Lovers Brian Friel Essay Typer
Brian Friel, who has died aged 86, was the best-known Irish playwright of his generation. His first major play, Philadelphia, Here I Come!, was the hit of the Dublin Theatre Festival, and Dancing at Lughnasa, probably his most successful play, in won three Tony Awards.
Friel was also an accomplished short-story writer, belonging to the great tradition of Irish storytelling stretching from William Carleton, in the 19th century, through George Moore and Frank O’Connor to William Trevor today. And he was a founder of Field Day Theatre Company.
In all Friel wrote 24 published plays, two short-story collections and three unpublished and eight published adaptations or versions, most notably from Ibsen, Chekov and Turgenev. He also adapted The True-Born Irishman, a farce from , by Charles Macklin of Culdaff, as The London Vertigo, in
Many of his plays deal with the erratic workings of memory, and with the family, using Ballybeg, the archetypal small town, as a backdrop. Showing himself to be ever capable of experimenting, Friel challenged the limits of the genre while never losing his ear for dialogue, his sense of humour and irony, or his ability to create deeply affecting characters.
Three of his most critically acclaimed plays were premiered over a period of 18 months, beginning in Aristocrats chronicles the disintegration of a Catholic big-house family. The play moves slowly and lyrically towards an extended scene of Chekhovian leavetaking where the members of the family bid farewell to each other and to their past.
Faith Healer, from , emphasises the uncertainty of personal history and individual witness. It consists of four monologues, spoken in turn by three characters: Frank Hardy, the eponymous faith healer; Grace, his wife; Teddy, his manager; and Frank again. “In Frank Hardy,” one critic wrote, “Friel succeeded in creating a character whose search for extinction is chillingly believable.”
Translations, which followed in , and is perhaps his most controversial play, is about the mapping of Ireland by the Ordnance Survey in the s. Focusing on the translation of Gaelic place names into English, thereby providing a dramatic metaphor for the Anglo-Irish historical relationship, it proved to be a landmark in the debates about cultural identity and historical revisionism that were a feature of Irish intellectual life in the s and s.
Seamus Deane described it as “a sequence of events in history which are transformed by his writing into a parable of events in the present day”. Praising its depiction of colonialism, the critic James Fenton welcomed it as a “vigorous example of corrective propaganda”. But the historian Sean Connolly complained of an extreme “distortion of the real nature and causes of cultural changes in nineteenth-century Ireland”.
Friel insisted he had not written a play about Irish peasants being suppressed by English sappers. “The play has to do with language and only language. And if it becomes overwhelmed by that political element, it is lost.”
A former member of the now-defunct Nationalist Party in Northern Ireland, Friel maintained a nationalist outlook throughout his life. “I do think that the problem will always be exacerbated as long as England is in the country,” he said in “But if England were to go tomorrow morning, that wouldn’t solve it. We still have got to find a modus vivendi for ourselves within the country.”
St Columb’s College Brian Friel was born near Omagh, Co Tyrone, in January Ten years later he moved with his family to Derry. There he was educated at St Columb’s College, following which he spent two years as a seminarian at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth. Trained as a teacher at St Joseph’s College, Belfast, he began teaching in
The Child was his first short story to be published. This was in , when Friel wrote his first play, The Francophile (later renamed A Doubtful Paradise). In BBC Northern Ireland broadcast A Sort of Freedom, and four years later The Enemy Within was performed at the Abbey Theatre. Also in a book of short stories, A Saucer of Larks, was published.
By now Friel was a full-time writer. Contracted by the New Yorker to write short stories, he was handsomely rewarded for his efforts. “They paid such enormous money I found I could live off three stories a year.” He also wrote a weekly column for the Irish Press.
For six months in the early s he observed rehearsals under the distinguished Irish-born director Tyrone Guthrie in Minneapolis, an experience that he found “enabling”, in that it gave him “courage and daring to attempt things”.
Philadelphia, Here I Come! is set in Ballybeg, Co Donegal, and the action takes place the night before a young man, Gar O’Donnell, emigrates to the United States. The play is critical of the stagnant social conditions that cause emigration, but it also rejects the easy alternative of a materially comfortable life away from home. It made Friel’s name in Ireland and internationally.
There followed three plays that explored the theme of love: The Loves of Cass Maguire (), Lovers () and Crystal and Fox ().
