Nationalism in “The Only Jealousy of Emer”

When reading “The Only Jealousy of Emer” it may not seem to be a nationalistic play, however, if you interpret Emer to be a representation of Ireland, it can be. Emer remains faithful to Cuchulain, despite the fact that he has courted other women because she knows that eventually he will tire of these other women. She knows he loved her once, and will always love her. That being said, if Emer represents Ireland in this scenario, one could argue that Cuchulain represents the people of Ireland. Ireland knows her people love her and will always love her, even if, at the moment, the people feel loyal to another country. Eventually the people of Ireland will tire of their “mistress” country and return to their beloved Ireland. In the mean time, just as Emer refused to give up her hope that he will return to her in exchange for the life of her husband, Ireland refuses to give up hope that her people will come back to her in order to save their lives. Even if her people die, Ireland knows they love her, and she loves them in return. Of course, this was not exactly what Yeats had intended when he wrote the play, saturated in references to his own life and his own loss, but the undertones are still there.

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