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AS and A Level: Brian Friel

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Key words in English literature

  1. 1 Language – analysing language may involve exploring associations/connotations of words, semantic fields or image patterns, figurative language (similes, metaphors, symbols, personification, hyperbole etc.)
  2. 2 Form – analysing form may involve exploring genre and dramatic conventions (actions, use of stage space, dramatic techniques etc.)
  3. 3 Structure – analysing structure may involve exploring patterns and repetitions throughout the play, prolepsis (foreshadowing) and analepsis (flashback/echoes), the order in which events occur, characters speak, etc.
  4. 4 Audience – analysing audience response may involve exploring audience positioning, the use of dramatic moments (on and offstage), expectations, tensions, comedy, suspense, etc.
  5. 5 Pace and Timing – analysing pace and timing may involve exploring the rhythm created by dialogue (e.g. stichomythia), the use of pausing and silence, the balance between action and dialogue, the importance of stage direction.

Five things that A/A* students always do in their English literature essays

  1. 1 High quality answers use contextual information (e.g. Irish history) only in terms of its significance to the question. i.e. ‘bolt on’ information is best avoided.
  2. 2 Strong answers constantly embed quotations from the text, which act to 1) support arguments and 2) provide a platform for more detailed analysis.
  3. 3 Effective responses take into account the dramatic conventions being adopted by Friel (e.g. use of offstage space, dramatic irony, etc.)
  4. 4 Clear topic sentences are needed at the beginning of each paragraph. These should both address the title and delineate what the paragraph is going to cover.
  5. 5 • Strong answers avoid repetition and generalisation

How to plan your essays

  1. 1 Think of your essay as a skeleton framework (structure and argument), requiring flesh (textual detail and analysis) and clothes (terminology/context/relevant information)
  2. 2 Brainstorm your ideas around the wording of the title e.g. considering the significance of a theme requires you to develop arguments on not only its construction but its function and purpose within the text as a whole.
  3. 3 Some words in the title may be developed in terms of their different meanings e.g. identity = naming, individual identity, collective and communal identity, etc.
  4. 4 Paragraphs should be organised logically, with clear links made between them to encourage the sense of a fluent argument (e.g. linking words = conversely, however, similarly, etc.)
  5. 5 Questions which focus on passages or areas of the text for closer analysis demand that you balance your essay between detailed observation and cross referenced overview. Avoid going through passages chronologically.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 5
  • Peer Reviewed essays 3
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  1. Marked by a teacher

    Classics in Friel's Translations

    5 star(s)

    But I would go bull straight for Athene'. His relationship with the mythological character is real to him, and thus the problems he faces are as realistic as the problems faced by the people around him. As Jimmy contemplates his impending marriage to Athene at the end of the play he brings up the word 'exogamein' meaning 'to marry outside the tribe' and asks 'Is Athene sufficiently mortal or am I sufficiently godlike for the marriage to be acceptable to her people and to my people?'. This idea becomes especially significant when parallels drawn between this relationship and the relationship between Maire and Yolland.

    • Word count: 1445
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Naming and Power in Friel's Translations

    4 star(s)

    Use of the prefix 'de' also gives Owens remark a more negative feel, making the reader wonder if what they are doing is perhaps a bad, destructive thing rather than the constructive process it was intended to be; a theme which is looked at many times during other parts of the play and is best exemplified by Yolland's remark later in the play: 'something is being eroded' The exploration of the ideas of creation in conjunction with naming are mentioned only twice in this passage but is very important to the play as a whole.

    • Word count: 1646
  3. Marked by a teacher

    By close examination of Act 1, discuss the ways in which Friel explores the importance of the link between language and identity.

    3 star(s)

    Her actions, and therefore her language instantly portray her to the audience as a seemingly loving and generous person, therefore linking these strong character traits together with great importance. Furthermore, the important link between language and identity that Friel accentuates in Translations is shown very clearly within the small colloquialisms and dialect within the small Gaelic community. Manus describes himself and his father to have been "footering" about, meaning that they have been joking and larking around. Such slang is exclusive to the community, and no matter how much one were to study and learn Gaelic it would be very hard to pick up this "code" that belongs solely to the community of Baile Beag.

    • Word count: 1153
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Consider the themes of language and naming in Act 1, and explore their relationship to culture and identity.

    3 star(s)

    The plays name is 'Translations', a word to which we tend to associate a foreign language with. The whole play in itself is a translation from Gaelic to English, so in this way is ironic as the situation that Brian Friel is dealing with in his play is that British troops, apparently unwelcome by most of Ireland, are translating Irish place names into English place names. Therefore, immediately at the beginning of the play, we can see that by naming it 'Translations', Friel has conveyed the theme and feelings of the Irish people, that is to say that they feel that English is a foreign language to them.

