As tragic heroines go, Deirdre of the Sorrows has complete supremacy, even over other relatively pretty girls like, for instance, Helen of Troy. After all, Helen is only responsible for one war, while Deirdre finds it impossible to ever settle down quietly, because war breaks out as a result of her astounding beauty everywhere she goes.
Deirdre’s story as a passive engine of destruction is so convoluted that it’s difficult to convey all the dramatic subtleties in an abridged format. The simple version involves a druidic prophecy that her beauty will insight kings and countries to war, the inevitable sequestering of the infant Deirdre to be held for later marriage to the local Irish ruler, her eventual elopement to Scotland with a fittingly young and attractive warrior, followed by seven years of fleeing and exile, ultimate discovery, treachery, standoff, and a general surplus of bodies. It’s like Hamlet, only with Scotland. So, like Macbeth. Meets Hamlet. Also, someone is blinded by a thrown chess piece, which is kind of unexpected.
Suffice it to say, everyone dies violently, although Deirdre’s death is occasionally attributed to the ever-poetic Wasting from Grief Following the Death of Her Lover. This is, in fact, a very Victorian idea. The Irish, on the other hand, really knew how to round out a story. In the original version, Deirdre ends her life by leaning out of a swiftly-moving coach and smashing her head against a rock. While this lacks the feminine grace of a well-mannered death by despair, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s nice to see her exhibiting some agency.