Riders to the Sea
According to the features, the themes and even the language of Synge's six plays and his other works were all inspired by his own experience on the Aran Islands, three islands in Galaway Bay, off the western coast of Ireland, often isolated from the Irish mainland by heavy storms. When Synge arrived there in 1898, they were poor, rocky places. The language spoken was mainly Gaelic, which fascinated Synge with its musical intonations.
Life was hard there, characterized by a mixture of Christianity and paganism of courage and fatalism and a deep sense of the supernatural. The sense of isolation was very strong. Nature had lost any romantic connotation. It seldom brought joy, more often sorrow and death. This was the background against which Synge set his first important one-act play, Riders to the Sea. The play is set on one of the Aran Islands. According to the plot of this play: the inhabitants of the island live by trading in horses, which are taken by boats to the fairs on the Great Island, to which they are sometimes obliged to swim due to the occasional difficulty (hence the title of the play). The action takes place in the house where Maurya and her two daughters Cathleen and Nora are living with Bartley, the only surviving son of the other five having been killed by the sea together with their father and grandfather. When the play opens, Nora enters with some pieces of clothing belonging to Michael, Maurya's fifth son,, who has just been engulfed by the ocean. Bartley, in the meantime, has decided to go to the big fair with a mare and a grey pony. Despite Maurya's attempt to stop him, he leaves. Maurya follows him to give him some bread , but she sees Michael's ghost on the grey pony galloping behind Bartley and understanding that Bartley also is going to die.