In Easter 1916, William Butler Yeats describes the ordinary Irish people finally uniting and affirming national identity through rebellion to assert Ireland's coming of age. Yeats expresses his grief and horror regarding the events of Easter week 1916, and the unity of the Irish people working towards the goal of Irish independence from England.
In the first stanza, Yeats implies to Ireland's stagnant history illustrated by disillusioned civilians who all live together in the same country and share a common identity. But through the events of 1916, Yeats asserts that they have "All changed utterly"(line 15). The final line of the stanza, "A terrible beauty is born"(line 16), is repeated throughout the poem and is the poem's main theme. William Yeats describes the people of Ireland working together towards the goal of independence; even though there will be bloodshed and death, the people are finally uniting and standing up for their country.
Before Easter 1916, the Irish people conformed to England's rule, they wanted changed but were not able to bring it about. Yeats refers to revolutionary figures such as Countess Markiewiez, Patrick Pearse and MacDonagh to portray average citizens who passionately pursue change and justice. Markiewiez is characterized as one who has "ignorant good-will/ Her night in argument/ Until her voice grew shrill"(lines 18-20). These lines illustrate the deceptive nature of appearances. Yeats suggests the humanity of Ireland's heroes portrayed by two common citizens Patrick Pearse and MacDonagh. Pearse, a teacher, and MacDonagh, "his helper and friend"(line 26) have the ability to effect a change in society if they rebel against obedient conformity and "ignorant good will"(line 18). .
Yeats continues to imply that the figures of the Easter Rebellion should be respected for their participation. John MacBride is described as a "vainglorious lout"(line 32).