The Rising of the Moon

The Rising of the Moon
The title of Lady Gregory’s play, The Rising of the Moon, is also the title of an Irish national song. She is writing about Irish Nationalism. Lady Gregory's The Rising of the Moon is an explicitly political play dealing with the relation between
England and Ireland trying to fight for freedom from English rule. The history of English domination of Ireland is very long. Lady Gregory presents characters, which are torn between duty and patriotism and are ultimately united together as Irishmen through the folklore, myths and songs which they share as a nation.
There are three major themes running throughout the play; all of them center on the question of a new Irish national culture.
First, we notice the theme of inversion in social norms.
Second, Lady Gregory acknowledges the importance of loyalty in Irish nationalism and explores the tension between different loyalties.
Lastly, the tensions between Law and Nation are highlighted
The Rising of the Moon premiered at the Abbey Theatre in 1907. The play shows that harmony can be found in the midst of great tensions, and promotes songs and community as the way to achieve harmony in the new Irish nationalism
The play opens with three Irish policemen, obviously working for the British authorities, who are on a man hunt for an escaped political prisoner. The policemen discuss the large reward of hundred pounds and a promotion they will receive for the criminal’s capture and as two of the policemen go off, the Sergeant stays to guard the harbor where he thinks a ship is bound to take the rebel to freedom.
The Sergeant is not described physically, and he does not even have a Christian name. Known only as Sergeant, he spends much of the introductory segment stressing his duty and loyalty to the law. The Ragged Man is also a personification: “Dark hair—dark eyes—smooth face, height five feet five—there’s not much to take hold of in that”, says the Sergeant upon reading the Man’s wanted notice
The Sergeant meets a poor peasant man who passes the time singing songs of Ireland. The singer engages the Sergeant in conversation which drifts towards the past. The Sergeant begins to think of the fate of the fugitive in comparison to his own. He thinks about the friends of his youth, and the circumstances which could have placed him in the position of hiding from the police in the dark. The Sergeant undergoes a change of heart with the disguised rebel begins to sing the song of the Fenian Movement, composed around 1865, of The Rising of the Moon. So the sergeant is moved by memories of his own patriotic youth that he allows the criminal to escape and gives up his chance of the reward and his duty towards the British government. This play shows mistaken identity through disguise; in this case a wig and a hat.

             The Sergeant does not recognize his quarry because of Walsh’s costume. Also, the wearing of the disguise enables Walsh to get close to his enemy so that the Sergeant can unveil (visible) his own identity with the removal of Walsh’s wig. Eventually, when the Sergeant discovers that Walsh is indeed the criminal he has been seeking, he performs his complicity with the nationalist movement by hiding Walsh’s wig and hat from the other policeman. After the policemen leave, the Sergeant again performs his own collusion by giving Walsh back his disguise so the rebel can continue to delude others. In this way, the disguise performs the entire journey towards the discovery of the Sergeant’s “true” identity underneath his mask of law and duty; the use and exchange of the disguise are similar to the exchanges of identity between the Irish man representing British rule and the Irish man representing the rebellion.

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