Plot Construction of The Play Riders To The Sea

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      Synge’s tragic genius and the universality of the appeal of his play Riders of the Sea provoke the critics to take it as “tragic master-piece in one-act form” Commenting on the well-knit plot of the play, Ernest Boyd has observed that Synge “concentrates the action upon essentials, and by a wonderful employment of the means legitimately at his disposal, he causes the play to move swiftly to the climax, whose inevitability broods over each scene. It is unnecessary to know the legend; every line and gesture involves the development and prepares over into the sea, and washed out where there is great surf on the white rocks, and his body recovered and brought back again, when he himself allows for half an hour to ride down. This unreality is an undesirable difficulty in the theatre: Defending the playwright, we can say that to achieve all the unities, it is necessary to give speed to the action, thus providing it swift yet logical movement for it with consummate art. Whether, some critics find in the plot lack of ‘magnitude’ which causes structural aspect in the play. P.P. Powe has stated that the action of the play does not succeed, in advancing step by step with reality, for it is half hour’s occupation of the stage we are asked to suppose that Bartley should be knocked.”

Simplicity and Economy in the Plot

      The Plot of Riders to the Sea, is simple and welt knit, with no digression at all sub-plot are not present to baffle us, in anyway. The play simply deals with the story of an old woman who loses all of the male members in the family and in the end emerges as a deity with patience of exceptional case.

      The structure is so well built that the intermingling of past with the present, not only speeds up the action but also aware make us about the past of Maury a, thus creating a sublime tragedy.

Divisions in the Play

      Though the play reveals a single story of Maurya’s life, full of misfortunes, yet the plot is divided into six parts according to the development of the action. Thus, the six divisions would be the following:

      (1) The suspense created by Nora and Cathleen (2) Bartley’s departure and Maurya’s lamentation (3) Maurya chases Bartley to hand over the bread (4) Identification of Michael’s clothes (5) Maurya’s vision (6) Maurya’s perception of a higher truth.

The Note of the Dirge

      The play has a unity of atmosphere and mood. According to Powe, the whole play is written on a note of the dirge, “the dirge of the tides that sound their menace of the sea through Innishmaan which causes destruction on the lives of the islanders. It is compact of intense tragedy from start to finish. The play opens with the remarks of Cathleen suggest us that Maurya has spent too many sleepless nights going down to the sea. As the action proceeds the tragedy attains its height with the death of last son of Maurya and her social acceptance. Not a single funny element is introduced in the play, to give some relief. The isolated life of fisherman is emphasized by the words ‘surf the gust of wind, ‘the cliff and the rock, thus the theme of death is deepened by using the prose of Islanders, which is characterized by the simplicity and innocence. Finally the play is an elegy in the words of Maurice Bourgeois “elegy in a highly dramatic form.”

Various Episodes are Interwoven in a single Plot

      Episodes are organized in such a way that they serve as agents to develop the story, as well as, on a limited canvas, the unlimited scenes are provided, to give us the much information to grasp the story full, not in fragments. The cake made for Bartley, could not be delivered, gets an opportunity to reveal the suspense of the bundle. On the same, Maurya is allowed to go and have a vision which could prophesize the death of Bartley, thus preparing the pinds of the reader or the audience for the tragedy, as L.A.G. Strong says, “So skillfully have our minds been prepared for the tragedy, so anxiously do we push forward to learn what has happened, that we never think of the time measured by the watch on our wrist or in our waistcoat pocket. Such Sa play as Riders to the Sea, takes us out of time altogether.” In such a short play, the words and the details are economized to give it a strength of any Shakespear’s tragedy.

Most Striking and Eye-cathing Action in the Play

      As, the play is divided into six sections so last but not the least, heightens the tragic level of the play, As Rudolph Stamn has noted, “One of the great things in the play is Synge’s handling of the end. If we had time to think about such a question while reading or seeing it, we might be afraid that the reality of the final catastrophe much fall short of what the poet has led us to expect. We know of Maurya’s earlier losses; we have witnessed her desperate struggle for her last son. What will be her reaction when she sees him dead, too? Synge has solved the difficulty with great success. There is no loud out burst, but what is more terrible: quiet gratitude for being beyond all torturing fears after fate has done its worst.”

      Maurya recalls how Patch’s, body was brought by the neighbors and the body of Bartley is also brought in the same way, which not only gives the greatest shock to Maurya, but the audience is also terrified by the catastrophe. First, Maurya challenges the sea, “What, more can the sea do to me” but finally, she resigns herself to her fate and uplifts from the sufferings, “It’s a great rest I’ll have now, and it’s time, surely. It’s a great rest I’ll have now, and great sleeping in the long nights after Samhain it’s only a bit of wet flour we do have to eat, and maybe a fish that would be stinking”. She says, adding. “What more can we want then that? No man at all can be living forever and we must be satisfied.”-


      Deep Analysis of the play shows that the play has a classical structure characterized by compactness, simplicity, precision and directness. Commenting on the structure of the play T.R. Henn. Observes, “Riders to the Sea one of the few effective one act tragedies in literature is of considerable technical interest, particularly in the light of Synge’s solution to the problem of obtaining sufficient momentum within a single act. He achieves this by simplifying the conflict of Man Vs. Necessity into Man Vs. Sea: and the impetus is given by the setting of the Aran Cottage; the new boards for the coffin the interpenetration of the world of the living by, the world of the dead and Maurya’s final resignation.”

University Questions

Discuss the plot structure of Riders to the Sea.
The three classical unities of time, place and action are scrupulously observed in the structure of Synge’s Riders to the Sea. Verify.
Analyze the plot construction of Riders to the Sea emphasizing that there is simplicity, economy and a swift yet logical movement in this play.
Is it correct to say that “Riders to the Sea is elegy in a highly dramatic form.”

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