The Minstrel in the Theatre: Arnold, Chaucer, and Yeats’s New Spiritual Democracy

  • Ronald Schuchard
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


The names of Arnold and Chaucer, and the term “democracy,” do not figure in familiar discussions of Yeats’s intellectual development at the turn of the century. It nearly always happens that in the early mapping out of major literary careers and histories the roles of the less visible contemporaries and predecessors are paved over by the main literary roads. On the map of Yeats, Pater buries Arnold, Spenser covers Chaucer, aristocracy obscures democracy. This critical — historical burying process of course creates serious interpretive problems, made greater by the soft simplifications that build up around the more curious aspects of a writer’s career and then slowly petrify into something resembling hard fact — not quite, but hard enough to make traditional critical notions about Yeats and the Abbey Theatre almost impervious to reassessment.


Irish Theatre Cultural Vision Peasant Work Stringed Instrument Aesthetic Perception 
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  1. 17.
    On 18 May 1906, with Chaucer again firmly in mind, Yeats wrote that for him the writing of drama “has been the search for more of manful energy, more of the cheerful acceptance of whatever arises out of the logic of events, and for clean outline, instead of those outlines of lyric poetry that are blurred with desire and vague regret.” See Yeats’s “Preface” to Poems, 1899–1905 (London: A. H. Bullen, 1906) p. xii (VP 849).Google Scholar
  2. 19.
    A full translation of the poem, entitled “The Grief of a Girl’s Heart,” was first published in Lady Gregory’s “West Irish Folk Ballads,” The Monthly Review (Oct. 1902) pp. 123–35, though Yeats quoted a large portion of the translation as early as 1901 in “What is ‘Popular Poetry’?” (E&I9).Google Scholar
  3. 23.
    “Music and Words,” Musical World, 5 (15 Sept. 1906) 67–8; reprinted in Farr’s The Music of Speech (London: Elkin Matthews, 1909) pp. 17–21.Google Scholar
  4. 24.
    See Mary Gawthorpe, Uphill to Holloway ( Penobscot, Maine: Traversity Press, 1962 ) p. 196.Google Scholar
  5. 39.
    See Pelham Edgar, “The Poetry of William Butler Yeats,” The Globe (Toronto), 24 Dec. 1904, Saturday Magazine Section, p. 5.Google Scholar
  6. 41.
    13 July 1906, quoted in B. L. Reid, The Man from New York: John Quinn and His Friends ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1968 ) p. 45.Google Scholar
  7. 42.
    See Ann Saddlemyer, “ ‘ Worn Out With Dreams’: Dublin’s Abbey Theatre,” The World of W. B. Yeats, rev. edn, ed. Robin Skelton and Ann Saddlemyer ( Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1967 ) pp. 74–102.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard J. Finneran 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald Schuchard

There are no affiliations available

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