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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.

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  1. The passage upon which is the center of discussion is taken from Act one, scene one of Molière's theatrical 17th century comedy Dom Juan.

    It is Sganarelles final speech which accomplishes this, and therefore merits a closer examination in a stylistic respect. The passage has a particular theme. It functions in order to portray both the subject of the discussion and the speaker. The tone is somewhat serious and adopts a critical approach of Dom Juan's 'blas�' attitude to life. This immediately demonstrates how the personalities of the two characters contrast one another, and of more significance how Sganarelle plays the role of the conscience whilst Dom Juan plays the wayward role. The tone undergoes many a change throughout the passage. It commences with " I have no difficulty in understanding him, if you knew the crafty man ...."

    • Word count: 1337
  2. In what ways is 'translations' a suitable title for this play?

    attempts to speak to the Irish community about his plans, he speaks in a slow very patronising tone, thinking the Irish community will understand him better, it is only when Owen says "It might be better if you assume they understand you and I'll translate as you go along" But in spite of Owens position as translator, it is arguable that he may be in fact a barrier of understanding between the two cultures. For example, when he introduces the natives to Yolland and Lancey and provides the translation, he omits details and alters others, and changes the meaning to that of which, from the point of view, is less controversial.

    • Word count: 927
  3. 'Language is in a state of chaos, so much so that nothing is certain' (discuss with two particular moments in Act 1).

    This 'chaos' is seen frequently throughout Vladimir and Estragon's conversations; although taking turns with one another while speaking, they do not engage in a conventional conversation, one character talks about one topic, while the other talks about a different subject all together. The first moment I have chosen reflects this chaotic language; the two characters talk about the bible, beginning in conventional adjacency pairs, Vladimir: "Did you ever read the bible?" Estragon: "The bible...I must have looked at it" but then the conversation starts to waver on Estragon's part - Vladimir: "Do you remember the story?"

    • Word count: 1010
  4. ‘How effective isthe first scene as the opening of the play?’

    The opening line of the play belongs to Manus; Brian Friel has 'thrown' his audience into the scene mid-conversation. From Manus's line it appears that this has been an on-going dialogue for perhaps quite some time. This also provides a sense of continuity, a continuity that will soon be destroyed - Manus's tutoring of Sarah is obviously on-going, as is Jimmy Jack's love of the Classics; we're not just in mid-conversation, we're in a time segment of their everyday, mundane lives - this is a huge contrast to the tumult later in the play. This allows the audience to immediately get a feel of the situation and of the characters.

    • Word count: 829
  5. "The British are bad news to the Irish" - "Explore critical views and explain your own viewpoint as to whether this is the point Brian Friel is making in his play Translations."

    They were forbidden from general things in life for instance owning a horse that cost over �5 and from voting. The laws lead the Irish Catholic people to live abnormal lives hiding what they did from the English authorities. Irish people were allowed to become traders and merchants but they had to learn how to speak English to do so. Catholics were not allowed to become landowners if they didn't follow the Anglican faith. By the end of the 19th century most of the middle and upper class in Ireland spoke English and were Anglican-Protestant, they either owned land or worked in professional occupations in the towns, while lower classes spoke Gaelic.

    • Word count: 3430
  6. Throughout 'Road' Scullery's has many soliloquies in which he uses naturalistic, colloquial language.

    The vocabulary is not very varied, there is quite a bit of swearing. The use of the word 'fucking' is quite regular throughout the passage. The language is very colloquial with a north-western dialect. Many of the phrases used are very well known in the north of England. For instance 'what's-'is-name', which is widely used throughout the north. If the play were put on in the north this would make the audience feel at home and at ease because they are used to this type of phrase. The dialogue is believable and realistic for someone like Scullery.

    • Word count: 847
  7. Discuss Friel's Presentation Of The English And Irish?

    The characters speak Gaelic language due to set in Ireland, 1833, just a few after the devastating potato famine. Friel is trying to indicate that Irish was 'dominant', in command, that they settled there first then the English invaded the country few years later. The play indicates separation between the two nations and how it affects love, language and culture. Act one; give stage directions and impressions of a way of life, which is dying. Language matter is that Maire uses language to 'pin' Manus down, 'she did not, doesn't matter, suit yourself'. Manus is too lame and weak to respond back, but every attempt he does not reply impolitely, 'I saw you out at the hay', (Maire ignores him).

    • Word count: 618
  8. In Act 1 of 'Translations' Friel presents us with an 'intellectual Irish Arcadia'. How far do you agree?

