About the Play
Not produced during Lady Gregory’s lifetime and few productions afterwards. It was published in Irish Folk-History Plays First Series (New York and London: Putnam, 1912).
1 woman, 4 men
Grania can be found online at Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/irishfolkhistory00greg
It can also be found in some university libraries and can be purchased online from Amazon as a single play or in the collections, Irish Folk-History Plays or Collected Plays: The Tragedies and Tragic-Comedies, edited by Ann Saddlemyer.
Despite having the title of the daughter of the King of Ireland, Grania has no power as a young woman in her country. She is soon to be married off to Finn, a wealthy and respected warrior who is much older than she is, and she is content to do so. It is what is expected of her. However, when she sees Diarmuid, with whom she fell in love years ago, Grania’s desires completely change. After confessing her love for Diarmuid within earshot of Finn, Grania runs away with Diarmuid, who promises to return her to Finn and to remind all of them of his promise once a year. Jealousy soon takes ahold of Diarmuid, and he forgets his promise. Grania hopes that she and Diarmuid can be happy, but Finn lingers in both of their minds. When the actions of her competing lovers seem to label her nothing more than a piece of property--to be coveted or neglected--Grania begins to doubt the steadfastness of love in a world filled with jealousy and fears of loneliness.
Although one of Lady Gregory’s most iconic works, Grania is only one of her many plays, stories, and articles exploring Irish history, culture, and folklore. Finished and published in 1912 as one of her Irish folk-history tragedies, Grania was never produced during Lady Gregory’s lifetime, due in part to Lady Gregory’s mysterious refusal to see it produced and in part to its controversial depiction of the epic figure of Grania as a fierce female protagonist, victim to her circumstance, but not responsible for her ruined relationships with Finn and Diarmuid. Lady Gregory herself acknowledged her desire for Grania to have “power of will,” an idea that would not have been fully supported in Ireland, or in most of the world, in the early twentieth century. When Grania was written, Ireland had just recently made improvements in its gender equality in education, and activists were in the midst of fighting for complete equality, including suffrage, for women. Once women married, their rights to their property, their work, and their voices were limited, and Lady Gregory must have experienced this gender discrimination firsthand as a young woman who married a man who was successful and respected, but more than twice her age. In Grania, the title character faces a similar dilemma as she happily leaves her home to marry a much older man, only to discover that she wants love and, more importantly, a choice instead. Lady Gregory wrote that “Love itself, with its shadow of Jealousy, is the true protagonist” of Grania, and the play explores the ideas of love and jealousy, but also questions whether women are property and what their rights are to their own marriages and happiness. Recently, Grania has been produced as a celebration and discussion of feminism and Irish culture.
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About the Playwright
Isabella Augusta Persse was born on March 15, 1852, the youngest of sixteen children in her Irish family. When she was twenty-eight years of age, she married Sir William Henry Gregory, thirty-five years her senior and a landowner and politician, which perhaps influenced Lady Gregory’s own engagement in politics later in her life. They had one son together, and after her husband died in 1892, Lady Gregory began writing. Soon after, she met William Butler Yeats with whom she would collaborate f…
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