• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Classics in Friel's Translations

Extracts from this document...


Discuss the importance of the classical content in 'Translations'. How do they contribute to the exploration of colonialism in the play? 'It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation. 1' Translations is a play in which many doors are opened through mythological and classical content. Looking at this content in closer detail allows us to see the play from a different angle, and gives new meanings to many of the themes and ideas presented. Most notably to the theme of colonialism which is at the forefront throughout the play. Jimmy Jack Cassie, for whom the 'world of ancient myths is as real and as immediate as everyday life', provides us with our first examples of the classical content in Translations. He acts as a human 'bridge' between the present worlds of Baile Beag and those of Ancient Greece and Rome, and links many of the themes and events with classical history and mythology. One of the most important thematic links is the development of Jimmy Jack's 'relationship' with the Goddess Athene. Jimmy fails to treat her like a fictional character, even comparing her to women from his village 'no harm to our own Grania... But I would go bull straight for Athene'. ...read more.


These themes are also developed through the classical content. Friel's choice of Athene as the main mythological character in Translations is especially significant in both this and the exploration of Jimmy Jack as a character. Athene is the patron of war and wisdom, which seems fitting in a play which is based on conflict. She is also the Goddess associated with heroic endeavours 1, which is equally fitting given the struggles against the British colonialists described by Hugh and Jimmy Jack Cassie, such as their involvement in the 1798 uprising against British rule and their defiance of the soldiers who come to Baile Beag after Manus's disappearance. Their portrayal as heroes is made both my implication and directly by dialogue 'we got homesick for Athens, just like Ulysses'. This shows the audience where Brian Friel's sympathies lie. We are made to feel for the Irish and admire their courage. Critics of the play, such as Seamus Hearney, argue that by doing this the play 'shores up a dangerous myth - that of cultural dispossession by the British'. Meaning that the story told in Translations, i.e. that the Irish language and culture was forcibly taken from them isn't true, and gives us a skewed view of the process of colonisation. However it could be that this isn't Friel's whole intention. ...read more.


The descendants of Aeneas conquered Carthage and colonised it, making it part of the Roman Empire during the Punic wars2. It also carries with it the idea that all civilisations are one day fated to end. This interpretation matches Ireland with Carthage and Rome with the English colonists. Astrid Van Wayenberg3expands this idea with making a connection between Ireland and a second race that 'sprung from Trojan blood, the English descendants of Aeneas's grandson Brutus', this race seems now to be fated to destroy the Irish culture. A second idea, put forward by Alan Peacock is that when Hugh stumbles at the end of the passage it is because he is imagining that 'just as Rome traced its ascendancy from the ashes of Troy, so will Ireland at some time renew herself'. This interpretation however seems unlikely when put into context with the rest of Hugh's comments. Realising that mythology is often very different from the real world Hugh sums up one of the most important conclusions in the book, as he seems to resign himself to the fate of his culture. 'We must learn where we live. We must learn to make them [the new place names in the name book] our own. We must make them our new home.' 1. The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell 2. www.wikepedia.org 3. The Achievements of Brian Friel, Edited by Alan Peacock 4. Astrid Van Weyenberg, www.americanstudies.wayne.edu Suraiya Banu ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Brian Friel section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

5 star(s)

A very articulate, perceptive commentary, which shows excellent knowledge of text, critical response and classical as well as Irish contexts. *****

Marked by teacher Karen Reader 01/03/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Brian Friel essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Naming and Power in Friel's Translations

    4 star(s)

    The creation theme is mentioned again on p.40 when Yolland tells Owen that 'the maps... can't be printed without these names', suggesting that a place doesn't really exist without a name which belongs to it and so by giving new names they are creating new places.

  2. The Use of Language in the Cherry Orchard

    It also highlights his misunderstanding of what has actually been said, which reflects his misunderstanding of the way things are now, how they are going to change and his wish for things to remain the same, because in this he feels secure.

  1. Commentary on Act 1 of the book Translations by Brian Friel.

    intellectual but he is living his life in a book, he feels he is almost a character, a crazed personality living in the past. Sarah does not know how to speak so she mimes what she wants to say and Manus translates for her.

  2. Brian Friel's "Translations": In what ways does this scene represent 2 characters crossing boundaries ...

    believe this to be significant as this is one of the final words before they kiss it just shows the compassion they hold for each other.

  1. In what ways does Brian Friel establish the theme of language and communication in ...

    to move away from the poorer country life and live more luxuriously in the city. Later in the act we also discover that he has returned for work needs, he has been employed as a translator between the British soldiers and the people of Ireland.

  2. “The cleverness and subtlety of Sheridan's use of language in ‘The Rivals’ is too ...

    This is in comic contrast to his usual brusque manner, and also helps to highlight the absurdities of the sentimental conventions of the time. Sir Anthony's usual language is blunt and to the point, and is amusing in itself in the play, especially on the occasion where he becomes apoplectic

  1. There are some dramatic devices and techniques that Friel uses to illuminate the play's ...

    We also do not know what happened to Maire although we may think that she has emigrated. Friel may have ended the story of the play the way he did to let the audience make up their own minds about the ending.

  2. Re-read Dancing at Lughnasa from the end of Act 1, page 38 (the stage ...

    ''Coming back in the boat there were days when I couldn't remember even the simplest words,'' he says. ''Not that anybody seemed to notice.' The importance of the ceremony is recognisable when the conflicts between religion and tradition are introduced, "our calendar of ceremonies gets fuller every year" this implies

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work