    He even relates his own life to that of characters in the book, posing the question, "if you had the picking between them [Athene, Artemis & Helen of Troy], which would you take?". Furthermore, he even goes so far as to associate the smoke described within the pages of the text to the turf smoke which he believes has turned his hair flaxen. Hugh, the teacher in charge of the running of the hedge-school, is also an intellectual. While one could argue that he displays pomposity (his long, drawn out sentences result in him never remembering to discuss the latter of the points he intends to make), it is obvious that he is of a fine mind.

    • Word count: 2035
  9. In Henry V Shakespeare has used language to communicate the setting and the mood. I will also be contrasting between the scenes and characters.

    This is due to the fact that this scene cannot be acted out on stage and limited resources because in Shakespearian times there weren't any effects they just had a stage and a few props. 'Thus with imagin'd wing our swift scene flies,' this sentence is telling the reader to use his or her imagination to imagine the setting and locality of this act. The chorus appeals to two senses. These two senses help the reader to build a picture in our imaginations of what it was like to be at the siege.

    • Word count: 1573
  10. How does the title 'Translations' relate to the play? In particular explore how Friel intrigues the audience about his translation of Gaelic in Act II Scene II.

    It ought to be written in Irish." - FRIEL 1980 Brian Friel cleverly expresses the views and the problems in the form of a play. Therefore, evident from the very beginning is a manner of translation which produces this most suitable and affective title. It is an extremely clever choice due to the large number of meanings that Friel adapts the word 'translations' to. Most obvious of all is the translating of the place names. This forms the basis of the play and the cause of much aggregation, the translating of Irish to English.

    • Word count: 2008
  11. How Have Other Peoples Readings Of "Translations" Helped You To Understand The Contexts Of The Play In Scene 1?

    It's only a name. It's the same me, isn't it." The importance (or un-importance, depending how you want to perceive it) of names is brought up firstly at the start of the play when Manus is teaching Sarah to speak. It is important to note that the first thing Manus teaches her to say is her name, also her identity. Owens ignorance for the colonisation is shown again when he says, "my job is to translate the quaint, archaic tongue you people persist in speaking into the Kings good English."

    • Word count: 1313
  12. Why is the play called Translations?

    of Henry VIII that British rule was consolidated, and only after 1801 that the Act of Union was officially (and somewhat reluctantly) accepted by both countries' Parliaments. Following the Spring Rice committee's report of 1824, a survey covering the country was authorised by the British Parliament, involving the 'standardisation' of all place names and detailing "hydrographic and topographic information to a scale of six inches to the English mile" to be carried out by the British military, characterised by the likes of Yolland and Lancey.

    • Word count: 1241
  13. How does Friel use language to explore theme and characterisation in the 1st act of the play?

    They are revealed to be a poverty stricken rural Irish community. The first few lines of the lay already identify and explore the theme. 'Were doing very well. And we're going to try it once more-just once more.' The character of Sarah is unable to speak properly and instead uses gesture and grunts to communicate. The character of Manus at the beginning of the play is trying to convince Sarah to translate her silence into speech, thus identifying the theme of communication and translation. The character of Jimmy Jack is also established within the first few pages.

    • Word count: 1120
  14. Brian Friel's "Translations": In what ways does this scene represent 2 characters crossing boundaries and understanding each other - a meeting of minds?

    An indication of this is where Maire says, " The grass must be wet. My feet are soaking." straight after Yolland points out, " The grass must be wet your feet are soaking." It is clear to see the similarities in their speech, although the context is just flipped around, but apart from that it is almost identical. Emphasising this collision, linguistically speaking, is the stage directions, expressing the characters body movement. The way they seem very immature when they realise they are holding hands, then immediately disengage and move apart.

    • Word count: 723
  15. Language in "Our Country's Good" by Timberlake Wertenbaker

    "I want to rule over responsible human beings, not tyrannise over a group of animals." The convicts however tend to use far less formal, more simplistic language. Such as that used by Dabby, that also reflects her lack of education. "Not those marks on the book Lieutenant," Act One Scene Five. Many characters in the play have accents. We can only discover these accents through language, for example Cambell, who we interpreted as Scottish due to language such as "the wee lieutenant," In Liz's aside in Act Two Scene One her language is very much colloquial, reflecting her clear London, Cockney dialect, "Dad's a nibbler, don't want to get crapped."

    • Word count: 903
  16. How Does Friel Introduce And Present The Themes Of Language And Translation In The Opening Sequence Of The Play?

    She has a speech defect and has not been able to speak, she communicates via hand signals and "grunts". Sarah has this as her own language and on page 6 she communicates with Manus using this. She is trying to indicate where the master is. Her language requires trial and error and is not very specific thus taking numerous tries to find out where the master has gone and why he is so late. "Sarah goes to Manus and touches his elbow. She mimes rocking a baby." Also "Sarah mimes pouring drinks and tossing them back quickly." He is celebrating the christening of a baby at "Anna na mBreag's" pub.

