Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Historical and Colonial Context of Brian Friel’s Translations Essay

The Historical and Colonial Context of Brian Friels TranslationsRegarded by many as Brian Friels theatrical masterpiece, Seamus Deane described Translations as a sequence of events in history which are transformed by his writing into a parable of events in the present day (Introduction 22). The play was first produced in Derry in 1980. It was the first production by Field Day, a pagan arts group founded by Friel and the actor Stephen Rea, and associated with Deane, Seamus Heaney and Tom Paulin.As Deane asserts, the play is in many respects an intelligent and enlightening metaphor for the situation in Northern Ireland. The aims of raising cultural awareness and dispelling socio-political apathy in the North were central to the objectives of the Field Day group. However, despite Friels concerns with contemporary Ireland, the play is also an enchanting fictive depict of the Irish experience of British colonialism. My aim in this page is to firmly place Translations within its historic al context, in order to understand the representation of colonialism in the play and to facilitate further post-colonial readings.Translations may be located both temporally and spatially to a fixed point in Irish history. The characters fare from Baile Beag, renamed with the anglicised title of Ballybeg. The action of the play occurs over a number of days towards the end of August 1833. Before delving into the play it is clear, from these most general of points, that the mise-en-scene of Translations is a conclusion of great significance in the colonial relationship between Ireland and England.The lifetime of Hugh and Jimmy Jack, the sixty years or so running up to 1833, aegir witness to many important events in the metamorphosis of Ireland from a rural Gaelic society to a modern colonial nation. To go back another(prenominal) seven decades, in 1704 penal laws were enacted which decreed that a Catholic could not hold any office of state, nor stand for Parliament, vote, join the army or navy, occupation at the bar land (Kee Ireland A History 54). Thus, by 1778 a mere five per cent of the land of Ireland was owned by Catholics. The Irish race (most notably Catholics, though Protestants also) such as those portrayed in Translations suffered severe discrimination, poverty and hardship.The French Revolution of 1789 jolted Irish political thinking into a new fr... ... to speak English and every subject will be taught through English (396).Maires desire, at the opening of the play, to speak English shall short be enforced by law throughout the National Schools in Ireland. Where Dan OConnell and Maire both assumed the use of English would allow progress towards their several(prenominal) national and personal dreams, Hugh believes that English was simply for commerce but that it couldnt really express us (the Irish) (418). He realised that the use of Gaelic, of remaining unbent to their own traditions was a method of resisting colonialism, our only method of replying to .... inevitabilities (418).Perhaps the most ironic passage in the play appears during a conversation between Yolland and Hugh. Hugh indulges himself the buoyant position of condescending to the young soldier, dismissing William Wordsworth (and by implication English Literature)Wordsworth?.... No Im afraid were not familiar with your literature, Lieutenant. .... We tend to degenerate your island (417).Poignantly, within a relatively short period of time the poetry of Wordsworth, and of the English canon, would be read and recited by the majority of children in Ireland.

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