* West coast of Ireland. Characters Maurya * An old Aran fisher-women. * She is a poor victimof dark fatality as represented by the unrelenting sea. Bartley * He is the one of the two riders in the play, the other being the ghost of Maurya’s fifth son Michael. Cathleen * The elder daughter. * She is more responsible and hardworking. * She taking care of the household. Nora * is a bit immature and innocent, serving as a link with the world out of doors. Plot Exposition: The play begins with Maurya, who has fallen into a fitful sleep.
She is certain that her son, Michael, has drowned, even though she has no proof, and has been constantly grieving for nine days. Cathleen, her daughter, is doing household chores when Nora, another daughter arrives. She quietly slips into the kitchen with a bundle that had been given to her by a young priest. In the bundle are clothes taken from the body of a man who drowned in the far north. They were sent to Maurya’s home, hoping that she would be able to identify the body.
Rising Action: Maurya begins to look as if she is going to wake up soon, so the daughters hide the bundle until a time when they are alone. Maurya awakes, and her fear for losing her only remaining son Bartley intensifies her grieving for Michael. Bartley proclaims that he is going to venture over to the mainland that same day, in order to sell a horse at the fair, despite knowing of the high winds and seas. Maurya begs Bartley not to go, yet he insists despite her pleas.
In a flustered state of irritation, Maurya bids him gone without her blessing. Upon seeing these events unfold, the sisters tell Maurya, that she should go out and search for Bartley in order to give him the lunch that they he had forgotten to bring, and while at it, give him her blessing. Climax: While Maurya is gone the girls open the package. The clothes are, indeed, Michael’s. Their only comfort is the thought that his body has been given a good Christian burial there in the north where it was washed up.
At this point Maurya returns terrified with a vision she had had of Michael riding on the led horse behind Bartley. Now she is sure Bartley is doomed. When the girls show her Michael’s clothes her only response is that the good white boards she had bought for his coffin would serve for Bartley instead. Falling Action: Even as she speaks, the neighboring women troop in, their voices raised in the “keen,” that monotonous Irish chant of grief. Men follow bringing the body of Bartley who has been knocked off a cliff into the surf by the horse he was leading.
Denoument: The play closes on the note of Maurya’s fatalistic submission. She can sleep now with no worry but that of starvation. “They’re all gone now and there isn’t anything more the sea can do to me. . . . No man at all can be living forever and we must be satisfied. ” Theme The theme for “Riders to the Sea” is the struggle of man against the very impersonal but relentless cruelty of the sea. One of the main characters, Maurya, has lost her husband, father-in-law, and five sons to the sea.
The play’s progression is that of Maurya and her remaining family receiving word that one of those sons’ bodies may have been discovered washed ashore. Bartley, the last son, wants to go and identify him, but Maurya has a bad feeling that if he does, he will not return. They part with Maurya speaking ill-words. She later tries to follow and give him a better send-off, but it is too late; she receives word that he has fallen from his horse into the sea and drowns.