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Representations Of Cultural Identity Influenced By Historical Conditions In Brian Friels Translations.

1422 words - 6 pages

With reference to Translations discuss how the representations of a cultural identity are influenced by the historical conditions in which they are produced.Brian Friel is an Irish playwright and a founding member of the Field Day Theatre Company. Friel's plays most often centre around colonial relations between Ireland and Britain, and although his plays are of significant artistic value, it is Friel's approach to dealing with the volatile political and cultural history of Ireland that has over the years drawn intense debate and received considerable praise (the former being closer to the object of the Field Day Company). The Field Day Theatre Company began as a collaboration between Brian Friel and actor Stephen Rea, and worked to create what was termed a 'fifth province' by Irish journal The Crane Bag; that is, 'a cultural space from which a new discourse of unity might emerge'. Translations is possibly the most prominent of Friel's works, published in 1980 in the midst of violent sectarian conflicts known as 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland. The play is set in Donegal in 1833, at a time when the British were beginning to make deeper inroads into the country as part of the Ordnance Survey. It uses the theme of 'translations', in terms of language, culture and identity, as a means of considering the ability of a people to move with the times, whilst still retaining a sense of themselves. The audience is urged to reflect on their ideas of language and culture and the consequences of change in terms of the Irish identity. Friel explicitly links his representation of the Irish in the early 1800s to the present day (1980s) Ireland. As a result Translations is a play in which context is not only a feature but of central importance, and the motivations behind Friel's portrayal of the Irish may be seen to be driven by a contemporary desire for unity.Translation's 1800s setting is significant in two senses; it both allows the audience to reflect on the origins of present conflict, and acts as a direct metaphor for the present conflict and for the consequences of violent action. By taking his audience back a century and a half Friel seeks to explore the roots of the conflict that surrounds him, and in doing so explore and demystify the various 'sides' that remained so painfully relevant to present day Ireland. One way he goes about this is by repeatedly associating the English with Rome and the Irish with Carthage, a tradition familiar to much Irish literature. The closing scene is of particular significance, in which Hugh, alone on stage, attempts to recall part of Virgil's Aeneid that tells of the defeat of the Carthaginians by the Romans; "A city there was, ancient, fated to be great if only another empire were not destined to come from across the sea". Repeated references to the destruction of the Carthaginians suggests that violent retaliation on the part of the Irish will only lead to destruction, as in the case of Carthage. The Carthaginian...

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