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A Level Paper 2, Section B The Language of Poetry and Plays
Component 02 is entitled The Language of Poetry and Plays. It is assessed by a closed text, two hour written examination which represents 32% of the qualification. The first section deals with poetry, the second with drama. The questions are equally weighted.
- Show knowledge and understanding of one drama text.
- Use linguistic and stylistic approaches and an understanding of dramatic techniques to develop an analysis of the text.
- Apply relevant methods for text analysis, drawing on linguistic and literary fields.
- Explore contexts and connections between the scene and the play as a whole, as well as literary and generic contexts.
- Explore dramatic techniques such as on-stage and off-stage action, paralinguistic features (gesture/ manner of speech/facial expressions), soliloquy, asides and dramatic irony.
- Analyse aspects of the text foregrounded through the use of repetition, pattern-making, patternbreaking and deviation.
- Identify and describe how meanings and effects are created and conveyed through language.
- Consider the significance of relevant dramatic or other contexts.
- Use English and terminology appropriately and coherently.
- Make accurate references to texts.
It is possible that the drama text will be one of the last components of the course to be studied so learners should come to Translations with some grasp of how to study language and with some awareness of different linguistic terms.
Translations was a moment in theatre when you could feel a relationship between the activity of a single dramatist exploring a theme, and the condition of the country. That play went intravenously into the consciousness of the audiences and the country (Seamus Heaney, quoted in Pine, 1999)
Translations concerns itself with language and identity, and the power that is inherent in allowing or disallowing a native language; it is also focused upon communication in different forms. The history and politics are important, and need to be taught, but Friel himself said that language was, for him, the central issue:
...he constantly worried about turning Translations into a political play, because for him "the play has to do with language and only language. And if it becomes overwhelmed by that political element," he says, "it is lost" ("Extracts," 58-59). What keeps Translations from being overwhelmed by politics is Friel's concern with the problem of the Anglo-Irish language (McGrath, 1999)
A starting point, therefore, may be to consider how drama differs as a communicative form from other forms of text, also as a possible prelude to considering why Friel chose theatre as the medium for his work (he initially wrote short stories). This would involve asking learners to think about the basics of drama, such as:
- The need for a performance space
- The presence of an audience
- The suspension of disbelief
- The constraints of time
- The difference between reading and seeing/hearing drama
A useful resource on ‘The twelve elements of drama’ can be found here. This may help in enabling learners to think about what constitutes theatre.
An easy and basic first exercise could be to ask them to read a scene to themselves, then ask some of the class to read it aloud. Get them to think about the differing understanding of the text they gain from hearing rather than reading it. There is some helpful material on the Skidmore website. Don’t be put off by the fact that the article is written about Arcadia: there is some helpful comment on the nature of performance which can be applied to all drama.
Another possible way to get learners thinking about the significance of genre would be to ask them to take one of the key scenes and re-write it as a prose narrative. What changes? What needs to be added/subtracted? Try reading aloud the prose versions and then return to the dramatic version. Ask them to assess the two different ‘versions’ and to consider which communicates the issues of the scene most powerfully and immediately.
Common misconceptions or difficulties learners may have
Translations does require some knowledge of the history of ‘the Troubles’ in Ireland, in order to make sense of the depth of outrage at the re-naming exercise upon which the play is focused, and to understand some of the events in the play, for example the mysterious activities of the Donnelly twins. Similarly, some understanding of the classical context of Hugh’s speech needs to be present, i.e. the significance of the fact that he is using such archaic speech, rather than focusing solely on understanding the meaning of what he is saying (most good editions of the play will have translations of the Latin and Greek in notes or appendices). Some Gaelic terms will need explanation for the sake of clarity. Students may find the long history of the Irish struggle difficult to grasp fully, and it is important to ensure that they understand that though the play is set in 1833, its context is also the situation in Ireland before and after that date. It is also crucial that Translations, while dealing with a specific historical moment, is not a historical play in the sense of being a documentary. This is something reiterated in critical commentaries on the text, as the following quotation makes explicit:
Friel’s history-plays have in common with most of his work a concern for language, and a grave doubt about the existence or expressibility of an absolute truth. They are also imbued with the spirit of Irish history and literature. ..The impact of history on the psyche of a country has little to do with the facts of history, insofar as they can be established...A historical play is one from which a historical accuracy can be expected...From a history-play, one can expect artistic integrity (Corbett, 2002).
It is thus essential that learners understand that Friel is himself ambiguous about some of the ideas he raises in the play. In the diary he kept while writing Translations, he observed ‘One aspect that keeps eluding me: the wholeness, the integrity of that Gaelic past. Maybe because I don’t believe in it’ (quoted in Pelletier, in Roche, 2006). Students should not assume that Translations clearly argues on one side: there are elements in the play, such as Maire’s desire to escape or Hugh’s comments on the potential ‘imprisonment’ in a dying language , that clearly suggest Friel’s doubts about the idealisation of the Gaelic past.
It should also be emphasised that Friel has been criticised for the historical angle he takes in the play: Sean Connolly, for example, described the depiction of the Ordnance Survey as a ‘hostile caricature’, arguing that the actual historical event of the mapping was assisted by the outstanding Irish scholar John O’Donovan (see historical context for a note on O’Donovan) and that those who carried out the Survey bore no resemblance to the ‘crass colonial paternalism’ of Lancey (Connolly in Peacock, 1992). Friel’s response to such criticisms as those levelled by J.H Andrews in 1983 was deceptively flippant:
I feel very lucky that I have been corrected only for using a few misplaced bayonets, and for suggesting that British soldiers might have been employed to evict peasants. I felt that I had merited more reprimands than that. (Friel in Andrews and Barry, quoted in Connolly, in Peacock,1992)
As Connolly subsequently points out, Friel had ‘little patience with the cavilling of historians who seem to imply that such oppression was not commonplace’; however, Connolly also observes that in marginalising historical accuracy in favour of the demands of drama and the significance of the issues at the heart of the play, Friel may have ‘remained the prisoner of a particular image of the Irish past, an inherited folk history, in ways that actually work against his artistic purposes’ (Connolly in Peacock, 1992).
The Historical Context
Translations is set in the mythical village of Baile Beag in County Donegal. Baile Beag is a location which Friel uses in several plays, for example in Philadelphia Here I Come and Dancing at Lughnasa.
