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‘Riders to the Sea’ As a Fatal Play
‘Riders to the Sea’, written by John Millington Synge, is one of the best plays where all the characters are puppets of the future. Synge, presented by WB Yeats, spends four years on “Aran Island” and observes how fate affects the lives of the islanders and shows it honestly in his main play. Now we will discuss in detail.
In this play, misfortune befalls the characters without any hamartia or fault. Here we see, the characters have no major problem with their downfall or death unlike Shakespearean tragedy. Here destiny or fate rules everything. No one can avoid it. Here life means nothing but fate and an unreserved surrender to incredible disaster.
We see that, the inhabitants of the “Island of Aran” are always fighting the sea to help their daily bread ignoring the possibility of death, because they have no other way to avoid the sea. Thus they embrace the watery grave from generation to generation.
Here the most powerful future of the island is represented by the sea which is for them both giver and taker. So they can never ignore the call of the deadly sea of all-killers.
At the beginning of the play we see that the four sons of Maurya have already lost their lives in the sea. Now the fifth, Michael has been missing for nine days and relatives are waiting for him to claim his body and receive it. As they say;
“…if Michael is washed, tomorrow morning, or the next morning, or every morning of the week, by the grace of God.”
He is not responsible for his death, because he was accidentally drowned in the sea, probably by a sea storm.
Now Bartley, the only living child in the family, knows everything about the fate of the other members of the family. They are also told about the dangers of going to the beach during the rainy season. However, he is thinking of going to the big country to sell a few horses at a cattle show.
Actually, there is nothing wrong in his idea rather “it’s a boy’s life to go to sea” as Cathleen says. Without today or tomorrow he must have been forced to go to sea. So we see that, without any problem of hamartia comes as Bartley’s life. Therefore, it has its own unfortunate problem.
The island’s silent commitment to its destiny is clear in Maurya’s words.
“In a big country old people leave things behind them to their sons and children, but in this place it is young men who leave things to old people.”
We see, in this play a storm of misery and sorrow has come upon Madurya, yet he shows his calmness and endurance. As they say:
“I had a husband, and a husband’s father, and six children in this house – six good husbands, although it was a difficult birth that I had with each of them … the wind, and it is often found on the shore of Gregory of golden mouth…”
Madurya experienced this; no one can resist the disaster. So he gives the power of fate and submits to fate that:
“What more could we want? No man can live forever, and we must be satisfied.”
It is obvious that, here the question can be asked, “why the islanders should not leave the island to escape death”. In fact, they love their fatherland and their fatherland so much that they would rather die than leave the island.
In conclusion we can say, ‘Sea Riders’ is a unique creation of Synge and the best example of a horror game. It is very different from any other tragedy by Shakespeare or Sophocles. In this play, all the people are the victims.
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