This year is Yeats150. Events around the world are celebrating the great poet, a leading figure in the fight for Irish independence. In Cambridge, on 23 November, there will be an international conference, commissioned by the Irish Embassy. But when Yeats accepted the Nobel Prize in 1923 it wasn’t as a poet. It was as a dramatist and founder of the Irish National Theatre. The Cambridge Conference will therefore stage two of his plays. Both focus on Yeats’s life-long obsession, the legendary hero and man of blood, Cuchulain. When the leaders of the abortive Easter Rising occupied Dublin in 1916, Yeats saw them as possessed by the ghost of the Cuchulain he had brought back to life on stage. Hence the troubled question in his last book of poems, published after his death:
Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot?
The Marlowe Society and Magdalene College Dramatic Society will present to the Conference the play in which Cuchulain first appears, On Baile’s Strand, followed by the play Yeats wrote on his own death-bed, The Death of Cuchulain.