Term of Award

Summer 2003

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)


Department of Literature and Philosophy

Committee Chair

Frederick K. Sanders

Committee Member 1

John Humma

Committee Member 2

Douglass Thomson


This thesis discusses Lady Augusta Gregory's presentation of female characters, particularly Deirdre and Maeve, in her 1902 publication Cuchulain of Muirthemne. Contrary to prevailing ideas, Lady Gregory was a radical, innovative writer with a clear agenda when she arranged, compiled, and translated tales of the Ulster Cycle from medieval Irish manuscripts. Lady Gregory's primary objective was to demonstrate, to the world and to the scholars of Trinity College, that ancient Irish literature in the vernacular had grace, dignity, and style. To accomplish this aim, she presents the heroines of these stories as gentler, more decorous, and less promiscuous. Although the tales lose none of their allure, and in fact, gain much of beauty and romance, the women of the Tain become less figures of feminist admiration and more victims to be protected and cherished.

In order to demonstrate that Lady Gregory's life and career do not support the theory that she presents her characters in accordance with her own sensibilities, the thesis discusses her background: her childhood, her marriage, her affair, and her relationships with peers such as W. B. Yeats and J. M. Synge. Several of Lady Gregory's plays such as Urania and Kinconi are contrasted to Cuchulain of Muirihemm to demonstrate that Lady Gregory can, and did, write about strong, independent women.

As a nearly literal translation of the earliest known manuscript of these tales, Thomas Kinsella's 1969 The Tain is used as a basis of comparison when discussing Lady Gregory's depiction of Deirdre and Maeve. Deirdre and Maeve, the characters, are discussed in depth to show the importance of these two women and their stories to the history and psyche of the Irish cultural consciousness. Finally, the thesis considers Lady Gregory's role in helping to establish an Irish national identity through literature, especially her translations such as Cuchulain of Muirthemne.


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