    • Word count: 535
  17. How Does Friel Introduce And Present The Themes Of Language And Translation In The Opening Sequence Of The Play?

    "Sarah goes to Manus and touches his elbow. She mimes rocking a baby." Also "Sarah mimes pouring drinks and tossing them back quickly." He is celebrating the christening of a baby at "Anna na mBreag's" pub. Jimmy however, who can speak Latin, Greek and Irish is used to introduce a different format of language and translation compared to Sarah. Jimmy literally translates from Greek to Irish, whilst doing that he seems to incorporate the stories into his own world making no division between what he reads and what actually happens.

    • Word count: 1128
  18. The language in look back in anger

    The exposition goes on through out the play. We see this when jimmy is talk about Alison family and what was happening to his dying father when he was 10. The colonel has his share in exposition when he's talking to his daughter Alison about the past. "It was March 1914, when left England, and, apart from leaves every ten years or so, "the information Osborne constantly provides us with about each characters past helps the audience understand their personalities.

    • Word count: 882
  19. Explore how Friel uses language in order to create humour and other emotional responses in the audience. Focus particularly on the exchange between Yolland and Marie in Act 2 scene 2 of "Translations"

    Yet both are similar in many ways, they both have hopes, dreams and fears. If we refer to the previous meeting between the couple (End of Act 2 Scene 1 from p58) we find the section where Maire and Yolland first 'talk' to each other. This demonstrates the difficulties faced when attempting to talk to someone from another culture. We know they are speaking in different languages and are confused by what the other is saying, whilst Owen is tries to act as an go-between and translator for them.

    • Word count: 1536
  20. Using Act One of the play ‘Translations’: Brian Friel Presents Us With An Intellectual Irish Arcadia. How Far Do You Agree With This Interpretation?

    Another character present in the initial scene is Jimmy Jack Cassie. Quietly reading in the corner, he is thoroughly absorbed in his fictional Greek world. Occasionally he speaks to Manus, shouting out his views on various, mythology- based subjects but I feel the audience can't really get a feel for his personality. He is one of the hardest characters to form an opinion on as he is a very odd person. He breathes the classics, living in a dream world of his own making and not doing a very good job of reality.

    • Word count: 1972
  21. How does the language and structure used in the play Flowers for Algernon help to convey the characters and themes of the play?

    "Maybe white mice are smarter then other mice." This again shows Charlie's emotional immaturity and how he tries to find a plausible reason to why he loses, a mentality which is similar to that of a child. The grammatical errors which Charlie makes when the play script was written add to the depth of his character. The main sign that shows that Charlie's IQ is very low is how the script is written with purposely applied grammatical errors. Throughout the entire beginning of the play, Charlie's recordings have these errors.

    • Word count: 1516
  22. “The cleverness and subtlety of Sheridan's use of language in ‘The Rivals’ is too easily overlooked.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    He also plays the role of the dutiful son, telling his father that he resolves to 'sacrifice every inclination of my own to your satisfaction' when he is, in fact, perfectly aware that his father's wishes comply with his own. It is the way that Absolute is able to remain in control of the situation throughout almost the whole of the play through his changeable use of language which illustrates his articulate and shrewd nature. This shows us how Sheridan's remarkable grasp of language had enables him to create such a cunning and successful character and to be able to portray him so effectively through his use of language.

    • Word count: 1738
  23. How does Frayn present social class and it's importance to Stephen?

    This is the first time the readers are presented with the direct comparison of Stephen and Keith, but it instantly becomes evident that this social division has a profound effect upon Stephen due to the harsh words of ?right? and ?wrong?, which insinuate that Stephen feels being in a lower social class changes the person who he is for the worse. Even when looking back on his childhood with a nostalgic tone, the elder Stephen still criticises things about his younger self which is a reflection of his class, for example, the ?sagging sock? which his parents could obviously not

    • Word count: 973
  24. How does the opening sequence to Translations prepare the audience for what is to come?

    As well as this, the damaged and aged nature of the items discussed with tools being ?broke? and forgotten? makes evident the decaying nature of the cultural aspect and as Jones notes, the people in the society are ?struggling to make a living and sustain a culture against all odds?. Essentially amidst all the educational benefits of the school, Friel seems to present an underlying potential for the ultimate decay of the Irish traditions through making these farming objects, which are needed to create produce for the town and thus keep it alive, seem as if they are slowly being ?forgotten?, much like the traditions and culture of Ireland.

    • Word count: 2178

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