The central focus of the play is a specific historical moment when the British Army are making the first Ordnance Survey map of Ireland, anglicising the Gaelic names in the process. This is part of a two-pronged attack as they are also establishing National Schools which are intended to impose English as the national language (this is the job for which Maire encourages Manus to apply). The play, therefore, is focused upon the significance of language as a marker of cultural identity and the threat to that identity when the language is erased. The advantages for the British in erasing the Gaelic language lay in its connection with Irish nationalism: those taught an ‘Irish’ version of history would also be taught the anger and resentment inherent in the minds and hearts of an oppressed people. Imposing the English language and an ‘English’ education through the new National Schools would ensure an appropriately ‘English version of Ireland and its history was disseminated. In addition to this, the community live with the threat of potato blight – the ‘sweet smell’ to which Bridget fearfully refers – which was a recurrent fear for a country reliant on its potato crop. The play occurs some twelve years before the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-9) which was caused by potato blight, and during which the population of Ireland dropped by over 2 million. Other threats to the community came from eviction and emigration.
Sources for Translations
Friel used accounts of the Ordnance Survey by Colonel Thomas Colby; A Paper Landscape by John Andrews; and John O’Donovan’s work on Irish grammar and language. He also used The Hedge-Schools of Ireland by P. J. Dowling and After Babel by George Steiner. The Ordnance Survey in Ireland began in 1824 and was completed by 1847. Colby became head of the national Ordnance Survey in 1820, appointed to the post by the Duke of Wellington. The first Ordnance survey for Ireland – covering Londonderry – was published in 1833, the year in which the play is set. According to F. C. McGrath (1999), Friel discovered that the ordnance survey team had originally set up its first trigonometrical base in 1828 across the river Foyle from where he was living in County Donegal.
John Andrews’ A Paper Landscape (1975) describes the history of the process of mapping Ireland, and was a key source for Friel. There is a discussion of Friel’s use of the text at the following link, and the article also includes John Andrews’ commentary upon seeing the play:
‘Translations and A Paper Landscape: Between Fiction and History’ (Brian Friel, John Andrews and Kevin Barry, The Crane Bag, Vol. 7, No. 2, The Forum Issue: Education/Religion/Art/Psychology (1983), pp. 118-124.
Friel himself said of A Paper Landscape that ‘here were all the elements I had been dallying withal synthesised in one very comprehensive and precise text. Here was the perfect metaphor to accommodate and realise all those shadowy notions – map-making’ (Barry, 1983, quoted in McGrath, 1999). The literal and metaphorical act of ‘mapping’ is key to Translations. As McGrath (1999) says, ‘These maps established the face of modern Ireland...[this] symbolises a major transition in Irish culture’.
Dowling’s book gives an overview and history of the development and purpose of the hedge-schools, and there is a useful section by John Walsh at the Irish Society website which explains how the hedge-schools were linked to resistance and to an attempt to preserve an Irish and a Catholic identity.
After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, by George Steiner (1975), was Friel’s source for issues of translation:
Steiner provided readers with the first systematic investigation since the eighteenth century of the phenomenology and processes of translation both inside and between languages. Taking issue with the principal emphasis of modern linguistics, he finds the root of the ‘Babel problem’ in our deep instinct for privacy and territory, noting that every people has in its language a unique body of shared secrecy. With this provocative thesis he analyzes every aspect of translation from fundamental conditions of interpretation to the most intricate of linguistic constructions.
McGrath (1999) observes that Friel ‘constructs the intellectual framework of Translations out of the central thesis of After Babel and several of its corollaries. Steiner organises his book around the conviction that all communication, even within a single language, involves translation. The corollaries that Steiner derives from his thesis and that Friel deploys in his plays include lying and concealment as central to language...the relation of language to Eros, the nature and difficulty of translating between cultures, and history as translation from the past to the present’ .
McGrath asserts that Steiner’s work is ‘most crucial’ to understanding the play and that some scenes are even based upon passages from it (for example, Hugh’s reference to ‘a linguistic contour’ comes from Steiner). Steiner’s link between territory, secrecy and language clearly relates to Translations and the way in which language in the play is more than a mode of communication; it is an assertion of self and a protection of cultural territory. Thus violating it becomes a serious act of oppression.
John O’Donovan was a Gaelic scholar recruited in 1830 to work on the Ordnance Survey map of Ireland. He was a linguist and academic who taught at Queen’s University from1847 (the same year as he was called to the Bar) and who remains a major source for Irish linguistics, folklore, genealogies and law texts. He was instrumental in the eventual production of The Dictionary of Irish Language, although this was not produced till some time after his death. His major works are A Grammar of the Irish Language (1845) and Annála Ríoghachta Éireann [Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland] (1848–51). There is more information about O’Donovan on the Library Ireland website.
Field Day Theatre Company
The future of Irish drama...will shape and be shaped by political events...The revolt in Northern Ireland is going to spread to the Republic; and if you believe that art is an instrument of the revolutionary process, then you can look forward to a spate of committed plays (Brian Friel, TLS, 17 March 1972, quoted in Pine, 1999)
Field Day Theatre Company was formed in 1980 by Friel and Stephen Rea, alongside Tom Paulin, David Hammond, Seamus Heaney and Seamus Deane. With the exception of Rea, all had been school or college teachers; three were Catholic (Friel, Deane, Heaney) while the others were from the Protestant community. Friel remained involved with Field Day until 1994. According to Richard Pine, Field Day began with a specific set of aims:
- To bring public attention to the strength of Irish writing;
- To promote the concept of Irishness as an identity;
- To question the authority of unionism;
- To open up debate on the culture and politics of Ireland, by means of what they described as a ‘fifth province’, a metaphorical ‘place’ described by Friel as ‘a place for dissenters, traitors to the prevailing mythologies in the other four provinces’ (Ireland’s Field Day (1985), quoted in Pine, 1999)
Seamus Heaney commented that ‘we thought we could build something of value, a space in which we would try to redefine what being Irish meant in the context of what has happened in the North over the past 20 years, the relationship of Irish nationalism and culture...independent of the British influence...and the equally strong cultural hegemony of Dublin (Observer Magazine, 30 October 1988, quoted in Pine, 1999).