    • Word count: 1123
  5. Peer reviewed

    What Issues Of Communication Are Raised In The Play 'Translations'?

    5 star(s)

    The issue of communication in particular takes a significant central point in the play 'Translations'. The problems of translations between the languages are a metaphor for the problems of communication between England and Ireland and its cultural barriers. Communication at first sight seems to be straight forward, in the opening scene, despite being dumb; Sarah can explain the whereabouts of the missing Hugh by a series of mimes. However Manus says to her, "Soon you'll be telling me all those secrets that have been in that head of yours all these years" but for this, language is required and when language intervenes, then the difficulties arise.

    • Word count: 1131
  6. Peer reviewed

    Explore the range of linguistic and stylistic effects used to bring out the central themes and issues of Brian Friel's play "Translations"

    4 star(s)

    Communities such as Baile Beag lose their cultural and political identities, and the original meaning is distorted. Friel used the theme of naming to highlight this loss of identity within the Irish community. The importance of names is also stressed in the repetition of place names: "Owen: Bun na hAbhann Yolland: Again Owen: Bun na hAbhann Yolland: Bun na hAbhann" Friel uses mapping, both literally and metaphorically, in order to convey his ideas. The actual mapping for the Ordnance Survey is maintained by Owen's constant gesture of referring to the map which he and Yolland are working from.

    • Word count: 1013
  7. Peer reviewed

    How Does Brian Friel convey a sense of cultural identity through the way his characters speak?

    3 star(s)

    to use Minimal responses to address the questions posed to him where as Lancey greets Hugh by saying, "How do you do." which carries more polite connotations with it, although his responses are short to the questions he is asked are short they are not minimal responses, like Lanceys, and show he is more willing to engage in phatic communication. Lancey also conveys an authoritive attitude lacking personal tone, incorporating a definite modality, using military tones and speaking in complex sentences, "If by then the Lieutenant Hasn't been found, we will proceed until a complete clearance is made of this entire section".

    • Word count: 778
  8. How does the presentation of the demise of Ireland differ in Friels plays Translations and Making History? You should pay particular attention to form, structure and language.

    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.

    • Word count: 1423
  9. How does Friel explore the concept of identity in Making History, looking at alternative viewpoints in your answer?

    Act 1 Scene 1 importantly begins with the discussion of a Christening, most likely and evidently representing the light heartedness of the rest of the act to follow, before events take a more sinister turn. This discussion is also carried out between O'Neill and his personal secretary Harry, the symbol of birth present possibly indicates their relationship facing tough and strenuous times ahead, implying that Harry and O'Neill's relationship goes further than just professional. The narrator informs the audience at the beginning "O'Neill describes him as a man 'who has a comforting and soothing effect'" (p.

    • Word count: 2149
  10. How effective might an audience find the ending to the play?

    The tone that pervades Michael's soliloquy are one of a sad and poignant nature. This extract effectively informs the audience of the sadly rapid pace of change that occurred, and which results in the sad breakup of the family - which all is in many ways symbolic of the stifling social and cultural circumstances in Ireland during the 1930's. In addition, this ending to the play is very much successful in conveying the idea that the change that affected this family deeply impacted all of those involve for the worse, as the repurcussions incurred upon them all were seen to be detrimental as "Father Jack was dead in twelve months" and "Agnes and Rose...all gone".

    • Word count: 714
  11. Re-read Dancing at Lughnasa from the end of Act 1, page 38 (the stage direction Father Jack enters) to page 42 (bottom of the page). Discuss the importance of ceremony and its effect on an audience in this extract and in the

    Kate forbids discussion of the ceremonies but curiosity still hovers. Though the women appear to be practicing Catholics, there is a conspicuous lack of religious ritual in their lives. Religion functions more as a set of rules and admonishments than as a source of strength and spiritual renewal. Perhaps it's not the faith they yearn for, but the ceremony. Father Jack also speaks about of animal sacrifices in Africa. He struggles to describe the rituals and finds himself at a loss for words. He has to grope for the word "ceremony."

    • Word count: 1184
  12. How does Friiel use language and stagecraft to discuss identity

    He is described as a ' private, sharp minded man', and he is a good main character because he is an interesting person who has a lot of conflict in his life. Hugh O'Neil changing his accent from English/Irish to Tyrone, is a good use of a languageas he always speaks in an upper-class English accent accept on the occasions specifically scripted. The Tyrone accent usually happens when he is angry about something. ' Just to show him I haven't reverted completely to type- would that be it', Friel choosing to use this type of lanuguage shows that O'Neil is rebellious and is proud of his irish identity.

    • Word count: 630
  13. How does Friel present the duality at the heart of the character O(TM)Neill in the opening scene of making History?

