James Stephens (1882 - 1950)

Beautiful, playful young Deirdre, caught in the crosshairs of Ireland's wily, chauvinistic King Conachur, who desires to marry her after his own wife Maeve has escaped his clutches, is one of many prequels to the legend of “The Great Tain”, Ireland's national epic. Sometimes called "The Irish Iliad", this saga of war between rival Irish and Scottish kings, with its many characters, was preserved in oral tradition with many variations, until committed to writing in the Middle Ages. Stephens gives his own interpretation, insights and humor of the Deirdre story as he spins court intrigue, jealousy, subterfuge. Deirdre's innocence, training as a young lady of worth; her escape from Conachur, her love for her husband (murdered at the King's hand), and eventual suicide, are the stuff of Irish legend, riveting throughout, rivaling the romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. (Summary by Michele Fry)

List of characters:
Conachur mac Nessa - King of Ulster
Fergus mac Roy - King of Ulster before Conachur displaced him, married his mother Nessa and became Conachur's step father
Felemid - the storyteller
Deirdre - daughter of Felemid, raised by Laversham for Conachur
Nessa - daughter of Echaid Yellow-Heel, once King of Ulster, mother of Conachur, wife of Cathfa, then Fergus
Cathfa - Conachur's father, also poet/seer/magician; Nessa's husband until she left him for Fergus
Maeve - daughter of the High King of Ireland, unwilling wife of Conachur, who finally escapes and leaves him lonely, embarrassed and angry
Laversham - Conachur's "conversation woman" (confidant), his spy, and Deirdre's foster mother/groomer
Naoise - Deirdre's lover and husband, warrior in Conachur’s army, Uisneac's eldest son
Ainnle and Ardan - Naoise's younger brothers
Uisneac - father of Naoise (Deirdre's husband), Ainnle and Ardan
Bricriu - in charge of hospitality, also a poet and troublemaker
Fachtna the Mighty - in some legends the son of Og and Nessa's lover; possible father of Conachur, which would make Conachur half mortal/half God
Clothru - daughter of the High King of Ireland, wife of Conachur until killed by her sister Maeve
Buinne and Iollann, sons of Fergus mac Roy

Definitions: featly = nimbly, gracefully
findriny = A precious metal often cited in early Irish manuscripts as having a value lower than gold or silver.
eric - tribute/penalty/punishment paid in reparation for murder or other major crimes.
geasa - obligations or prohibitions, vows, taboos or curses which, if violated, bring dishonor or even death. Conversely, the observing of a geas is empowering.

Genre(s): Culture & Heritage Fiction, Romance, Sagas

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 01 I. Book 1, Chapters 1, 2 Michele Fry
Play 02 II. Book 1, Chapters 3, 4 Michele Fry
Play 03 III. Book 1, Chapters 5, 6 Michele Fry
Play 04 IV. Book 1, Chapters 7, 8 Michele Fry
Play 05 V. Book 1, Chapters 9, 10 Michele Fry
Play 06 VI. Book 1, Chapters 11, 12, 13, 14 Michele Fry
Play 07 VII. Book 1, Chapters 15, 16, 17 Michele Fry
Play 08 VIII. Book 1, Chapters 18, 19 Michele Fry
Play 09 IX. Book 1, Chapter 20, 21 Michele Fry
Play 10 X. Book 1, Chapters 22, 23 Michele Fry
Play 11 XI. Book 2, Chapters 1, 2 Michele Fry
Play 12 XII. Book 2, Chapters 3, 4 Michele Fry
Play 13 XIII. Book 2, Chapters 5, 6 Michele Fry
Play 14 XIV. Book 2, Chapters 7, 8 Michele Fry
Play 15 XV. Book 2, Chapters 9, 10 Michele Fry
Play 16 XVI. Book 2, Chapters 11, 12 Michele Fry
Play 17 XVII. Book 2, Chapters 13, 14 Michele Fry
Play 18 XVIII. Book 2, Chapters 15, 16 Michele Fry
Play 19 XIX. Book 2, Chapters 17, 18 Michele Fry