Field Day presented the first performance of Translations at the Guildhall, Derry, on 23 September 1980. The cast contained actors who have subsequently become identified not only with the best of Irish drama but who have also acquired international reputations: Stephen Rea played Owen, Liam Neeson played Doalty, and Ray McAnally played Hugh. Field Day attracted some criticism for what was seen by some to be inaccurate ‘versions’ of Irish history, a charge levelled against Translations:
Literary critic Edna Longley accused it of repeating myths of dispossession and oppression instead of submitting them to critical scrutiny. Historian Sean Connolly concluded that Friel had remained the prisoner of a particular image of the Irish past grounded in a Manichean opposition between ‘a wildly idealised Gaelic culture and an improbably debased and philistine English alternative’ (Pelletier, in Roche, 2006)
Seamus Deane, in the Introduction to the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, responded to such criticisms thus:
In a country like Ireland, where nationalism had to be politically opposed to the prevailing power-systems, there was a serious attempt to create a counter-culture and to define it as authentic to the nation. In doing so, it used historical and archaeological scholarship in a tendentious and polemical fashion. For this, it was rebuked. It distorted the facts of history and reduced literature to propaganda. The review came from groups equally anxious to assert some other position against nationalism – unionism, liberalism, internationalism. The political animus informing all these non—nationalist groups was concealed as much as possible, and the most frequently worn disguise was, in history, the pretence to ‘objectivity’ and in literature the claim to ‘autonomy’. Both words had the magical appeal of not being polemical or political; both were against ‘propaganda’ which pretended to be either history or art (Deane, 1991, quoted in Pine, 1999).
Field Day still exist though they operate primarily as a publishing house. In 2012 they returned to live production after an absence of almost two decades with a double-bill of new plays by emerging Irish playwrights. The Culture Northern Ireland website outlines Field Day’s return to live theatre. The Field Day website is a useful resource on all Field Day productions and also contains links to their academic journal.
The role of naming in Translations
Naming is a kind of owning and a kind of knowing. Name a place and you have a reference; name a number of places and you have a system of relationsl references that can be organised into a map. The map itself can then be given a name – say. Ireland. We have a map of Ireland that contains within its boundaries a number of names and places. The triteness of this is deceptive. So we can take a map of Ireland and re-christen it ‘Eire’ or name the two parts of it that are politically separate by any one or all of their soubriquets. A question arises here. If a place has two names, can’t it be known by either or both? What then is the function of naming? Is it the description of a thing/place? Are these mutually compatible always or it sit the case that one must disagree with the other? If so, a place, in being named, is described in such a way that its identifying features are represented to the namer in a specific manner. (Seamus Deane, in Peacock, 1992)
Naming is central to the plot and the themes of Translations. Naming is a process by which we make sense of the world and each other; to be unnamed is virtually to have no existence, or, at least to be de-individualised. Namelessness can be an act of universal representation – the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey is an example of this, or the Everyman character in the medieval Morality Plays – but such a representation clearly removes individual identity. Namelessness can also be a subversive act – Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, has no name of his own, so he is given the name of a dead son when he is adopted by Mr Earnshaw, but having one name only, not two, contributes to the sense of the character as subverting the ‘norms’ of society. But, more than this, names locate us, connect us, give us a place. Therefore, to forcibly rename is a threatening act, an appropriation of how we define ourselves and who we think we are, particularly if the re-naming involves a shift to a different language which then assumes dominance. Friel wrote in his ‘Sporadic Diary’ that he was ‘reluctant even to name the characters, maybe because the naming-taming process is what the play is about’ (quoted in Jones, 2000). The Irish characters are always referred to by the first names, whereas the English characters are described through their surnames: thus, when Yolland, becomes ‘George’ it is redolent of his attempt to be accepted amongst the Irish. Similarly Sarah’s first words are her own name; when she is unable to to give her name in response to Lancey’s aggressive questioning at the end of the play, it signifies a loss of self and also symbolises the larger threat to Irish identity which Lancey represents.
The significance of ‘Translating’ as a theme
Translations as a title has many different meanings. Of course, it refers to the act of translating language, but there are many other meanings. The latin word ‘translatio’, as pointed out by Alan Peacock (1992), while commonly used to refer to language, can also describe modes of transport, transfer or transformation: changing from one place to another, shifting from one ‘condition’ or state of mind to another. Therefore, translation as a metaphor as well as an act is a key theme in the play. Below are some brief suggestions regarding different manifestations of ‘translation’: learners may want to discuss these and add to them.
- Translating language: Gaelic/English and vice versa.
- Translating place-names, and thus Irish understanding of ‘their’ culture’. This is part of the mapping project.
- Translating people: Yolland is the most obvious example of this, but Maire, Manus, Owen and Sarah are all translated in some way.
- Those who appear not to experience translation in a metaphorical sense include Lancey, Hugh and Jimmy Jack. Students could discuss whether they agree with this, and why these characters remain unchanged.
- Doalty’s translation: from seeming to be a ‘joker’ at the beginning of the play, his role becomes slightly more serious – even sinister – by its end.
- The translation of time. The play is set in 1833 but is resonant for a much wider period of Irish history. The ideas raised in Translations remain relevant, even though it is historical. To what extent has history shown any translation of these issues (the revival in Gaelic as a language and the Irish peace process are examples of topics which can be discussed here).
- Interpretation: ‘facts’ or ‘history’ can be subject to translation through time and through different perspectives. History is subjective, re-told from the point of view of the teller. Thus, for example, the mapping exercise is ‘to advance the interests of Ireland’, according to the document from which Lancey reads, or a ‘bloody military operation’, according to Manus.
There are some details on some productions of Translations on the Prezi website.
The list below is by no means exhaustive, but lists some of the important productions of the play.
1980 Premiere in Derry at the Guildhall
1981 London Premiere at Hampstead Theatre (transfer to National Theatre)
1981 US Premiere at Cleveland Playhouse
1995 Plymouth Theatre, New York
1999 An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
2000 Abbey Theatre, Dublin
2005 Cottesloe Theatre
2007 Biltmore Theatre, New York
2011 Abbey Theatre, Dublin
2013 Millennium Forum, Derry
2014 Sheffield Crucible and Rose Theatre, Kingston, London
Translations has extensive stage directions, particularly at the beginning of the play. The purpose of stage directions is to set the scene, establish certain key themes, ideas and images, and shape the actors’ performances. This exercise is to get learners thinking about the key aspects of drama as a genre, how it relates to other forms of writing in terms of difference and similarity, and the role the playwright has in shaping performance beyond providing the words of the text. It is up to the teacher as to when they think this exercise will be useful: doing it before they have read or worked on the play means they will come to this without any preconceptions, but looking at stage directions later, when they have some grasp of the play’s ideas, may help them make more informed comments about Friel’s purpose.
1. Ask learners to read the stage directions at the beginning of each act and identify what they think are the key points for a) establishing the location b) guiding the actors’ performances c) clarifying the themes of the act and the play. Which of the elements they identify do they think is indispensable to a successful performance of the act and the play as a whole?
