William Butler Yeats
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1923
Born: 13 June 1865, Dublin, Ireland
Died: 28 January 1939, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Residence at the time of the award: Ireland
Prize motivation: “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”
Prize share: 1/1
W.B. Yeats grew up in a home of artists in Dublin, and he spent summers at the family’s house in Connaught, where he developed a close relationship with nature. These nature experiences proved to be very important for his development as a poet. As a young man, he experienced the fin de siècle era in London that lauded mysticism, symbolism and spiritualism and denigrated science and industrialism. Studies of the folklore and customs of the Connaught area inspired him to contribute to the resurgence of Irish literature, which became known as the Irish Literary Renaissance.
W.B. Yeats made his debut as a poet in 1887, but in his earlier period his dramatic production outweighed his poetry. Along with playwright Lady Gregory, he founded the Irish Theatre, which later became the Abbey Theatre. His plays are often based on Irish legends and are full of mysticism and spiritualism. After 1910 his plays became more experimental and poetic. The later plays contained new elements, such as masks, dance and music, and were influenced by the Japanese Noh theatre tradition. During the last 20 years of his life, he reverted increasingly to poetry.