The Freedom of the City, from , was set in the Guildhall in Derry, with strong echoes of Bloody Sunday. It was followed, in , by Volunteers, a more oblique and symbolic treatment of Irish history. It did not find favour with all critics. Seamus Kelly of The Irish Times ended his review with the question, “Your point, Mr Friel – your point?”
The New York production of the play opened in , and the following year an adaptation of Philadelphia! Here I Come! was shown on American television. In Faith Healer, with James Mason in the lead role, closed after only 20 performances in New York. It was revived successfully by Joe Dowling at the Abbey in Dublin, however, with Donal McCann giving a stupendous performance in the title role.
In , with the actor Stephen Rea, he founded the Field Day company with the object of making Derry a theatrical centre; an associated literary movement set out to redefine Irish cultural identity in the closing decades of the 20th century. Seamus Deane, David Hammond, Seamus Heaney, Tom Kilroy and Tom Paulin joined the board.
Field Day offered to readers and writers a “fifth province of the mind” in which potential identities for Ireland could be explored outside the constraints of existing traditions while renewing the investigation of the different pasts of Ireland.
Friel did not see Field Day in terms of a united Ireland. “I don’t think it should be read in those terms. I think it should lead to a cultural state, not a political state. And I think out of that cultural state, a possibility of a political state follows. That is always the sequence.”
The Field Day pamphlet series was launched in The three-volume Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, published in , was attacked by revisionists as being nationalist and by feminists for its patriarchal outlook. Field Day subsequently sought to make amends by publishing in a further two volumes, edited by women and devoted to women’s writing.
The cultural commentator Edna Longley was not impressed by this concession to feminism. She remained critical of the “problematic ideological direction into which the whole anthologising enterprise was directed, towards a particular version of Irish history and politics”. By this time Friel was no longer a member of Field Day, having resigned in
Faith Healer opened at the Royal Court Theatre, in London, in The New York production of Translations opened the same year, followed by a production in London. Friel’s version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters also opened, at the Guildhall in Derry.
In Dancing at Lughnasa became the first of Friel’s plays to be premiered at the Abbey Theatre since It represented a return to an autobiographical strand in the stories and plays of his early career. Partly modelled as a memory play on Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, it evoked the lives and fates of his aunts in Glenties.
In the play transferred to the National Theatre in London, and was judged Play of the Year at the Olivier Awards. A film version, starring Meryl Streep and directed by Pat O’Connor, was released in
Other plays include The Communication Cord (), Making History () and Wonderful Tennessee (). Molly Sweeney premiered at the Gate in and two years later was named best foreign play by the New York Drama Critics Circle.
Friel, who always insisted that his plays be performed exactly as written, was increasingly uneasy about the dominant role of directors in the theatre, and he deliberately moved from one theatre to another, choosing a new director with each move. He did not want to be burdened by a house style, which he feared would restrict his freedom and individuality.
“I want a director to call rehearsals, to make sure the actors are there on time and to get them to speak their lines clearly and distinctly,” he said. “I’ve no interest whatever in his concept or interpretation.”
A director should be “obedient” to the play, he believed. Otherwise an “efficient stage manager” would fit the bill. But he did have praise for a “handful of magnificent directors” – Konstantin Stanislavsky, Guthrie, Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook. Seanad Éireann In Friel’s The Home Place won Best Play in London’s Evening Standard Theatre Awards. In Faith Healer made a triumphant return to Broadway. Ian McDiarmid won a Tony Award as featured actor and spoke of his pride in being associated with the play. He echoed many critics and theatregoers when he described it as “one of the most emotionally intricate and musically perfect pieces for the stage in the English language”.
Friel was appointed to Seanad Éireann by Charles Haughey, and served from to He received honorary doctorates from the National University of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, Rosary College, River Falls, Illinois, Magee University and Queen’s University Belfast. He was an honorary fellow of University College Dublin, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
In he presented the archive of his work to the National Library of Ireland. Elected in to membership of Aosdána, the affiliation of creative artists, he was elected a Saoi in He was Donegal Person of the Year in
His wife, Anne Morrison, their three daughters and their son survive him. His was predeceased by his eldest daughter Patricia who died in
Here is an example of a complete essay written on the subject of The Tempest.
‘The Tempest has been seen amongst other things as a statement by Shakespeare about the end of his writing life, as an allegory about the effects of colonialism and as an illustration of the difficulty or real communication. The variety of interpretations of The Tempest show that texts are capable of being explored in different ways.’