2. Ask them to describe the setting as Friel presents it, and then to think about the kind of place they think this is, and the kind of people who use it/inhabit it.
3. Compare with a play which has minimal stage directions. A good example is Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (see resource link). What is the impact of the lack of information compared to the detail given by Friel? Might such a sparse stage and scene setting disadvantage the actors, or might it give them greater freedom of interpretation?
4. Try giving them copies of the first part of Act 1 with the stage directions taken out. Ask them what impact this has on their reading and understanding of the play.
5. The play is mainly set in one location: the school room in Baile Beag. The only exception to this is the scene between Maire and Yolland after the dance. Nesta Jones refers to the setting as establishing this to be ‘an old world in a state of neglect and decay, the people within it struggling to make a living and sustain a culture against all odds’ (Jones, 2000). What problems or advantages are there in having so few settings? Issues which could be considered here include the adaptability of the play for different kinds of theatrical space, the consistency which this provides for the audience, and the intensity this may or may not add to the action of the play (it is worth noting that the Maire/Yolland scene can be played on a darkened stage with minimal need to change sets).
Further reference: See the second resource link for a useful article about the history and use of stage directions.
This activity connects to the exercise on stage directions in encouraging learners to think about questions of form and theme, and how the playwright establishes and then builds ideas as the play progresses.
Translations has a traditional structure of three acts: introduction/exposition, exploration/development/transgression, effect/aftermath. The first resource link provides diagrams which explore the narrative arc of the three-act drama. It is referring to cinema but the structure can equally apply to theatre.
Unlike many three-act plays there is no discernible resolution; Translations leaves a lot of open ends.
1. Ask learners to trace the links, themes and ideas which connect the acts together.
a. Is there a framing device? If so, what is its significance?
b. Can they see any patterns in how the characters behave or develop?
c. In what way is the play’s title signified throughout the action (this can be quite general at this stage: there will be more specific activities to do with the theme of translation).
d. What do they see as the play’s key themes and ideas?
The following resource has some useful material on the play more generally and also on Friel’s storytelling techniques. Katherine Worth’s essay, which is quoted extensively on the ‘Friel’s storytelling techniques: an enabling drama’ webpage, is particularly helpful in identifying key elements of Friel’s approach. Teachers may want to use these as a way to think about technique, structure and narrative development.
[Worth] first mentions his habit of ‘bring[ing] the audience in the auditorium closer to the story-tellers’ (75). By the ‘story-tellers’ she refers to the characters, who are delivering the story written by the playwright to the audience. Friel usually brings them physically close to the audience; however, closer may also mean allowing the audience to relate better to the characters and to create an emotional connection. To deepen this connection, Worth says that Friel uses a second technique which consists in ‘tak[ing] his subjects from history and focus[ing] on big public events’ (76), such an event being the First Ordnance Survey of Ireland in Translations. Picking events that his audience would be familiar with is a way for Friel to make them relate to the story even more. By integrating parts of their history, he involves them directly with the play. Finally, Worth mentions a recurrent ‘sense of doom’ (76) in Friel’s drama: tragedy always threatens.
Close Reading Exercises
These exercises are designed to encourage learners to think about how and why a playwright chooses words, actions, and images to establish their ideas and tell their story. The extracts below are suggestions only; this kind of exercise can be done on any part of the play. Equally, the extract chosen doesn’t have to be long: close reading can be carried out on just one sentence.
Act 1: From Manus: ‘Are the Donnelly twins not coming any more?’ to ‘Manus: ‘My name is Sarah.’
How does this extract explore and illuminate the play’s key themes?
Act 2 Scene 1: From Owen ‘What is happening’ to Yolland ‘You remember it’.
How does this exchange, particularly Owen’s long speech about Tobair Vree, explore and illuminate the play’s key themes?
Act 3: From Maire ‘He left me home, Owen’ to ‘Maire leaves. Silence. Then’.
How does this extract explore and illuminate the play’s key themes?
There are three activities on the role of language in the play, which is the most central element to understanding Translations. Teachers may wish to change the order in which these are carried out, but they begin here with a wider consideration of the role of language, continue in Activity 4 with a closer look at scenes involving Manus, Owen and Yolland, and conclude in Activity 5 with an examination of Yolland and Maire’s ‘love-scene’ (this also includes a section on the character of Maire herself).
The role of language 1
The history of language is often a story of possession and dispossession, territorial struggle and the establishment or imposition of a culture...spoken Irish English...lives freely but it lacks any institutional existence...a language without a lexicon, a language without form...a language that lives lithely on the tongue ought to be capable of becoming the flexible written instrument of a complete cultural idea (Paulin, 1983, quoted in Pine, 1999)
Language is the play’s key element and its most significant focus: Friel himself stated, ‘The play has to do with language and only language’ (quoted in Pine, 1999). Nesta Jones refers to language in the play as ‘the means by which the British Army rapes the land, one culture penetrating the other’ (Jones, 2000). The dominant act of ‘translation’ is the changing of Irish place names to an English equivalent, and the literal ‘mapping’ of these to make such changes official and authoritative. That this act is being carried out by the army is itself significant in terms of understanding the operation of power in the play and how important language is as a symbol of this power. It is also essential to remember that many of the Irish characters are speaking in Gaelic at different times, even if their speech is written in English.
1. Look closely at the scene in Act One when Lancey and Yolland are introduced, beginning ‘Owen enters with Lancey and Yolland’ to the end of the play.
a. What differences are there in the type of language being used by Lancey?
b. Why does Owen translate Lancey’s words in the way that he does (remember, Owen is speaking Gaelic when he translates Lancey’s words). Do you think this is a helpful act, or does it simply mask the actual intent and purpose of the mapping and translation?
c. Lancey is reading some of what he says from a government document. What does this add to our understanding of what is being carried out?
d. Where does power lie in this scene? Does it shift or change?
e. How do you think this scene could or would be staged?
Lancey’s language is formal, as if all he says is ‘read’ even when he is speaking in his ‘own’ voice. His language is also full of complex terms - ‘general triangulation’, ‘hydrographic’, ‘topographic’, and so on. The effect of this is to assert authority – he is using terms which he assumes his audience will not understand – and also to emphasis his assumed role as the educated man speaking to the uneducated. Quoting from a government document is, to Lancey, an unanswerable confirmation of his authority since he recognises and implements the law contained in it; he does not grasp that his auditors may not. Owen’s translation softens the terms of what Lancey is saying; this is partly an attempt to minimise hostility to Lancey and thus to protect his own role in the act of translation, and partly to make what is an act of colonising and appropriation more palatable to his auditors. Unlike Lancey, Owen is likely to understand that British law does not have the meaning for the Irish community that it has for the British Army, and his ‘translating’ is also to make that law seem less harsh, and even, possibly, beneficial. Manus challenges Owen’s translation ‘what sort of a translation was that, Owen?’ – and correctly sees that it is ‘a bloody military operation’.
