Elizabeth Gott

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Donald Tuck, Dorothy Mahon, Patricia Taylor


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Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Rabindranath Tagore and William Butler Yeats are two of the most famous poets of the modern era. Both artists possessed great lyrical abilities and produced a prolific body of work. It is their work as playwrights with which this thesis is concerned. Tagore's and Yeats's plays express, for both writers, their most profound views of life, art, religion, morality, and the fate of the Just in a wicked and chaos-ridden world.

Both Yeats and Tagore portray a wide range of female characters in their dramatic works. These characters often hold the key to the poets' central concerns in their plays. It is the female characters who shape, symbolize, and voice the poet's thoughts about beauty, power, heroism, sainthood, religious devotion, sacrifice, asceticism, and the destiny of the modern world.

Tagore's most important female protagonist is the young innocent maiden-child. This virginal woman embodies Divine Truth. She is the natural representative of truth, beauty, and goodness (shantam, shivan, and sundaram), and because of this she both expounds and draws forth universal love or anandam. Invariably, this young woman acts as a catalyst to awaken mens' consciences to right action and correct thought.

Yeats's most important female character will be a Queen or a woman of authority, power, and action. Tagore's "model" female is a gentle, humble, forebearing teacher, while Yeats's "Queen" is a proud, courageous, and determined "hero."

In the case of both poet-playwrights the central fact to remember is the importance of their dramatic works as expositions of their world views. The Vaishnava Hindu and the theosophical magician are both enraptured of the female muse, and the muse speaks differently but eloquently in both poets' works. She speaks on the subjects dearest to the poets' hearts.

In Red Oleanders, Nandiili represents the living world of nature as opposed to the abstract man-made world of factories and technology. In The Player Queen, a convoluted tale of the self and anti-self gone awry, Decima is a woman who fails to accomplish the regeneration of society. In Chitra, a woman pleads to be loved for her truth rather than for the appearances she creates. In Emer, a man chooses to pursue the "image" of feminine beauty and remains ignorant of a woman's heroic love.

In King and Queen and Dierdre, two queens and warriors make the ultimate sacrifice for honor in the spirit of truth and self-determination. In Malini and The Countess Cathleen, two women portray unconditional love for mankind. In Natir Puja and The Herne’s Egg, two women demonstrate unconditional love for God. (There is, however, an ironic satirical edge to The Herne’s Egg).

In Sacrifice, a young girl speaks for the morality of life over a stone image. She upholds the sacredness of life over what is owed to religious convention. In Cathleen Ni Houlihan, an old woman calls for a bold sacrifice in the name of and for the honor of a nation. In Sanyasi, a young girl stands for the true religion of interdependence of life as opposed to religious renunciation. In The King's Threshold, Fedelm fails to win a man back to the life of the world after he has dedicated his life to the service of an idea.


Arts and Humanities | Comparative Philosophy | Creative Writing | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Feminist Philosophy | Philosophy | Poetry | Religion | Women's Studies