Day 37 - Shakespeare and Red Hugh
It’s April 23, the date believed to be Shakespeare’s birthday, and I am a big fan of William, or Liam as he’d be called if he was Irish. In honor of the birthday, we are going to take a little history walk this evening, around Asseroe Abbey in Ballyshannon. Asseroe is an anglicization of Eas Aodh Rua – the waterfall of Red Hugh. Aodh Rua (Red Hugh) was one of the O’Donnell chieftains, and the O’Donnell clan held power in the territory of Tir Chonaill or Tyrconnell [South Donegal] up until the early 17 Century, when sadly, Aodh Rua II (Red Hugh II ) and his allies were defeated by British Crown Forces under Elizabeth I. The last of the Gaelic chieftains, including Aodh Rua II were forced to leave Donegal for sanctuary in Europe.They would not return. However, the war between the Irish Chieftains and Elizabeth was in full throttle in 1599 when Shakespeare wrote the play ‘Henry V’ and it is one of the very few plays when Shakespeare references events outside the world of the play- and it is these wars in Ireland to which he refers. In 1599 Shakespeare imagines that Queen Elizabeth’s war General, the Earl of Essex will return to England ‘[B]ringing rebellion broached on his sword ‘ However, the Earl was returned home in disgrace after being outmaneuvered by the Northern Chieftans, and these lines referring to his glorious return were dropped from the play. Henry V is superbly subversive, and has its very own hot-headed Irishman- I’ll be talking a bit more about this in the next poetry blog- but therein lies the connection between this evening’s walk around the old Abbey lands that were once part of the proud kingdom of the O’Donnells. Enjoy!
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