The concept of power in this scene is an interesting one. Lancey clearly has institutionalised power, but the sniggers of his audience suggest that they are not intimidated by it. Owen has a form of power since he shapes the meaning of what Lancey says to seem more benevolent, but whether this is a good or a bad choice may lead one to question Owen’s use of his ‘power’ in this extract, and his motivations.
One aspect to the staging of this scene is that Lancey in some way takes on the role of teacher and acts as if he is dealing with some particularly stupid children (as when he enunciates slowly). The moment in this extract when the stage directions describe Doalty, Bridget and Sarah as ‘sniggering’ adds to this, as does the ‘lecturing’ tone which Lancey adopts. The fact that the setting is a hedge-school adds to the sense that Lancey, in some way, sees his role here as to educate the ‘uneducated’ community; though this only conceals that this is actually imposition, not education, and they have no choice but to ‘learn’ the new place names.
This activity focuses on the first part of Act 2, Scene 1. This is where we learn of Yolland’s growing fascination with ‘old’ Ireland; we further see Owen’s collusion in the colonising project of changing the place names; and, as the scene progresses, we see the tension develop between the two as Owen expresses impatience with Yolland’s idealism. There are also interventions from Doalty, Hugh and, importantly, Manus.
- Look again at the stage directions establishing the scene. What do we learn has changed between the first act and now (the time difference is ‘a few days later’).
- Describe the relationship between Yolland and Owen from the beginning of the scene through to the entrance of Doalty. Particular moments that could be considered include their attitude towards Lancey; their reaction to Manus and their discussion of him; and the reference to the Donnelly twins.
In this part of the scene, we learn a lot about Yolland in particular. Looking at the patterns of speech, his are the longest speeches in this part of the scene, and he finds it harder to keep focus on the task in hand of changing the place names, especially as he is losing sympathy with the whole project. Yolland’s speech about his family background references another colonial project, the East India Company, and thus reinforces the theme in the play of the exploitation of power and the appropriation of other nations in the pursuit of empire, in which Britain was, of course very much engaged at the time of the play’s setting in 1833. Owen attempts to inject a dose of reality into Yolland’s daydreaming – ‘Don’t be such a bloody romantic. You wouldn’t survive a mild winter here’ – but what emerges from Yolland’s musings is a recognition of Irish culture as not ‘striving or agitated, but at its ease with its own conviction and assurance’ although he also admits, rather poignantly that ‘the language of the tribe will always elude me’. His yearning to be a part of the local culture reflects his own sense of having been ‘a disappointment’ to his father and thus the notion that moving to Baile Beag will give him a direction that he has, so far, lacked. However, his over-idealisation of Baile Beag and of Ireland is ironic in view of his presumed fate.
Manus’s role in this extract is intriguing. He is present for much of it, but says very little, yet his presence is unsettling.
- Why does Manus persist in speaking Gaelic throughout this extract?
- What does he mean when he says to Yolland, ‘I understand the Lanceys perfectly, but people like you puzzle me?’ (remember he says this in Gaelic).
- What does he mean when he says ‘But there are always the Rolands, aren’t there?’
There is a veiled aggression in Manus’s attitude to both the other characters in this extract. He ignores Owen’s request to speak English for the benefit of Yolland – ‘out of courtesy’, as Owen puts it – and his question to Yolland - ‘Don’t you want to learn Irish?’ – is couched almost as an accusation. One might also speculate that when Yolland speaks of Maire to Owen, Manus is only upstairs and could potentially have overheard.
As a companion analysis, learners can also study the final part of the scene from Hugh’s exit through to the end. Here we see a change in the relationship of Owen and Yolland and also a significant shift in Owen’s attitude when he rejects the name of Roland which has been given to him by the British Army. As this part of the scene also involves the re-entry of Manus it offers opportunities to evaluate any change in Manus’s behaviour. At this point he has been offered the opportunity to start a hedge-school on the island of Inis Meadhon on a good salary , so he is elated, but there is a moment of tension when he asks Maire, ‘How will you like living on an island?’ and she does not reply, instead responding to Owen’s question ‘You know George, don’t you?’ This points towards Maire’s growing fascination with Yolland and also foreshadows the possibility that Manus has something to do with Yolland’s disappearance in Act 3.
This activity has two parts. The first part focuses on Act 2, Scene 2, and the second on Maire’s role in the play.
Act 2, Scene 2 explores the potential romance between Yolland and Maire and also the dangerous implications of such a romance. The suggested setting implies a conventional romantic image of a moonlit countryside, with soft music. The scene then destabilises this romantic imagery by showing the difficulties of communication and the problems of translation.
Learners must remember that throughout this scene the two main protagonists are speaking a different language even though the speech of both is presented in English. Friel uses patterning and balance in the speech to reflect that this is in some ways not a ‘natural conversation’:
Maire: The grass must be wet. My feet are soaking.
Yolland: Your feet must be wet. The grass is soaking.
Here both characters are saying something similar, but crucially not the same. This picks up on the earlier narrative of the translation of the place-names, where the English versions are similar to, but also significantly different from, the Gaelic originals. Maire’s comment is about herself, whereas Yolland’s is about Maire, which reflects his romantic pursuit. One additional element here is the extent to which Maire is representative to Yolland of his ‘romance’ with rural Ireland: his interest in her is in part an extension of the growing ‘love’ of the country which has been described in Act 2, Scene 1. Maire’s recourse to Latin – a language described as ‘dead’ or ‘archaic’, much as Gaelic was assumed to be during the period of colonisation – is a misplaced further attempt to communicate, as Yolland still thinks she is speaking Gaelic, and ultimately they both attempt to use English, with a references to the key elements ‘water, fire, earth’ (though not air). As the scene develops, Friel returns us to the issue of the place-names, with both finding a communication through the original Irish place-names that are being erased, such that it becomes an ‘antiphonal duet’ (Jones, 2000). This is symbolic as both can ‘understand’ what is being said; they then revert to the phrases of romantic courtship, though still in different languages, but suggesting that the language and mood of romance transcends the misunderstanding, such that both say ‘I know what you’re saying’. The intervention of Sarah’s entrance is another apparently conventional romantic trope, as the would-be lovers are caught in a transgressive embrace.
