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Deirdre of the Sorrows

death naisi conchubor fearful

a play by J. M. Synge; it was left unrevised at the dramatist's death and published posthumously, in 1910. The eponymous heroine, a foundling brought up to be his wife by Conchubor, High King of Ulster, rejects this unwanted marriage. Instead, she chooses Naisi for her husband, notwith-standing a prophecy that she will ruin him, and escapes with him and his brothers from Emain Macha to safety abroad in Alban. After seven years of intense happiness there, Conchubor sends an offer of peace and safe return home; and Deirdre accepts this, even though she does not trust it, because she is fearful of growing old, fearful that Naisi will tire of her, and fearful that their dream-like life will end. Back in Emain, the king does indeed renege on his promise. Naisi's brothers are attacked and, though Deirdre tries to stop him helping them, he goes out to his death. She then defies Conchubor, who still craves her, as ‘an old man and a fool only’, and stabs herself to death in what she, and Synge, suggest is the final triumph of love and beauty over reality.

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