent, proposing again and again. But the girl still denied.

So the boy decided to propose to her daughter. If you recognize this plot it is because it is a simplified version of the life of the infamous Irish poet William Yeats.

Yeats in Love, a play written by Anne Tait, attempts to capture the romance or lack there of, between William B. Yeats, the poor introverted poet and the object of his affection, the rich, bold nationalist Maud Gonne.

"I wanted to capture the relationship between Yeats and Maud Gonne as factually as possible," Tait says, in defining her main objective in writing this play. Tait believes this woman's role is downplayed academically and would like others to realize the extent of her influence on Yeats and, as Tait calls it, their attraction of opposites.

Covering a 25-year span, from the late 19th century to the early 20th, Tait exposes their relationship's complexity. With the Irish conflicts as an underlying link to their relationship, their opposing personalities both lured and repelled these two characters. Gonne was a determined nationalist willing to stop at nothing to free Ireland from British rule. Yeats held a more morally passive stance that counterbalanced Gonne's aggression.

"This was a major cause of their many disagreements, because Gonne wanted to use art as propaganda in her wars against foreign rule, whereas Yeats found this proposal unethical," Tait reveals.

Their platonic relationship was closer and more complex than many others, as it possessed a mythical and ethereal level. On many occasions they would meditate separately, but they found their visions were similar and even sexual.

"They would envision themselves moving in and out of each other. It was like sex in the sky," Tait explains.

Maud Gonne would devastate Yeats many times throughout the 25-year association. She had a hidden affair, which produced a child. She would then go on to marry "another man." These actions broke Yeats' heart and prompted many inspirational poems, but did not prevent him from still proposing when the marriage disintegrated.

Gonne never wanted her relationship with Yeats to become sexual and, thus, she responded to his pleas of unhappiness with an admirable insight. "Out of your unhappiness, you get your poems and that makes you happy." If Maud Gonne had accepted Yeats' proposals, it is doubtful the world would be blessed with his romantic poetry.

In writing this play, Anne Tait wishes to replace the surreal perception of Yeats as the dead melodramatic poet who obsessed over a woman named Maud, with a more realistic love story.

"I want people to be aware of the importance of Maud in William Yeats' work. Everyone already knows a lot of Yeats' poetry, through academics. I want them to know where it was derived from."

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998