- How does the balance of power shift and change as the scene progresses?
- Does Friel destabilise the conventions of romance he uses? Or does he simply use them in a different way?
- To what extent is each of the two protagonists representative to the other of some kind of desired or ideal life (remembering that Maire wants to leave, while Yolland wants to stay).
- Why does Sarah react as she does, particularly in view of the fact that her concern seems to be with the implications of what she has seen for Manus, rather than for herself, the would-be lovers, or anyone else?
Part 2 The role of Maire in Translations
Following on from the examination of the scene between between Yolland and Maire, learners could consider the role of Maire in the play as a whole (there will be an opportunity to think about Yolland further on).
Teachers may want to reverse the order in which these two activities are carried out, by looking at Maire and then the love scene. Either will work.
Maire is the most important female character in the play, and as such provides opportunities for considering the treatment of gender and the role of women as portrayed at the time the play is set and in recent Irish history, to which much of the play speaks. The stage directions before her first appearance foreground her character: ‘Maire enters, a strong-minded, strong-bodied woman in her twenties’. Elmer Andrews comments thus on Maire:
...Maire is the play’s principal spokesperson of the forces of modernisation. Reacting against the shared norms, she wants to see English replace Gaelic. She sees knowledge of the English language as a means of escape from limited perspectives...For her, English opens the doors to America and the promise of material and economic advantage. She advocates a break with the prescribed, ceremonialised behaviour patterns, with the old ties of loyalty and authority, with the old sacral view of history (Andrews, 1995).
Maire’s desire to escape is reflected in her attitude to Manus and in the romance she begins with Yolland. Her lack of interest in Manus is based on his absence of ambition: a close reading of the exchange between them in the first act, beginning with Maire asking him ‘Did you apply for that job in the new national school’? reveals this. Further on in the same scene, Maire’s rejection of Manus ‘You talk to me about getting married – with neither a roof over your head nor a sod of ground under your foot’- comes just before the entrance of Lancey with Owen and Yolland, so is a pivotal moment, as the stage direction states that ‘Maire moves away from Manus’. Her dismissive attitude towards the fear of potato blight is also indicative of her wish to break with tradition, even the traditional fears of her community:
There was never blight here. Never. Never. But we’re always sniffing about for it, aren’t we? – looking for disaster. ...God, some of you people aren’t happy unless you’re miserable and you’ll not be right content until you’re dead!
Her reference to ‘you people’ indicates that she already sees herself as somehow separate, that she has already rejected the community for lacking ambition, as well as Manus.
In the first act, we are also made aware that Maire sees no harm in ‘using’ the soldiers to help her: she refers to ‘the English soldiers, below in the tents, them sapper fellas’ as coming to give a hand with the hay; she follows this with ‘I don’t know a word they’re saying, nor they me, but sure, that doesn’t matter, does it?’ This last comment might be seen as pointing towards the love scene between herself and Yolland; indeed, it might foreground that entire brief relationship. It also shows Maire’s lack of sentimentality, her practicality, but her action in asking the soldiers to help could potentially be seen by her community as a betrayal, as the relationship with Yolland might also be perceived. Some historical context can be linked here to the ‘tarring and feathering’ carried out on women who had ‘consorted’ with soldiers during the period of the Troubles in the 1970s: see the ‘Public humiliation that was all too familiar during troubles’ article.
Maire is not subjected to such ‘punishment’, but her appearance in the final scene suggests the extent of the impact that these actions have had. Unlike her first entrance, in this moment she is bareheaded, ‘her hair in disarray’, attempting to appear ‘normal’ but ‘on the verge of being distraught’. In both entrances she is carrying the milk-can, which links them together. Her long, rambling speech to her largely silent auditors is partly a recounted version of the conversation with Yolland, but one in which she is recalling the place-names of Yolland’s home, not the Irish names which had been the currency of their conversation the night before. That no one responds to her during the course of the speech may signal both the awareness in the room of what might have happened to Yolland, and also the way in which Maire’s actions have created a schism between herself and the others. The desire to leave for America is again referenced – ‘ I hope to God there’s no hay to be saved in Brooklyn’ – but it is her final words which are most poignant – ‘It didn’t last long, did it?’ This is ostensibly a reference to Nellie Ruadh’s baby but clearly can be seen as an oblique gesture to her relationship with Yolland, and possibly her dreams of escape: when she re-enters just before the end of the play, she says to Hugh that ‘I set out for somewhere but I couldn’t remember where. So I came back here.’
Her dialogue with Hugh and then with Jimmy Jack provides clues to her changed role in the community and to the alienation she has, possibly, brought upon herself. She tells Hugh she ‘needs’ to learn English, possibly as a way of keeping Yolland and her dreams of escape alive in her mind, if not in reality. Hugh agrees to teach her but asks her ‘will this help you to interpret between privacies?’ Hugh’s comment points out that language is much more than knowing the words and grammatical constructions: as a symbol of culture, it is about hidden meanings, nuances, knowledge which may only be available to those who have grown up with it (as Yolland himself recognised in his desire to learn Gaelic). Whether learning English can make Maire part of ‘another’ tribe and enable her to fit into America, or anywhere else, is something the play leaves unanswered, although Jimmy Jack’s final speech on endogamy and exogamy might seem to suggest one answer to the mystery of Yolland’s disappearance, and thus the ending of that particular dream. The metaphorical reference to Athene and himself clearly suggests that Jimmy Jack sees the relationship with Yolland as untenable, even if he were to return. Thus Maire’s rejection of the ‘old’ ways is translated into action that might have led to her own ostracism and been instrumental in Yolland’s fate.
- Of all the Irish characters in the play, Maire is the most ambitious. What can this tell us about Friel’s deployment of gender in the play?
- What is the significance for Maire of America at this time (1833)?
- How far do you agree that Maire is irrecoverably alienated from the Baile Beag community at the play’s end? Could the ending rather signify her re-integration, even though she still desires to learn English?
Moving on from language, this gives learners the opportunity to focus on character and power in the play. The denial of language and the operations of power are intertwined in Translations: learners can use this exercise to think about shifts in power in scenes and dialogue, and to consider who has power and when this manifests, how it might change throughout the play, and how and why some are rendered powerless. They may also want to consider whether there are different kinds of power on display in Translations: Lancey represents one version – are there others?
Lancey has a fairly small but very significant role in Translations. As the chief agent for implementing the government ‘white paper’ on mapping and place-names, he is the centre of institutionalised power. However, he also has a role in enabling us to understand Yolland a little further.
