'Crazy Jane And The Bishop' by William Butler Yeats

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Bring me to the blasted oak
That I, midnight upon the stroke,
(All find safety in the tomb.)
May call down curses on his head
Because of my dear Jack that's dead.
Coxcomb was the least he said:
The solid man and the coxcomb.

Nor was he Bishop when his ban
Banished Jack the Journeyman,
(All find safety in the tomb.)
Nor so much as parish priest,
Yet he, an old book in his fist,
Cried that we lived like beast and beast:
The solid man and the coxcomb.

The Bishop has a skin, God knows,
Wrinkled like the foot of a goose,
(All find safety in the tomb.)
Nor can he hide in holy black
The heron's hunch upon his back,
But a birch-tree stood my Jack:
The solid man and the coxcomb.

Jack had my virginity,
And bids me to the oak, for he
(all find safety in the tomb.)
Wanders out into the night
And there is shelter under it,
But should that other come, I spit:
The solid man and the coxcomb.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Crazy Jane And The Bishop: A Study of Yeats' Complex Characterization

William Butler Yeats' poem Crazy Jane And The Bishop is a complex and layered piece of work that offers the readers a glimpse into the poet's mind and his ideas about the nature of love, religion, and humanity. At first glance, the poem appears to be a simple dialogue between two characters, Crazy Jane and the Bishop, but upon closer examination, it reveals itself to be a masterful work of characterization, symbolism, and allegory.

The Narrative of Love and Religion

The poem begins with Crazy Jane's bold and unapologetic declaration of her desire for physical love, which she sees as a manifestation of her love for the divine:

"Love is all
That cannot take the whole
Body and soul";

Here, Crazy Jane is challenging the idea that love must be restricted to the spiritual realm and is instead asserting that the physical is just as important a part of love as the spiritual. She is also challenging the conventional notion of love as something pure and idealized, arguing that it is messy, complicated, and often unsatisfied.

The Bishop's response to Crazy Jane's declaration is equally intriguing. He dismisses her claims as the ramblings of a madwoman, saying:

"I have found
Something to say
But I shall never find
Words to say it in";

The Bishop's response can be seen as a metaphor for the limitations of religion and the human language to express the ineffable nature of divinity. He acknowledges that he has something to say but concedes that he can never find the words to say it.

Despite this, the Bishop continues to engage in a dialogue with Crazy Jane, albeit in a patronizing and dismissive manner. He attempts to steer the conversation towards religious matters, hoping to instill in her the virtues of piety and chastity. However, Crazy Jane is not easily swayed and responds with a series of witty and cutting retorts that reveal her deep-seated resentment towards the church and its teachings.

The Characterization of Crazy Jane

Crazy Jane is perhaps the most intriguing character in the poem. She is portrayed as a woman who is unapologetically and shamelessly sexual, but also deeply spiritual and philosophical. She is a woman who has a deep understanding of the human condition and is not afraid to challenge societal norms and conventions.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Crazy Jane's character is her use of language. She speaks in a way that is both poetic and vulgar, using words that are both beautiful and profane. For example, when she declares her love for the divine, she does so in a way that is both sensuous and spiritual:

"Love is all
That goes into the bride
Like a needle into the skin";

Here, Crazy Jane is using the metaphor of a needle piercing the skin to describe the physical and spiritual union of love. It is a powerful and evocative image that captures the complexity of her character.

Crazy Jane's character is also defined by her relationship with the Bishop. She is a woman who is not afraid to challenge authority and is willing to stand up for herself and her beliefs. She sees the Bishop as a symbol of the oppressive and patriarchal nature of the church, and she is determined to resist his attempts to control her. In this sense, she can be seen as a feminist icon, a woman who is willing to assert her own agency and reject the traditional gender roles that are imposed upon her.

The Use of Symbolism and Allegory

One of the most striking features of Crazy Jane And The Bishop is Yeats' use of symbolism and allegory. The poem is rich in images that have both literal and metaphorical meanings, and it is through these images that Yeats conveys his ideas about the nature of love, religion, and humanity.

One of the most important symbols in the poem is the needle. It is used to represent the physical and spiritual union of love, as well as the pain and ecstasy that comes with it. The needle is also a symbol of the church and its teachings, which are seen as a form of piercing that seeks to control and discipline the body and soul.