Explore The Tempest and your other play in the light of the idea that texts are capable of a ‘variety of interpretations’.
Texts are most certainly capable of being interpreted in different ways, and these interpretations will vary from person to person and in fact, throughout time. For instance, Shakespeare’s contemporary audience would have interpreted ‘The Tempest’ differently than a modern day audience, as morals and ideals have changed dramatically. Similarly, due to the ambiguous nature of Friel’s play ‘Translations,’ this could also be viewed in many different ways and each audience member may apply their own experiences to the situations in the play.
Some people have interpreted the plays ‘The Tempest’ by William Shakespeare and ‘Translations’ by Brian Friel as a means of reflecting the writers’ own views and beliefs. For instance, many critics believe that ‘The Tempest’ was one of the last plays to be written by Shakespeare, and so it has been suggested that the play is a statement by him about the end of his writing life.
Firstly, this may be due to the fact that Prospero seems to be an allegorical figure for Shakespeare himself, particularly through his control over the characters and events in the play, much like a playwright. For example, it was Prospero that ordered Ariel to create the tempest that shipwrecks the characters on the island, and it was Prospero that brought Ferdinand and Miranda together. He also seems to have an element of control over all of the characters in the play in one way or another, whether it be directly or through Ariel. In fact, it could be argued that Prospero controls the characters in the play like pieces on a chess board, which is significant, as Ferdinand and Miranda are ‘playing at chess’ in Act 5, Scene 1. Therefore, whatever is said by Prospero could be interpreted as being what Shakespeare wants to say to the audience.
This includes a speech concerning Prospero’s magic, which could refer to Shakespeare’s writing. During this speech, Prospero states how ‘the great globe itself…shall dissolve’ and that, ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on.’ The reference to the ’globe’ could be alluding to Shakespeare’s theatre, which he knows will fade and eventually vanish. At the time the play was performed in , Shakespeare would have been about 45 years old. Although this does not seem old today, it was considered fairly old in the Jacobean period, and Shakespeare faced competition from younger playwrights. There is evidence in the play to suggest that Shakespeare realised this, which includes Prospero stating, ‘my old brain is troubled’ and how he wishes ‘To still [his] beating mind.’ Therefore, these suggest that Shakespeare is tired of writing and feels it has become ‘insubstantial,’ like the ‘actors’ and ‘baseless fabric’ of a play. Later on in the play, Prospero even states, ‘I’ll break my staff’ and ‘I’ll drown my book,’ which suggests that like Prospero is giving up his magic, Shakespeare is giving up his writing.
In ‘Translations,’ it is unclear which character best represents Friel’s views, as their attitudes vary, which allows the audience to interpret the play in different ways. Some may argue that Friel has included such characters as the Donnelly twins and Doalty to show that violence is the best way to fight against colonisation. For instance, Doalty states: ‘I’ve damned little to defend but he’ll not put me out without a fight. And there’ll be others who think the same as me.’ Some people may see this as heroic and patriotic, and the only way these characters can respond to the English. On the other hand, it could be argued that Friel in fact shows violence to be a negative way to respond, as it simply leads to more and more violence, such as the actions of Lancey in the play and by the IRA today.
It has however been suggested that the character of Hugh reflects Friel’s view most efficiently, as he is a realist character that acknowledges the fact he should hold onto his culture, but also accepts the fact that he must change with the environment around him in order to survive. For instance, although Hugh constantly dismisses the English language and culture, stating how it is used ‘usually for the purposes of commerce’ and it is a language that ‘couldn’t really express’ them, he does attempt to prepare for the future by accepting the job at the new English speaking National School, and acknowledges the fact that ‘a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of…fact,’ if they are unwilling to move forward.
Another interpretation of these plays can be that they are allegories about the effects of colonialism. Colonisation is a contextual issue for ‘The Tempest,’ as many people were travelling to America, or ‘The New World’ at the time the play was performed. In fact, Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition was financed by King James I, and many of the English thought they had a natural right to colonise other countries and their populations.
‘The Tempest’ supports this view, and the character of Caliban indicates how other civilisations were viewed as savages who accepted the fact they were to become slaves to the English colonisers. For example, Caliban is often portrayed as being less than human, and is associated with animalistic imagery, such as, ‘tortoise,’ ‘a fish,’ ‘mooncalf’ and even a ‘monster.’ He is also portrayed as being a ‘natural servant,’ as he does not wish to be free of a ‘master’ in the play, but instead wishes for a better one, and even says to Stephano, ’Let me lick thy shoe.’