- Compare Lancey’s language and behaviour from the first time he appears to inform the community about the name-changes to his final appearance when he speaks of Yolland’s disappearance, and makes threats to the community.
- Owen translated for Lancey in Act 1. What difference is there in his attitude to translating in Act 3 (see the stage direction ‘Lancey indicates to Owen to translate. Owen hesitates, trying to assess the change in Lancey’s manner and attitude’). In addition to this, has Lancey’s attitude to Owen changed, and if so, why?
- How does Friel use Lancey to inform us more fully about Yolland’s background and character?
- Is Lancey the ‘villain’ of the play? Or is he simply a man trying to do his job?
Lancey’s language, while still clipped as in his first appearance, is much more hostile in the final Act and the power he wields is much more open and evident. For example, he refers to Doalty as ‘that lout’ and his demand that Sarah tell him her name is so aggressive that he renders her unable to speak. He seems to perceive Owen now as ‘one of them’ rather than as ‘one of us’, as indicated when he says to Owen, ‘You carry a big responsibility in all this’. His total confidence in what he is doing and the absence of any ambiguity is highlighted when Yolland describes his likeness to Yolland’s own father: ‘not only must the job be done- it must be done with excellence.’ Friel’s use of imperatives suggest the absolute certainty of Lancey; and because the play is presented from the perspective of the Irish community, Lancey appears a totally unsympathetic character. Is there any way of considering him as someone simply trying to do a job as well as he can – albeit a job which most readers and audiences would find appalling? Sean Connolly has commented that ‘Captain Lancey...is not intended to represent the true face of the army of the 1830s’ but that he represents ‘a particular tradition of British military administration’ (Connolly in Peacock, 1992), presumably one that prioritises efficiency over sensitivity, at least in terms of the way in which he is characterised in Translations. Friel himself said that ‘I don’t want to write a play about Irish peasants being suppressed by English sappers’ (quoted in Pine, 1999), but is that, in fact, what Translations is?
The next two activities focus on relationships in Translations. This activity considers the main family relationship in the play, and links back to previous activities in terms of the way in which power operates within the family structure and also to the divisions within families highlighted by the impact of the Ordnance Survey.
There are many different relationships in Translations, and the play uses them to show the cultural divides and tensions that exist in a colonised country. At the centre is the family triangle of Manus, Owen and Hugh. Owen is the one who left or ‘escaped’, but who has also become a cultural outsider because of his participation in the mapping project. Manus, who is lame, has taken responsibility for his aging father but has become trapped by this and his love for Maire. Hugh’s role is a complex one. He is a teacher and an emblem of the past, but he also recognises that the past may have to be sacrificed – indeed, may need to be sacrificed, as he suggests in dialogue with Yolland:
‘I understand your sense of exclusion, of being cut off from a life here; and I trust you will find access to us with my son’s help. But remember that words are signals, counters. They are not immortal. And it can happen – to use an image you’ll understand – it can happen that civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of...fact.’
Hugh’s comments here are revealing in the context of a play so much concerned with words, with the importance of naming. He suggests that words are mutable, not set in stone; as ‘signals’, they can also indicate the need for change, rather than the need to keep the status quo. Hugh’s final sentence also recognises that Gaelic – like his beloved Latin – may no longer have a place in a modern world where English is the dominant
‘...it is not the literal past, the ‘facts’ of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language...we must never cease renewing those images, because once we do, we fossilise’.
- Look at Hugh’s speeches quoted above in the context of his behaviour and his perspective throughout the play. Is he right?
- Consider this speech alongside Hugh’s reminiscence to the sleeping Jimmy Jack near the end of the play, beginning ‘The road to Sligo’. At the end of this speech, Hugh says ‘Our pietas, James, was for older, quieter things.’ This may seem to be an argument for the preservation of the past, but Hugh is in fact recalling non-participation in a battle, the desire for safety and familiarity, rather than for violent revolution. At the same time, that they attempted to take part in the 1798 uprising gives them a kind of heroic ‘moment’ which both links to the classical heroes Hugh invokes and also allows an easier acceptance of reality.
- The lights go down on Hugh’s final speech. It is a speech about a people and a culture about to be taken over by a race who are ‘kings of broad realms and proud in war.’ Hugh clearly struggles to remember the story. What is the significance of both the story itself and Hugh’s inability to recall it?
- Trace the relationship between Manus and Owen throughout the play. Owen connects with Yolland more effectively than with his own brother: why is this?
- Similarly, how does Friel present the relationship between Manus and Hugh, and Owen and Hugh? Manus clearly has concern for his father but at the same time seizes the chance to leave when he is offered the job at the other hedge-school. He won’t compete with his father for the job in the National School, and leaves abruptly after the disappearance of Yolland. His concern for his father is still evident but he still goes, even when Owen warns him that it will arouse the army’s suspicions in view of the disappearance of Yolland. Is he just seizing an opportunity or is there more behind his departure? Similarly at the end of the play, the extremity of Lancey’s threats seem to have reconnected Owen with his community: he goes in search of Doalty, though for what purpose is not made clear.
This activity focuses on a different kind of relationship through considering the role and symbolism of Yolland. Yolland is the romantic figure in the play and his disappearance adds an element of ‘whodunit’ to Translations. He is probably the closest to a heroic figure amongst the characters and this makes Friel’s decision to remove him surprising, even shocking. That we are never clear about the nature of his fate adds to the absence of closure in the play.
Manus is the obvious suspect in Yolland’s disappearance (or murder), because of the rivalry over Maire, and because he describes to Owen that he had intended to ‘fell’ Yolland (note that he does not say kill), but just before he leaves he attempts to reassure Sarah, his informant on the growing romance between Maire and Yolland, that ‘it’s alright – you did no harm’, and the stage direction states that he kisses the top of her head ‘as if in absolution’. Is this an attempt by Friel to ‘throw us off the scent’, or an implied assurance that Manus is not involved in the disappearance? The other key suspects are the invisible Donnelly twins, who seem more ‘likely’ simply because we never see them and therefore develop no connection with them, and also because they are described throughout the play in veiled, threatening terms. There is always the option to decide that Yolland is not dead, but his disappearance, particularly in view of his feelings for Maire, makes no sense.
