Translations - Brian Freil

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Category: English Composition

Date Submitted: 06/06/2008 06:08 PM

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‘Translations’ by Brian Freil, is a play about just that, translations. The play not only explores the linguistic causes and effects of translations, but also social, historical and mental. In this play Freil shows his ability to delve into and discuss the macrocosm while limiting himself very much to the microcosm, the microcosm being the every day lives of ordinary people and the macrocosm being the universal idea of renewal. The presentation of the everyday lives of ordinary people can be examined on two levels, an individual and a collective level.

The opening scene of the play takes place in the hedge-school. The appearance of the hedge school quickly tells the audience a lot about the type of place we are in and thus the people who are in it. The hedge school is in a “disused barn” where “cows were once milked and bedded”. This not only suggests a sense of poverty but also introduces the idea of translations. The school has been translated from a barn. Freil describes the room as “comfortless and dusty and functionless”. This works as a double entendre for two of the central themes of the play, something that has previously been translated and also for something old or from the past. A “stairway without a banister” and “broken and forgotten implements” further develops this. The characters also seem to fit into this double entendre. Manus is lame, Sarah is considered dumb and Jimmy Jack is so indulged in Ancient myth while simultaneously “living alone” and being “filthy”. Whether his overindulgence in the past is the cause of his deterioration in the present is certainly arguable. The picture that Friel presents of the group collectively is balanced however. Manus is described as doing everything with “a kind of zeal” and Jimmy Jack is fluent in both Latin and Greek. This may be surprising to a modern audience and it helps not to undermine the very established Gaelic culture.

Scene two, in which Yolland and Maire leave the dance together, is a good...