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Friel’s Translations Essay, Research Paper
How successful is act one of Translations in engaging the audience’s interest?
Translations is about the relationship between people who speak different languages and come from different cultures. The notion of communication is at the forefront of the play and is used to generate audience interest. Culture and language are also topical issues in the play, and are used initially in this chapter towards the interest of the audience for the preceding events in acts two and three.
The story is set in the small town of Baile Beag in the North of Ireland in the summer of 1883, at which time the colonisation of Ireland by the English was taking place. The setting and events shape the activities of the story, the Anglicising of Ireland. These events connect the English and the Irish, and allow the audience to see the hostilities that would have emerged at that time.
Act one opens with Manus, the son of Hugh trying to teach Sarah how to speak. The setting is a shabby and dilapidated barn, which is associated perhaps with farmyard use. The setting immediately contrasts with what the audience would expect from a school. It is also direct and the first thing that the audience will see, which will probably arouse their interests.
Hugh, Sarah, and Manus are all symbolic to different associations of language. Hugh, who appreciates literature, recognises Irish as a form of creativity and art. Manus, whose responsibility entails the running of the hedge school, recognises Irish in communication and the passing of information. Finally, language is something that Sarah hopes to learn. The differing attitude of the characters is demonstrated frequently in the act, and is a vehicle used to engage the interest of the audience.
When Manus walks, the audience immediately notices that he is lame. His impairment is cleverly positioned so that the audience would not recognise this disability until he actually walks. The appearance of Manus is also likely to sustain the interest of the audience; his appearance is ‘…shabby…’ and contrasts with what an educating assistant would resemble. He contrasts sharply with his younger brother Owen, who is introduced towards the end of the act. The entrance of Owen is dramatic (as he enters the barn everyone stops to greet him) and one of importance to show the significance of his character. The introduction of Owen, in terms of establishing audience interest, is one of the most significant events of the act, and is demonstrated in his entrance.
Owen has connections with wealth and status in the city industries, ‘we heard stories that you own ten big shops in Dublin’. He is associated with the English soldiers, by whom he is employed as a translator. The disparities between the brothers are evident in their occupation, beliefs and in the eyes of their father, by whom Manus is sometimes overshadowed in light of the achievements of Owen. ‘Indeed get him food, get him a drink.’ The relationship between Manus and his father does create a feeling of tension in the play, which secures the interest of the audience.
Owen represents a go-between for the English soldiers; he is responsible for communications between the Irish and the English and has an isolating role despite being the only member fully able to communicate. The opposing positions of each community clearly has a profound affect on him, shown in the way he defends each group from the hostilities that occur between them. In the first act, he simplifies Lancey s speech. This is done to protect the Irish from things assumed that they wouldn t understand, as well as to disguise what the real intention of the cartographers is. The cartographer s interpretation of the task a general triangulation which will embrace both hydrographic and topographic information contrasts sharply with Owen s translation, A new map is being made of the whole country. This situation triggers off a feeling of inquisitiveness and curiosity in the audience, who find themselves asking the motives of Owen s actions. In act one; particular attention is placed on the conferring roles of Owen and Manus, which are effective in sustaining the audience s interest. At this early stage, the brothers appear to be divided by the differing beliefs of the English and Irish. This is ominous for the audience, and allows them to anticipate the pattern of the following act.
Both humour and dramatic interest are contained within the act and are effective in extending the interest of the audience. Jimmy provides the humour in this act, which is expressed through his love of mythology and literature. The reaction of the audience would be one of laughter where Jimmy adds you know Diana, the huntress, she has two powerful bosom. The humour is furthered in the stage direction, where he illustrates with his hands . Stage direction is also essential in making the audience aware that the Irish characters are unable to speak English, although this is the language the play is performed in. This is evident in the scene, where the characters practice spakes of English, or where Jimmy adds sure you know I have only Irish like yourself.
The interactions between the Irish and English are well explored within the first act. It is Owen who introduces the English to the community. Hugh is accommodating and courtly to the English. Gentlemen-welcome! Manus is more guarded and apprehensive than his father is, being more receptive to the intentions of the cartographers. What s incorrect about the place names we have here? It is Owen who forms an alliance with the soldiers, as he is aware of the significance of his position. However, he associates with them solely on a professional level, not allowing his culture to interfere with the job of the cartographers. Where there s ambiguity, they ll be anglicised. It is these attitudes which stimulate the curiosity of the audience towards the end of the act.
The interpretation of the colonisers, from the perspective of the Irish is also effective in securing the audience s interest. The attitude of the Irish is varied, depending on their understanding of the coloniser s purpose, which differs between various members of the hedge school. Owen associates the English with power and authority, and supports these characters to assert his position. My job good kings English. This contrasts with the attitudes of Hugh and Jimmy, who believe the culture of the English is materialistic and has little awareness, unlike the Irish our own culture and the classical tongues make a happier congregation These attitudes are also extended to their opinion of the English language. English- I suggested, couldn t really express us. This introduces the audience to one of the earliest disparities in the play, and introduces the conflict of language early on. Equally, the English have little grasp of Irish culture, and mistake the name Owen for Rolland , a traditional name in English culture
The attitudes of Yolland and Lancey also engage the
Interests of the audience through symbolism. Each soldier represents the differing attitudes amongst the English soldiers: some regard Ireland with little emotion, and some, like Yolland, sentimentalise Ireland as a humble and romantic place. I think your countryside is very beautiful. I ve fallen in love with it already. Their contrasting views are again represented in each soldier s perception of the Irish people. Yolland is dignified in his manner I hope were not too crude an intrusion on your lives. This contrasts to Lancey who assumes these people to be uneducated, and also assumes their peace and simplicity with ignorance. A map is a representation on picture – you understand picture? The opposing belief of the soldier s and their interaction with the Irish helps to attract the attention of the audience.
Although Hugh is accommodating, he and Lancey hold two very different sets of values. Lancey, for instance, is described as crisp in the staging directions. He takes pride in his appearance, which makes him superior of the foreign civilians. This is an opposite to the values of Hugh, who appreciates words and learning and has little concern regarding material worth or appearance. Manus, like Hugh, is also separated from the soldiers, through his scruffy appearance and ability to decipher the uncertainty of change. When realising that Owen has mistranslated Lancey s speech, he is one of the first to insinuate that the changes taking place are more deceptive than first thought. What s incorrect about the place names we have here? This slippery nature is likely to arouse the audience s interests, in order to establish the motives of the soldiers. As shown many times in the play, language represents both conflict and confusion between the English and Irish, which stem from miscommunication. This is seen in Owen s euphemisms that fail to acknowledge the significance of conflict in attitude and language, where there s ambiguity, they ll be anglicised. The notion of ominous events is effective in engaging the interests of the audience through later acts in the play. At this point however, the use of ambiguity leaves the audience to question where such confusion will occur. It will become later evident that such uniformity is used to correct the ambiguity of the English rather than the Irish.
Act one of Translations provides a base to engage the interest of the audience and to introduce them to the themes, which appear in the following acts. Friel engages the interest of the audience using many techniques, including humour, dramatic effect and the inquisitiveness of the Irish and English towards adaptation and the uncertain future. It is the effectiveness of these that allow the audience to fully appreciate the themes and issues that
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