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Riders to the Sea

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: John Rhode to Jack [Morris] Rosenthal Biography

a play by J. M. Synge, first performed in 1904. It remains one of the few one-act pieces to be widely regarded as a tragedy. Set on an island off the west coast of Ireland, it tells with grim simplicity of the bereavement of Maurya, who has already lost a husband and four sons to the sea. The bundle of clothes brought in by the priest, taken from a drowned man in Donegal, turns out to belong to one of her two surviving sons, Michael; and the other, Bartley, who insists over her protests on going to a fair, is thrown by his pony to his death in the surf. As the body of the latter is brought in, and her daughters and the other village women keen over it, she expresses her resignation: ‘They're all gone now, and there isn't anything more the sea can do to me … No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied.’

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