Prospero is shown to control Caliban through threats of physical pain and suffering, such as,
‘If thou neglect’st, or dost unwillingly
What I command, I’ll rack thee with old cramps.’
Prospero also controls Ariel, though it is done in a less violent way than that used to control Caliban. Instead, Prospero promises Ariel his freedom in return for his services, such as when he states,
‘Do so, and after two days
I will discharge thee.’
In ‘Translations’, the English treat the Irish in a similar way, and threaten them in order to get them to do what they want. For instance, Lancey states that if George is not found, he will ‘shoot all livestock in Bally Beg,’ ‘embark on a series of evictions and levelling of every abode’ ’until a complete clearance is made of’ their parish.
Although Caliban does what Prospero asks, there is evidence in the play to suggest that Shakespeare was influenced by a contemporary essay called ’On Cannibals’ by Montaigne. This discussed the writer’s views on apparent ‘savages’ in countries not yet colonised. He felt that there was ‘nothing barbarous or savage’ about then, which may be shown by the eloquent language spoken by Caliban. This includes the poetic language spoken in Act 3, Scene 2, where Caliban states,
‘the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs…
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments.’
In fact, the language spoken by Caliban is often more eloquent than that spoken by the ‘civilised’ characters and contrasts to the prose spoken by Stephano and Trinculo. It also shows how Caliban is more concerned with natural beauty than possessions and power, stating, ‘it is but trash’ about Prospero’s cloak.
The colonising characters in both ’The Tempest’ and ‘Translations’ think that their actions are best for those they are forcing their language and culture onto. For instance, in ’The Tempest,’ Prospero and Miranda think that Caliban has benefited from use of their language, which is shown when Miranda states,
‘Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
One thing or another. When thou…
…wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish.’
Similarly, in ’Translations,’ the English think that ‘Ireland is privileged’ to have them come and take over, and they also think that they have the right to order the local people about, shown through the threats Lancey makes to them.
A quote from a Roman general, which is included in the play, sums up the attitude of the English and many other colonisers: ‘It’s easier to stamp out learning than to recall it,’ basically means that it is easier for the English to make the Irish learn their language than to take the time to learn the Irish language and way of life, which is evident throughout the play.
Manus in ‘Translations’ can be compared to the character Caliban in ‘The Tempest,’ as both reject the language of the coloniser. For example, in ’The Tempest,’ Caliban states,
‘You taught me your language, and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!’
Similarly, in Translations, Manus refuses to speak English ’for the benefit of the colonist,’ even though Yolland is a nice person.
Also, both characters are treated like slaves, Caliban by Prospero and Stephano, and Manus by his father, Hugh. This is shown by the way that Hugh speaks to Manus, ‘as if to a footman,’ ordering him to make his tea and fetch ‘a slice of soda bread.’ Both Manus and Caliban receive no signs of appreciation for their work.
Owen and Caliban could even be compared to one another, as their situations with the colonisers are similar. They both complied with the colonisers at first, but later regretted this when they realised that the colonisers were taking over unfairly.
Caliban states how,
‘When thou cam’st first
Thou strok’st me, and made much of me,’
‘And then I loved thee,
And showed thee all the qualities o’th’isle,’ but he regrets this, stating, ‘Cursed be I that did so!’
As well as this, Owen in ‘Translations’ worked for the English, and felt that they were only ‘taking place-names that were riddled with confusion’ and ‘standardising those names,’ not realising that names have culture and history attached to them. Towards the end however, Owen does realise that it was ‘a mistake,’ and appreciates the implications of changing the names, such as the violence it has caused amongst his family and friends.
The two plays have also been interpreted as illustrations of the difficulty of real communication, which is particularly evident in the play ‘Translations.’
In fact, Act 2 Scene 2 is very effective in showing the differences between Maire and Yolland, as Friel has juxtaposed their cultures in order to highlight the difficulty they experience in communicating with each other. This speech shows how not only do they speak different languages, but the two also want different things. For instance, the way they express their love for one another varies. Whereas Maire speaks of the physical aspects she finds attractive, Yolland is more passionate. Also, a huge conflict of interests is revealed when Yolland states how he is ‘not going to leave here,’ and Maire states, ‘Take me away with you George.’ This could therefore be suggesting that the English and the Irish could never communicate properly as they come from different cultures and want different things.
