Sword Against the Sea

by  William Butler Yeats, Arthur Feinsod

Full Length Play, Drama  /  4m, 4f

An adaptation of William Butler Yeats' six one-act plays and some of his most stirring poems about the Celtic hero Cuchulain, arranged in the chronological order of Cuchulain's life and drawing exclusively on Yeats' own magnificent poetry.

Read more +
License Estimator

Use this tool for cost estimates based on your specific needs.

  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    4m, 4f
  • Duration

    Duration

    90 minutes
  • SubGenre

    Subgenre

    Adaptations (Literature), Period
  • Suggested Use

    Suggested Use

    • Competition or audition material
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Appropriate for all audiences

Additional Info

Sword Against the Sea is an adaptation of William Butler Yeats' six one-act plays and some of his most stirring poems about the Celtic hero Cuchulain. Arranged in the chronological order of Cuchulain's life and drawing exclusively on Yeats' own magnificent poetry, this two-act play presents the hero's failed attempt as a young man to achieve eternal life at the Hawk's Well; his tragic slaying of his own son and the realization that drives him in despair to fight the sea; his wife Emer's noble sacrifice to save his life by renouncing her love; and Cuchulain's death and spiritual transcendence as an aged warrior. Like the original Yeats' Cuchulain plays themselves, this adaptation calls for collaborations among different kinds of artists in the creation of masks, the use of dance and the possibility of including instrumental and sung music. These Cuchulain plays and poems are compressed, simplified, and reshaped for a rich, uplifting evening of theater.
Read more +

Reviews

"The innovative Sword Against the Sea...combines the beauty of Yeats's original language with a dramatic structure that makes the tales come alive on stage." - Robert Cullen, Sligo Weekender, Sligo, Ireland

Considerations

Performing Groups

  • High School/Secondary
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Professional Theatre
  • Reader's Theatre
  • Large Stage
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups

Cautions

  • Caution Mild Adult Mild Adult Themes

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $75 per performance

Production

Details

  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Setting: Ancient Ireland. Play can be performed on a simple set that includes a few key scenic elements like a well, a wooden bed as well as a scrim curtain through which some scenes can be viewed as taking place in a distant or mysterious spiritual realm.
  • Additional Features: Play w/ Music
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes

Music

  • Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Vocal Demands: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Chorus Size: No Chorus

Casting

4m, 4f
THE POET – doubles as CONNLA. He is always present on stage and, when not reciting or performing in the CONNLA mask, watches from the side, at times adding, moving, removing or adjusting scenery, props or costumes, like the Stage Attendant in the Nō Theater.
CUCHULAIN (pron. Coo-HULL-en) – Mighty warrior in the ancient province of Ulster.
GUARDIAN OF THE WELL/HAWK WOMAN – A Woman of the Sidhe (pron. SHEE). A shape-changer with other guises: FIRST WOMAN, FAND and MORRIGU.(pron. MAWR-RIH-GOO)
OLD MAN – Doubles as BLIND MAN and BRICRUI.
AOIFE (pron. EE-fa) – Cuchulain’s Mistress. Doubles as THIRD WOMAN.
EMER (pron. EE-mer) – Cuchulain’s wife BLIND MAN FOOL – Doubles as SPIRIT OF CUCHULAIN WOMAN #1, WOMAN #2 and WOMAN #3, three mysterious peasant women
CONNLA (pron. COHN-lah) – Out-of-wedlock son of Cuchulain and Aoife.
EITHNE INGUBA (pron. EHTH-nah ING-oo-bah) – Doubles as SECOND WOMAN.
BRICRIU (pron. BRIH-croo) – Mysterious creature of the sea inhabiting CUCHULAIN’s body.
SPIRIT OF CUCHULAIN
See all +

Cast Attributes

  • Ensemble cast
  • Expandable casting

Casting Notes

Conceived for 4 male and 4 female actors, with doubling as indicated. The play calls for all characters, except THE POET, to wear full or half masks, though Emer, Eithne Inguba and Aoife can also be played without masks. The cast is expandable by removing some or all of the suggested doubling.  

More

Authors

William Butler Yeats

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1865, William Butler Yeats was the son of a well-known Irish painter, John Butler Yeats. He spent his childhood in County Sligo, where his parents were raised, and in London. He returned to Dublin at the age of fifteen to continue his education and study painting, but quickl ...

View full profile

Arthur Feinsod

Arthur Feinsod wrote Coming to See Aunt Sophie, a two-act drama based on the life of World War II Underground courier Jan Karski, the “man who tried to stop the Holocaust.”  The play premiered at the HERE AND NOW FESTIVAL in May 2014 in Mannheim, Germany and was the only ...

View full profile

Sword Against the Sea was first developed under the title Stations of Cuchulain at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in April, 1999. The play was first professionally produced in the summer of 2005 at SummerStage (now the Crossroads Repertory Theatre) in Terre Haute, Indiana.  

Now Playing

Community Experiences