How does the presentation of the demise of Ireland differ in Friels plays Translations and Making History
Friel’s presentation of the demise of Ireland differs in responsibility and blame, but can be similar in reasons for the demise. However, even common themes have minor differences when examined in form, structure and language. Friel examples his views on why Ireland fell to the English in the respective time periods of both plays via the characters.
For example, in Making History, Friel blasts O’Neill’s ineptitude, with Jimmy Jack praised in Translations: “Harry: A letter from the Lord Deputy- / O’Neill: They really transform the room” O’Neill is more concerned with Spanish broom than matters with the English, symbolising how he is focused on nurturing Spain as opposed to his own people. This astounding care for appearance of the room also symbolises his preference to further his own status, exampled by his “dilemma”.
Contextually, the Spanish were enemies of the protestant English during the 16th Century, and thus Friel is communicating the ineptitude of O’Neill, who was more concerned about himself, as well as relations with Spain than his own people and struggle. This is emphasised by O’Neill cutting off Harry in mid-sentence, showing the sheer nonchalance of his ineptitude.
In stark contrast, Friel praises Jimmy Jack, with the opening text referring to him as the “Infant Prodigy”, highlighting the intellectual prowess of one who later states: “And the word exogamein means to marry outside the tribe. And you don’t cross these borders casually – both sides get very angry” Firstly, the use of the Greek “exogamein” highlights his sophistication and gives credence to Jimmy. Secondly, the idea of “tribes” is ironic as it references how Ireland used to be.
Crossing the borders is portrayed not as betrayal, as “both sides get very angry” suggests it is taboo for the receiving end, therefore being desertion not of just your society but individual heritage. The emphasis on Jimmy’s intellectuality examples Friel’s approval, and there is even parallelism with Making History: the idea of crossing “casually” can be seen as a direct criticism of O’Neill and how he is more concerned with appearance and relations with Catholic Spain, than the plight of Ireland.
Overall, Friel uses characters to present the demise in both plays, but highlights the intellectual prowess of Jimmy, and farcicality of O’Neill, to present the demise of Ireland as more the fault of the Irish leaders in Making History, whilst praising the Irish in Translations. Friel uses the concept of history differently in the plays. In Translations history is used to reference a dream world in which cultures can co-exist. In Making History, history emphasises heroism, or ironically the lack of.
For example, Hugh says: “it was the goddess’s aim and cherished hope that here should be the capital of all nations – should the fates perchance allow that” the lexical field of supernaturalism is employed by Friel to imply that such a “capital of all nations” is beyond reality, and this use of religion in bringing people together is similar to Catholicism bringing Ireland and Spain together in Making History, suggesting that a lack of a unified European religion is to blame for Ireland’s downfall in both instances. The caesura puts emphasis on “should the fates perchance” with “perchance” communicating rarity.
However, Making History blames individual heroism in Making History, with O’Neill stating: “That’s why the great O’Neill is here – at rest – here – in Rome. Because we ran away” repetition of “here” in reference to Rome, the home of the Vatican, aided by caesuras and the sentence ending with Rome, emphasises how Ireland has been deserted by Catholicism, contextually aided by the treaty between England and Spain. Sarcasm is used in “great O’Neill” to mock the concept of his heroism being thrown forward by Lombard to be historical.
The words coming directly from O’Neill emphasises this. Furthermore, there is a structural similarity in that both of these historically-minded quotes feature at the end of their respective plays, finality emphasising Friel’s suggestions, as well as symbolising the prior events being a reflection of history. Overall, in Translations, that reflection is geared on the failure of cultural co-existence, whereas in Making History, the concept of individual heroism. Friel’s presentation of the demise is similar in his critique of cross-fertilisation. For example, “Mabel: Is that bad? the significance of this being a question is to highlight Mabel’s lack of understanding about what she is getting herself into by forming an Anglo-Irish relationship.
Furthermore, the childlike ineptitude of Mabel gains the audience’s sympathy: a review from the Irish Times states: “, however, you are inundated by a huge backwash of tragic romance. ” The backwash is evident in the structure of the play as O’Neill’s “uncharacteristically outgoing and talkative” attitude is lost post-Mabel: “O’Neill: (Furious again) Out! Out! Tell me when the hell my accommodating wife is ever in! (Softly) Sorry. The stage directions show fury, followed by sadness, exampling the loss’ force and tragedy respectively. Furthermore Friel uses “hell”, communicating that Mabel has done wrong. Moreover O’Neill being “uncharacteristic” under Mabel references how cross-fertilisation affects people. Tragedy is evident in Translations: “Manus: (again close to tears) But when I saw him standing there at the side of the road – smiling – and her face buried in his shoulder” Manus represents Irish men (his name is a culmination of “man” and “us”), thus crying represents Ireland weeping over the Anglo-Irish relationship.
Furthermore, “face buried in the shoulder” symbolises Ireland conceding itself to England. Yolland and Maire’s relationship is not so much a tragic downfall as a gross misunderstanding: “Yolland: I would tell you… / Maire: Don’t stop – I know what you’re saying” Maire believes she understands Yolland, past the language barrier, the complementation of each other’s speech convincing the audience of this, Friel putting the audience in the situation. However, later: “Maire: Will you, Master? I must learn it.
I need to learn it. ” Maire demonstrating a need to learn English emphasises that she never truly understood it in the first place. Thus, Friel criticises “cross-fertilisation” and how it makes Ireland weep by highlighting the tragic ineptitude of partners in both plays, but in Making History this is done through a downfall, as opposed to the sheer misconceptions in Translations. There is similarity in how Friel presents the idea of class dominance as a motive for domination of Ireland in both plays.
It is important to note that Translations occurred in the early 20thCentury, and as Kieran Flanagan’s critique of Friel mentions: “Ireland in the nineteenth century became a social laboratory for modernisation, for bureaucratic experimentation in a vast range of areas, such as lunacy, Poor Law, education, and the census, to name a few, when similar forms of state intervention were more restricted in English society. Ballybeg was to become the victim of these endeavours to bureaucratise and to re-order the cultural landscape. The bureaucracy seeping into rural Ireland is evidenced by Doalty: “Prodding every inch of the ground in front of them with their bayonets and scattering animals and hens in all directions! ” The use of bayonets, tools, examples modernisation, with the verb “prodding” communicating its forceful nature. Scattering animals references the destruction of the countryside. The problem of bureaucracy is evident in Making History, as O’Neill holds an “upper-class English accent”, who Friel criticises for Ireland’s demise, as aforementioned, attempts to be upper-class.
Thus despite differing time periods, in both plays Friel attributes bureaucracy to the downfalls of Ireland. In conclusion, there is difference in that Friel largely blames the Irish in Making History, more so the English in Translations, but there is a common critique of cross-fertilisation and bureaucracy. However, by examining language, form, structure, and context, it is evident that Friel differs in his presentation of the demise of Ireland in finer details, and that therefore Friel’s message is a warning that seemingly inconsequential concepts lead to tragedy.