Anthony Roche describes ‘What happened to Yolland?’ as the second most persistently raised question at a symposium on Translations in 2007, where the director of the 2007 production, Garry Hynes, was being interviewed. It is described in The Irish Times as follows: ...a hand shot up. ‘What happened to Yolland?’ a woman asked sharply. Hynes hesitated; the ambiguity surrounding the disappearance of Yolland...is vital to the desperate power and poignancy of Friel’s ending, epitomising as it does both the futility and the inevitability of human silence...Eventually, a distinctly uncomfortable-looking Hynes confided that Yolland was most likely at the bottom of the lake. (McKeon, ‘The Language Barrier’, The Irish Times, 2007, quoted in Roche, 2011)
- Why do you think Hynes was ‘uncomfortable’ at being asked this question?
- Does it matter if Yolland is dead or alive? Is it simply his sudden absence which is important?
- The interest in the fate of Yolland suggests that the romantic plot involving Maire and himself particularly catches the audience’s imagination. Why does Friel use this device of the romantic plot? What does it add to the play? Could the play work without it?
- Why does Friel take out Yolland, rather than Lancey, or one of the Irish characters?
Yolland is probably the most expansive character in terms of his own background and his feelings, so it is unsurprising that the audience engage closely with him, and therefore significant that Friel chooses him for removal; Yolland’s disappearance and the audience’s sense of loss is another destabilising factor in the conclusion of the play. At the point where we as the audience are developing a connection with a character, at the point where he is beginning to occupy a familiar ‘heroic’ role in the story, he is no longer there and we don’t have the satisfaction of knowing why. The solution as to ‘whodunit’ also has implications: if the audience assumes the Donnelly twins, then his disappearance/murder is political; if alternatively Manus is suspected, then it’s the familiar love triangle. And, as with all good whodunits, the culprit may not be the obvious one; or Yolland may even have perished as the result of an accident. In addition, as Nesta Jones suggests, Yolland must also take some blame for the resulting threats by Lancey to Baile Beag: ‘His unthinking ‘leap across the ditch’ with Maire has probably killed him and may well result in the deaths of many more’ (Jones, 2000). Romance and idealism are dangerous when the consequences in such a tense environment are not considered. Most importantly, the choice to remove him enables Friel to re-emphasise the theme of erasure: Yolland is ‘erased’ from the play as the Irish place-names are being erased from the map. It also re-emphasises the importance of words: Sean Holmes, who directed the play in 2005, commented that ‘everything is slanted and open to interpretation because we haven’t witnessed what actually happened. In that perhaps centuries of Anglo-Irish relations are encapsulated! Everything is a story, a possibility’ (quoted in Roche, 2011).
These are lesser characters in terms of the action but they still have important symbolic and actual roles. Learners can be asked to consider the roles played by these characters and what they contribute to the action and the themes.
Jimmy Jack: Known as the Infant Prodigy, fluent in Latin and Greek, he is first seen at the play’s opening reading Homer in Greek. For Jimmy, speaking in Latin and Greek is a normal part of everyday life, therefore for him, these are not dead languages, but are very much alive. As the stage directions affirm, ‘ For Jimmy, the world of the gods and the ancient myths is as real and as immediate as everyday life in the townland of Baile Beag’: in Act 1 Scene 1, in dialogue with Manus, Jimmy talks of choosing between three Greek goddesses as if they were local girls. However, as a bachelor in his sixties, he has retreated into a fantasy world as a way of engaging with modernity. He claims to know one word of English and his role may be to exemplify that which Hugh identifies as a danger: that an outdated language disables a culture from progressing. Jimmy may also supply a clue as to the fate of Yolland. At the end of the play, he explains to Maire the difference between the Greek words endogamein and exogamein – to marry within and outside the tribe: ‘And you don’t cross those borders casually - both sides get very angry’. Jimmy’s speech thus hints that Maire and Yolland’s transgressive relationship may have encouraged someone from the Baile Beag community to intervene by killing Yolland.
Sarah: Sarah is part of another love triangle, involving Manus and Maire. Throughout the play she is largely silent due to her speech impediment and communicates mostly through signs. She is clearly in love with Manus but he is oblivious to this, though he is obviously fond of her and is trying to teach her to speak. However, Sarah has a crucial role in the fate of Yolland, and by extension Maire. It is Sarah who walks in on the two in an embrace and who tells Manus: this is confirmed when, just before he leaves, Manus says to her ‘it’s alright – you did no harm at all’. The impact of what might be seen as Yolland’s thoughtless pursuit of Maire – and, by extension, Sarah’s intervention - is shown when Lancey demands her name and she is unable to frame a response. Owen ‘translates’ for her; it is also significant that at this stage of the play, Owen uses the Irish name for Sarah’s home and then changes it to the ‘new’ English version for Lancey’s benefit. This is indicative of the level of Lancey’s threat – Owen appeases him by using the English name – but also of the possible reconnection of Owen with the community he left, now it is in such serious danger. Sarah’s role has also been linked to the mythical figure of Cathleen ni Houlihan (Seamus Heaney, quoted in McGrath, 1999), the name given to a symbolic feminine identity for Ireland and Irish nationalism, further suggesting that Sarah ‘stands for’ Ireland in Translations, although ni Houlihan was normally depicted as an old rather than a young woman.
Doalty and Bridget: Doalty and Bridget operate as a connection between the characters in the hedge-school and the wider Baile Beag community. In the first few minutes he is onstage, Doalty is clearly involved in a number of small rebellious acts against the occupying British forces: he admits to moving the theodolite. He also, it is implied, has some knowledge of the Donnelly brothers; at the beginning of the play, Manus asks him ‘Where are they then?’ to which he responds ‘How would I know?’ although he knows they are not currently at home. However, by the end of the play, it is implied that he knows more than he admits. Manus asks both Doalty and Bridget if they saw Yolland after he took Maire home and his quick response – ‘We know nothing’ – suggests that he does, indeed, know something. Bridget also refuses to answer any more and suggests Manus ask the Donnelly twins. The subsequent dialogue between Manus and Doalty confirms that he knows more than he admits: when Manus asks if the Donnellys were ‘about last night’, Doalty responds ‘Didn’t see them if they were’, which is not a very convincing response; he later admits to having seen their boat on the beach. It is Doalty who ‘casually’ informs Lancey that his camp is on fire, and he is the only character who articulates the futility of the mapping exercise: ‘And after all the trouble you went to, mapping the place and thinking up new names for it.’ His reference to the fact that the Donnelly twins know how to fight, how to defend themselves, implies that he is likely to involve himself in their activities as ‘I’ve damned little to defend but he’ll not put me out without a fight’. His final word on this - ‘Give me a shout after you’ve finished with Lancey. I might know something then’ develops this possibility and the fact that this is addressed to Owen suggests that he, too, may be drawn into guerrilla activity to defend the community from Lancey’s punitive actions.
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