The first practitioners of magic were not conjurers of idle spirits; they did not pull legions of attendant demons from the foundations, consult wraiths from the past, nor entreat incubi of the air. No, to strike awe, to bewilder, to sometimes entrance belief by the unearthly effects of their art, these first magicians used only such mundane props and skills as juggler's balls and legerdemain. Similarly, by my own research and claims of Synge, my intent was, and perhaps impetuously still is, to consider an artist whose work once rather violently fragmented an audience, and argue that, years later, his work has become a nexus for a nation. Seem alchemy? Proving so would necessitate my own enchantments, and even arguing for such an immodest assertion would exhaust many paper mills or fill entire gigabytes of virtual space. Accordingly, then, for this paper, my claims are restrained, and my argument modest--even, perhaps, straightforward and logical.
I contend that John Millington Synge's use of Celtic mythology and folklore in "Riders to the Sea" merely provides Irish men and women, whether Protestant or Catholic, of the South or of the North, a primitive and shared narrative of a singular people, however intractable their religious and political views may be.
As grounds, I argue that mythology and folklore do indeed extensively pervade Synge's "Riders to the Sea," referring to other critics' examinations and to the text itself. And I argue that these elements, mythology and folklore, do effectively provide a shared narrative capable of uniting a people into one culture, citing anthropological research, such as Mary-Elizabeth Reeve's study of the Runa.
Other research that further substantiates my argument examines Synge himself, how he became alienated from all sects of Christianity, how his faith in the Church ebbed and how it for Ireland deluged. And how he came to study and record the lives and language of the people of Aran.
A historical context is offered, establishing the Irish as a people intensely searching for its own national character, i.e., its Irishness; it also establishes the rifts dividing its people and the discriminately recounted histories that each faction, for its own purposes, narrated. For instance, Patrick O'Farrell's book England and Ireland Since 1800 asserts that once the issue of Home Rule was fiercely debated, both sides of Ireland--North and South, Protestant and Catholic--retrieved the most accommodating parcels of Ireland's past and organized and glorified the stories into legitimizing defenses of their respective stands.
This context presents an arena whereby the contestant who spins the most pleasing historical account is able to best define the epitome of a nation's character. Enter onto the stage the contestant Synge, who arguably presented a narrative that could be owned by all men and women of Ireland.
An artist is presented whose art offers an auric abundance of peculiarly Irish lore, stories and beliefs accumulated from a country's ancestry, transcribed into plays, and perpetuated by references made in casual conversation across county lines. The strapping of a culture. How a man in the North and a woman in the South, one with rosary beads, one without, can look over the seas and each of them find black hags dancing over the foam.