On the other hand, this scene could imply that it is not important for the lovers to understand one another, but that the language barrier can be overcome if they work together to find a common means of communication. It may even suggest that the two need not communicate fully to enjoy their company, which is shown by the way they both state, ‘I love the sound of your speech,’ and by the way they are brought together at the end by stating the Irish place names.
Lancey in ‘Translations’ is another character that effectively shows the difficulty of communication between the English and Irish. An example of this is when Lancey attempts to tell the local people of Baile Beag what his plans are for the town, though he must use Owen to translate so they can understand what he is saying. However, he ‘speaks as if he was addressing children,’ and thinks Jimmy is speaking Gaelic when he is in fact speaking Latin. This shows how the English are ignorant of the Irish language and culture, which makes it impossible to communicate effectively.
Manus is a character that shows difficulty in communication between both English and Irish characters. As he is unwilling to speak English ‘for the benefit of the colonist,’ he cannot speak to them properly, such as when he shouted at Yolland and later realised it was ‘The wrong gesture in the wrong language,’ as Yolland did not even understand what he was saying.
Manus is clinging to his language and culture so much that he fails to recognise Maire’s ambition to move forward. He therefore does not listen to her needs, such as her need for a man to support her, which is why she asked, ‘Did you apply for that job in the new national school?’ This results in Maire becoming frustrated at Manus and ultimately falling for Yolland.
Hugh and Manus also have no form of real communication, as Hugh talks to Manus ‘as if to a footman,’ and sees him more as his servant than his son.
Jimmy is so engrossed in his books that he cannot communicate effectively with any other characters, which leads to him being ridiculed and alienated. For example, as Jimmy is not living in reality, he gives advice on agriculture from Virgil, a poem thousands of years old, stating, ‘Black soil for corn. That’s what you should have in that upper field of yours - corn, not spuds.’ He therefore, gets replies such as, ‘Agh, g’way back home to Greece, son’ and ‘would you take a run at yourself Jimmy Jack Cassie!’
Similarly, in ‘The Tempest,’ Prospero was also engrossed in study of magic, which meant that he failed to detect his brother’s ambition and plotting to usurp him of his position as Duke of Milan. Prospero admits,
‘The government I cast upon my brother,
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies.’
This led to Prospero and Miranda being cast out to sea in the hope that they would die there, which shows how a lack of communication can lead to violence.
The most obvious characters however that seem to have difficulty in communicating are Prospero and Miranda. For example, in Act 1, Scene 2, we see that Prospero is only telling Miranda the reason why she is on the island after 12 years of living there. He states,
I should inform thee father,’
Which makes us wonder why he did not tell her earlier, or why she failed to ask before. He also seems to hide a lot of other things from Miranda, such as the reason he caused the storm. Instead, he tells her there is, ‘No harm’ and states ‘I have done nothing but in care of thee,’ which is unconvincing, as we know that it was actually for his own means entirely. He also does not allow Miranda to see Ariel, but puts her to sleep before calling him.
Throughout this scene, Prospero constantly asks Miranda, ‘Dost thou attend me?’ and ‘Dost thou hear?’ which suggests that it is Prospero always talking and Miranda listening, which is not an effective way to communicate.
Also, the relationship between Miranda and Ferdinand is manufactured by Prospero as a way to aid his own plans, which may cause problems.
The two seem to fall in love at first sight. This could be due to the fact that Ferdinand may think he is marooned on the island with no chance of leaving, and falls for Miranda because he thinks she is a ‘goddess.’ It may also be due to the fact that Ferdinand is the first man outside of the island that Miranda has ever seen, and so she is likely to be fascinated by him.
Miranda also fails to make any connection between her father’s story of betrayal and Ferdinand’s promise,
‘I’ll make you
The Queen of Naples,’ which shows a lack of communication.
Caliban cannot communicate the frustration he feels towards Prospero effectively, which leads to him seeking to ‘violate…the honour’ of Miranda, or in other words, trying to rape her. This again shows how a breakdown of communication can lead to violence.
In conclusion, it has become clear that both ‘The Tempest’ by William Shakespeare and ‘Translations’ by Brian Friel are capable of a variety of interpretations and contain a number of ideas. These ideas can be explored in a range of ways, which results from the ambiguity of each play. The interpretations will also vary from person to person and the significance of these interpretations may depend on contextual issues of the reader.