    The play begins on an unusually quiet O'Neill being pestered by Harry about forthcoming functions and invitations that suggest his public demand and connections with both England and Ireland. It is the line, 'Bad news from London, young Essex has been arrested and thrown in the tower', that immediately changes O'Neill from the private man into a public figure. This serious addressal of the situation shows the role reversal as he suddenly becomes more involved in the previously one-way conversation as the new topic appears to be more emotionally disruptive and politically important.

    • Word count: 1128
  14. A surprising amount of Translations depends on suppression, both political and personal, and the unspoken.(TM) To what extent are suppression and the unspoken important in the text?

    It can be argued that Friel illustrates it like so in order to aid the audience in judging for themselves the issues surrounding the colonisation. Suppression is a key theme which is used through Translations; ultimately it is the intrusion of the English which is deemed the biggest suppression the Irish had to confront and the unspoken nature of the Irish is what inevitably lead to the suppression. It is apparent in the early phases of the play that characters within the play encounter suppression even before the English arrive.

    • Word count: 1102
  15. Discuss how Friel presents the characters and introduces the main themes in Scene 1 of Making History.

    This, however, comes later on in the play, and in Scene 1 he still doesn't know which way to turn. Harry Hoveden is extremely loyal to Hugh O'Neill. He is well-educated, as he quickly translates 'Spanish broom' into its Latin name 'Genista', something that O'Neill cannot do. He also mentions the works of Virgil, which implies familiarity with them, further demonstrating his classical education. He is very discreet with matters concerning O'Neill (he leaves the room when he realises O'Neill wants a private conversation with Lombard).

    • Word count: 1608
  16. In what ways could Hugh justifiably be said to be the central character and hero in Translations?

    During Act 1, Hugh, like the Irish people, is struggling to come to terms with the implications of the English presence in Baile Beag, and this results in a muddled and inconsistent reaction to events. Throughout act 1, it is obvious that Hugh's main concerns lie within the preservation of cultural values, and this is evident through his frequent use of Latin and Greek, 'Adsum, Doalty Adsum. Perhaps not in sobrietate perfecta...' Even when speaking English, Hugh tends to use words of classical etymology.

    • Word count: 1249
  17. Comment on Friel's exploration of Anglo-Irish relations in this extract.

    This is symbolic of spineless submission to the oppressive colonial power (perhaps a reference to loyalists?) Owen is pragmatic, and seems to be indifferent to the fate of the place names of his homeland, and is even careless about the pronunciation of his own name (Roland as opposed to Owen). He takes 'each of the Gaelic names, every hill, stream, rock, even every patch of ground which possesses its own distinctive Irish name-and anglicises it.' The abrupt ending to this sentence serves to create a negative tone, implying that he is sacrificing his own cultural identity and heritage.

    • Word count: 1190
  18. How does the introduction of themes and ideas in the exploration of Making History(TM) help in the character development of Hugh O(TM)Neill and Harry Hoveden?

    The fact that Ireland and England are at each others throats gives O'Neill an internal conflict because of his Irish heritage and English upbringing. During the play Friel has shown Hugh to dart in and out of his Gaelic consciousness by erratically using a Co. Tyrone accent. This is due to the perceptions of O'Neill, as he is typecast as 'egotistical', of he could just be perceived as taking the piss out of the Irish as a use of humour.

    • Word count: 1004
  19. 'An English historian has claimed that Hugh O'Neill was "a great man as far as savages go." How far does Friel's presentation of O'Neill support this claim?'

    This gift is hugely significant as it once again shows O'Neill's love for Mabel, despite their two-decade age difference. However, O'Neill's affection and care for Mabel, it could be argued, is no more than skin deep, shown when he sexually desires her, telling her, 'I want to devour you'. Frayn's use of the word 'devour', shows a savage side to O'Neill, a man who pursues sexual pleasure rather then love in his marriages. This idea is first presented when Harry reveals that O'Neill has had two previous marriages, the first of which was, 'never properly dissolved'.

    • Word count: 1823
  20. Free essay

    Tensions in act1

    'Get your tongue and your lips working 'My name'- come on 'my name is'- good girl'. Of course this does not simply mean that Sarah cannot communicate with Manus but the subtext meaning could be analysing the communication between the two countries, England and Ireland. I believe Sarah to be a representation of the silence that Ireland are being practically forced to accept and obey. Contridictivly, Sarah is doing her best to learn which could represent the fact that Ireland are going to fight for what they know, and will continue to learn.

    • Word count: 1055
  21. The conflicts in

    Manus and Maire are in a relationship and they have even been talking "about getting married" (p. 31). Sarah, a young woman with a speech defect, on the other hand is also in love with Manus, since he is the only one who is giving her attention. However, Manus does not share these feelings with Sarah and treats her more like a father would treat his child. The first conflict concerning love arises right at the beginning, when Maire questions Manus, about if he has applied "for that job in the new national school" (p.

