The following analysis of Hyacinth Halvey was originally published in The British and American Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915. pp. 206-7.
The origin of this little patriotic play was of the slightest sort, according to the author. Its simplicity, its direct emotional appeal, its quiet humor, leave scarcely any ground for criticism or analysis.
With all its simplicity, The Rising of the Moon is a carefully prepared little play. Observe the methods used to create atmosphere. An effective bit of "living stage-direction" is the speech: "There's a flight of steps here that leads to the water. This is a place that should be minded well. If he got down here, his friends might have a boat to meet him; they might send it in here from outside." Without more ado, the action is begun: two and a half pages supply what preparation is needful, then the Ballad-singer comes in. The quick, short dialogue, the quaint idioms, the amusing manner in which the slight plot winds about, but ever pursues its way upward to the climax -- all this reveals careful workmanship. The dénouement is brief, and the close very effective.
Could Lady Gregory have left the end of this play "hanging" as she did in Hyacinth Halvey and The Jackdaw?
During [Lady Gregory's day], certain critics and dramatists -- Synge, Jones, Bennett, and Knoblauch among the latter -- [had] either openly or in practice advocated a return to the play for the play's sake, and consistently avoided thesis plays, plays with "ideas." Ideas, they [felt, were] usurping the place of joy and life in the theater. They [objected] in general to Brieux and Bernard Shaw, not primarily because such dramatists [wrote] plays for the purpose of furthering a reform or combating a social abuse or setting forth problems, but because in so doing they [were] abusing the dramatic form, which is intended to represent all of life, and not to expose ideas which have to do, in a greater or less degree, with life.
Lady Gregory, in particular, depicts life as she sees it, and allows ideas to grow out of her portrayal of it. She is always more interested in people than in things and abstract ideas, so that her plays are likely to outlive those of Hervieu and Brieux in which abstractions preponderate. She is not devoid of ideas -- far from it -- only her ideas are always inseparable from her characters. She has not "lost sight of the individual."
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