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ISSN : 1226-4946(Print)
ISSN : 2288-5412(Online)
The Yeats Journal of Korea Vol.32 pp.63-99

W. B. Yeats's Hero in Cuchulain Plays

Yun Kiho


This paper examines Yeats's idea of hero and heroism in his Cuchulain plays.Cuchulain is the mythological champion of the ancient province of Ulster. He is theprotagonist in a cycle of plays written by Yeats over a span of thirty-five years.Cuchulain became for Yeats a personal symbol for the heroic as well as thenational ideal. He was not only his mask or alter ego but also the chiefrepresentative of that heroic age to which Yeats wished Ireland to aspire.
Yeats significantly altered the Celtic legend to serve his dramatic purposes. Hewas concerned more with the nature of heroism than with the character and the lifeof the Ulster champion. So he was not interested in the hero's superhuman feats ofarms or bravery which his source had emphasized. Instead he wished hiscountrymen to learn the hero's spiritual virtues: the unyielding spirit of challenge inAt the Hawk's Well; selfless courage and sacrifice for his country in The GreenHelmet; the comparison and contrast between the actual anti-heroic world and theheroic ideal in On Baile's Strand; true love and self-sacrifice of his wife in TheOnly Jealousy of Emer; forgiveness, mercy, unselfishness, and transcendence of thefear of death in The Death of Cuchulain.
Cuchulain's heroism consists in a combination of daring, gaiety, strength andbeauty, and he is a free man, a challenger who, whether he wins or loses aspecific battle, is ultimately victorious over himself and over others. The hero isfreed from every form of hesitation, both moral and physical. The essence ofYeats's heroism is sacrifice and the creative joy separated from fear.

쿠훌린극에 나타난 예이츠의 영웅관*



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