    • Word count: 1823
  22. How does Brian Friel establish the theme of language and its effects on communication, power and identity in Act one?

    This could foreshadow that the Irish, who do not want to speak English will be forced too for there own good as it will help their country prosper. The character Sarah can be interpreted as the symbol of Ireland due to the play opening with her trying to claim her identity by saying "My name is Sarah". This achievement of Sarah saying her name at the start of the play shows just how powerful language can be as just a few words can turn you from someone who is unknown to a person who has status in the world.

    • Word count: 1798
  23. There are some dramatic devices and techniques that Friel uses to illuminate the play's central themes. These could be the structure of the play, language and translation, and the ending.

    The situation of the cultural and linguistic traditions being compromised or destroyed is not resolved at the end of the play. There are also other complications that arise after we are introduced to the situation. Negativity between characters occurs such as Manus being jealous of the relationship between Yolland and Maire. Evidence in the play of Manus being jealous of the relationship between Yolland and Maire have is shown when Manus trys to find Yolland to strike him with a stone.

    • Word count: 1470
  24. 'Translations depicts the cultural take over of Ireland by the British Empire, yet it cannot be said to be simply pro-Irish.' Consider this comment

    He has a wide knowledge of languages and uses a sophisticated choice of words. For instance, when he describes the Irish language he explains that certain other cultures 'expend on their vocabularies and syntax acquisitive energies and ostentations.' This is definitely a positive characteristic and can be contrasted to Lancey and Yolland's ignorance. This can be seen when Lancey misunderstands the Latin statement 'nonne Latine loquitur' and tells Jimmy 'I do not speak Gaelic sir', making it obvious that he does not speak Latin either. However, when Hugh 'pours himself another drink' and his alcohol addiction is apparent the stereotypical 'drunken Irishman' is seen as a pessimistic view of the Irish culture.

    • Word count: 1104
  25. The significance of language in any dramatic production, or indeed any piece of performance art, be it song, poetry or whatever, is undoubtedly of great importance, as it is not only the medium through which ideas, thoughts, emotions etc. are communi...

    have been all but abandoned, the role of language has been not so much redefined, but rather has been stripped of any clear, distinct, exclusive working definition or suggested structure, so that it becomes less of an explanatory accompaniment to the action portrayed, and more of a secondary aspect, to be scrutinized and considered in its own right. The term "Absurd", when used to describe such works as Waiting for Godot, refers to the originally musical term, 'discordant', or 'out of harmony'.

    • Word count: 1571

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Taking as your starting point pg.76 "Maire enters" to pg.78 "It didn't last long, did it?" discuss the play's impact as a 'doomed love story.'

    "If Yolland was to isolate himself away from the safety of his soldiers we know he would be at great risk from the darker elements of the community. This apparent naivety makes the audience fear for him, he seems to romanticise the whole situation turning Baile Beag into a Utopia, yet we know of the Donnelly Twins existence and we feel we know their intentions. It is hard not to feel sympathy for Yolland when we know that the Donnelly Twins are 'out and about.' Although we are never told in any detail we are drawn to the conclusion that the Donnelly Twins have brought an end to Yolland's young life. Jimmy encapsulates this "doomed love story" in his final lines, "Do you know the Greek word endogamein? It means to marry within the tribe. And the word exogamein means to marry outside the tribe. And you don't cross those borders casually- both sides get very angry. It is Maire and Yolland's willingness to attempt to cross these borders and to learn from one another, which has the deepest impact on the audience."

  • “Drama Shows Us That Those Who Control Language Dictate the Events of the Play” Compare Your Texts In the Light of This Opinion.

    "To conclude, it is fair to argue that "those who control language dictate the events of the play" when looking at both Hugh and Prospero in The Tempest and Translations, until the resolutions of each play. Hugh faces unemployment when he is told he will have no future as headmaster. His attempts to relate how the Romans destroyed Catharge also end in disaster, as he cannot remember the lines. In The Tempest, Shakespeare takes the common route of a tragicomedy by closing on a happy note. There is freedom for the released Ariel and a chance for Caliban to control his island once more."

  • A surprising amount of Translations depends on suppression, both political and personal, and the unspoken.(TM) To what extent are suppression and the unspoken important in the text?

    "In conclusion, it is apparent that the theme of suppression and remaining unspoken runs through the length of the play. This technique reveals the difficulties and boundaries which existed between the Irish and the English. The choice of using such theme could also be noted as being a deliberate act by Friel in order to create further suspense within the play. As the play is written about a historical event which had already taken place, the audience would be aware of the outcome. This then makes the audience character bond far closer as the audience would prefer a less demanding approach of control from the English and a greater sense of support from the Irish in maintaining and pursuing their culture. Caner Cifci English Literature"

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