William Butler Yeats' The Cap and Bells Essays

William Butler Yeats' The Cap and Bells Essays

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William Butler Yeats' The Cap and Bells


William Butler Yeats’s ballad “The Cap and Bells” depicts the behavior of love through an allegorical account of actions between a jester and a queen. Through the use of many symbolic references, the dramatic characters accurately reflect a lover’s conduct. Referring to jester-like men throughout many of his works (“A Coat”, “The Fool by the Roadside”, “Two Songs of a Fool”, “The Hour Glass”, etc.), Yeats continually portrays the actions of humans as foolish many a times. Coming to him in a dream, “The Cap and Bells” likely acquired its origin from the obsessive infatuation Yeats had with Maud Gonne. Being an acclaimed actress, Yeats most likely perceived Gonne exceeding him in status; her the queen and him the fool. At this time (1894) Yeats was also developing Irish dramas, and therefore his mind ignited dramatic thought even within his dreams. Like many of his poems, “The Cap and Bells” develops a lyrical tone full of emotion and images. Through this song-like piece, the reader strongly feels both the growing despondency of the jester and the eventual affection in the queen. Through his strong use of symbolism and imagery, Yeats suggests that love makes a fool of every man. From forfeiting the soul, the heart, and finally physical life, Yeats emphasizes mans’ willingness to sacrifice all the elements of his existence to feel the complete and irresistible passions of love.

Throughout “The Cap and Bells” Yeats constantly draws on symbolism to express various elements of love. With the whole poem existing as a subtle allegory, the author encourages a reader to interpret and search for meaning. As Yeats opens with “The jester walked into the garden” he immediatel...


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...elf) and the heart (provider of life). Instead she fell in love when given the physical cap and bells. Though such ballad does not need a large amount of explanation to understand the storyline, the close analysis develops the underlying ideas of human behavior while in love. Yeats all together implies that love has the ability to blind a man from ration. Although a wise old owl may view his actions irrational, the lover only sees the obsessive compulsions love has on him. Yeats thus teaches a reader that love is the strongest emotion of all, for man will do anything to feel reciprocated love. The soul, the heart, and life are the toys of love, and thus throughout “The Cap and Bells” Yeats depicts the compliance of man to sacrifice his complete being for the sake of the zeal of love. Born a fool, live a fool, and die a fool ... all because we loved another.

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