Another important symbol in the poem is the apple. It is used to represent the forbidden fruit of knowledge and the temptation that comes with it. The apple is also a symbol of Eve, the first woman who defied God's commandments and ushered in the fall of man. In this sense, the apple can be seen as a symbol of rebellion and defiance, qualities that are embodied by Crazy Jane.

Finally, the poem can be seen as an allegory for the struggle between the church and the individual. The Bishop represents the institutional power of the church, while Crazy Jane represents the individual's desire for freedom and self-expression. The dialogue between the two characters can be seen as a symbolic representation of the ongoing battle between these two forces.


Crazy Jane And The Bishop is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that showcases Yeats' mastery of language, characterization, and symbolism. It is a poem that challenges conventional notions of love, religion, and humanity, and invites the reader to consider these ideas in a new and provocative way.

Through his complex characterization of Crazy Jane, Yeats creates a character that is both sympathetic and subversive, a woman who defies societal norms and challenges the authority of the church. Through his use of symbolism and allegory, he creates a rich and layered narrative that explores the struggle between institutional power and individual freedom.

In the end, Crazy Jane And The Bishop is a testament to Yeats' artistic vision and his ability to use poetry as a means of exploring the deeper truths of the human experience. It is a poem that continues to resonate with readers today, and it is a testament to the enduring power of Yeats' work.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions, spark imagination, and convey complex ideas in a concise and beautiful manner. One of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, William Butler Yeats, was a master of this craft, and his poem "Crazy Jane and the Bishop" is a prime example of his genius.

At first glance, the poem may seem like a simple conversation between two characters, but upon closer inspection, it reveals a deep and profound commentary on religion, spirituality, and the human condition.

The poem begins with Crazy Jane, a character who is often portrayed as a madwoman, asking the Bishop a series of questions about his faith. She starts by asking him if he believes in the existence of God, to which he replies in the affirmative. However, she quickly challenges his belief by asking him if he has ever seen God or spoken to him. The Bishop, unable to provide a satisfactory answer, becomes defensive and dismisses her questions as the ramblings of a crazy person.

This exchange sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it highlights the tension between faith and reason, and the struggle to reconcile the two. Crazy Jane represents the voice of doubt and skepticism, while the Bishop represents the voice of authority and tradition. The conflict between these two perspectives is a recurring theme in Yeats' poetry, as he was deeply interested in exploring the complexities of human belief and the search for meaning in a chaotic world.

As the conversation continues, Crazy Jane becomes more and more provocative, challenging the Bishop's beliefs and exposing the contradictions in his arguments. She asks him if he believes in the resurrection of the dead, and when he says yes, she asks him if he would like to be resurrected as a worm or a bird. This question is a powerful critique of the Christian idea of the afterlife, which promises eternal life but fails to address the question of what form that life will take.

The Bishop, unable to answer her question, becomes frustrated and accuses her of blasphemy. He tells her that she will go to hell if she continues to question the teachings of the church. This threat of damnation is a common tactic used by religious authorities to silence dissent and maintain their power, and Yeats is clearly critical of this approach.

Despite the Bishop's threats, Crazy Jane remains defiant and unafraid. She tells him that she is not afraid of hell, as she has already experienced it in her life. This statement is a powerful commentary on the human condition, as it suggests that suffering and pain are an inevitable part of life, and that the promise of an afterlife is not enough to alleviate the struggles of the present.

The poem ends with Crazy Jane challenging the Bishop to a game of chess, a symbolic gesture that suggests that the struggle between faith and reason is a complex and ongoing battle. The game of chess is a metaphor for life, as it requires strategy, foresight, and the ability to think ahead. It is also a game of opposing forces, with each player trying to outmaneuver the other. This final image is a powerful reminder that the search for meaning and understanding is a lifelong journey, and that there are no easy answers or quick solutions.

In conclusion, "Crazy Jane and the Bishop" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that explores the complexities of human belief and the struggle to reconcile faith and reason. Through the characters of Crazy Jane and the Bishop, Yeats exposes the contradictions and limitations of traditional religious teachings, while also acknowledging the power and importance of spirituality in our lives. The poem is a testament to Yeats' skill as a poet, as he is able to convey deep and complex ideas in a concise and beautiful manner. It is a work of art that continues to inspire and challenge readers to this day, and it is a testament to the enduring power of poetry as a form of expression and communication.

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