Skip to main content
Try Wikispaces Classroom now.
Brand new from Wikispaces.
British Literature Wiki
Pages and Files
Quick Links to Literary Periods
Medieval and Renaissance Literature
The Restoration & 18th Century
The Twentieth Century
A More Comprehensive Table of Contents
William Butler Yeats
(June 13th, 1865 - January 28th, 1939)
William Butler Yeats was born on June 13, 1865 in Dublin, Ireland to John Butler Yeats and Susan (Pollexfen) Yeats. Because his mother was from Sligo, which is west of Ireland, Yeats spent a great deal of his childhood there (Norton 2019). In 1874, William and his family moved to London before eventually returning to Ireland in 1880. Because he spent time in different places, William was able to incorporate many themes into his poetry, including religion, politics, love, and social class. His early work was mainly a body devoted to Irish culture, some poems derived from his own personal experiences in Sligo. He then also began to include English, European, and Asian cultures into his work as well (2020).
Yeats met and fell in love with a woman named Maud Gonne, an actress and Irish nationalist who repeatedly refused his offer to marry. In 1896, Yeats also met a woman named Lady Gregory, a writer and promoter of Irish literature. Lady Gregory turned out to also influence his writing later on, and also influenced him to organize the Irish dramatic movement before founding the Abbey Theater in 1904. Yeats became greatly involved in the theater (2020-2021). He wrote 26 plays varying from Irish parables to slapstick farce (Garner).
After the Easter Rising of 1916, Maud Gonne convinced Yeats to return to Ireland with the reassurance that "tragic dignity had returned to Ireland". In 1922, Yeats was appointed as senator to the newly-formed Irish Free State, serving until 1928. Like in his poetry, Yeats used this position to promote art and politics. He then met and married a woman named Georgie (George) Hyde Lees in 1917.
Due to the abundance of political and literary experiences, Yeats was able to incorporate much of his own personality into his writing. Disliking the middle class, he promoted characters either of peasantry or aristocracy. He conveyed nationalist and anti-nationalist views. He focused on spirituality and mortality. Yeats wrote many visionary and symbolic poems, but due to his many contradicting ideas, they were and still are somewhat hard to interpret. Nevertheless, William Butler Yeats is a well-known and praised poet whose pieces have continued to thrive and have influenced many English writers. Yeats died in January, 1939 in southern France and is buried in Sligo (2022).
William Butler Yeats's Grave. Photo by Isalella
Easter 1916 and its Political Contexts
Sailing to Byzantium
Leda and the Swan
Among School Children
Cathleen Ni Houlihan
Return to Drama in the Twentieth Century
Garner, Dwight. "Celebrating Yeats, Revered for Verse, but Who Aspired to a Life in the Theatre."
The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia
. 17 Apr. 2009. Web. 19 May 2010. <
Isalella. Photo W. B. Yeats's Grave.
24 November 2008
The Norton Anthology: British Literature
. Vol. 2. Greenblatt, Stephen. New York. 2006. 1890-1947.
W.B. Yeats (photo). Famous Poets and Poems.Com
24 November 2008
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"