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'Of all those that betray Waters, McBrain is the one the audience despises the most.'

Free essay example:

Rachel Scott

‘Of all those that betray Waters, McBrain is the one the audience despises the most.’

How Far do you agree with this claim?

McBrain’s act is the fourth to commence. By this time in the play, the audience has built up a stable view of McBrain’s character, a fair, funny, decent man. McBrain’s act however, totally contradicts this view of him that we as the audience have built up in our minds.

        When McBrain comes onto the stage in the club, Griffiths tells us, through stage directions, that McBrain is ‘sweating freely’. This shows us that he is nervous, which we could interpret to mean that he was not so much nervous about performing, more about betraying his wife and Waters. McBrain begins his act with a lyric that is insulting to women, as it suggests that women are mere objects that are to be owned by men. Within the next five sentences in his act he has insulted, ‘Women, blacks, Jews and the Irish’ which seems odd to us as he himself is Irish, and we know that he does not have a problem with Jewish people as Samuels, one of the comedians, is Jewish and McBrain has never, until now, said one word against Samuels’ faith. McBrain’s act goes on to concentrate mainly on insulting his own wife. He makes many jokes about his wife being a slut, he even says to the audience in the club, “But see my wife, God she’s a slut though.” After McBrain has finished his act, Griffiths once again uses the stage directions to show us how McBrain is truly feeling. We are told that McBrain is ‘sweating, a bit concerned’ this shows us that if McBrain is still sweating even after he’s finished his act that he was not nervous about performing, which supports my view that he was in fact nervous about the betrayal. When Griffiths says that McBrain is concerned, I believe that he would be concerned more about what Waters will be thinking and feeling rather than whether he has impressed Challenor or not. Griffiths also tells us that McBrain is ‘stiff with tension and not looking in Waters’ direction’ This shows us as the audience that McBrain is ashamed of what he has done as he cannot look Waters in the eye. The last thing that Griffiths tells us is that, ‘McBrain breaks, disappears.’ The use of the word ‘disappears’ is significant as it portrays more of a shocking image, it is a stronger image than if Griffiths had just said, ‘McBrain leaves’.

        McBrain’s act is a betrayal to Waters as it totally contradicts Waters’ views of how comedy should be. We are told Waters’ view of comedy in his speech on page 20. He says, ‘It’s not the jokes. It’s what lies behind ‘em. It’s the attitude.’ He believes that jokes should have a meaning behind them, that they should tell the truth. Comedy should be used to make a point, not just to get laughs. ‘We work through laughter, not for it.’ He believes that instead of making racist jokes, we should make jokes about people who are racist. We can see that McBrain’s act is at totally the opposite end of the spectrum to Waters’ views. McBrain makes racist and sexist jokes, there is no meaning or truth behind his act, and he is just going for the cheap laughs.

        However, McBrain’s act fits perfectly with Challenor’s view of how comedy should be. We are shown Challenor’s view in his speech on page 33. He says to the comedians, ‘Don’t try to be deep. Keep it simple.’ ‘…someone who sees what the people want and knows how to give it to them.’ ‘We’re servants, that’s all.’

        Straight after McBrain’s act, we as the audience feel contempt for McBrain as we believed that he would be loyal to Waters after what we have seen of his character throughout the play. It appears to us at this time, that he has gone against all of his beliefs and loyalties in order to get a Challenor’s approval and some money. It is not until later in the play that we begin to realise why he did this and start to sympathise with his situation. The first time that we see McBrain’s guilt and regret for what he’s done in on page 54 when the comedians are all back in the classroom waiting for Challenor to arrive. Griffiths stage directions tell us how McBrain is feeling, ( a freak of anger at the vent) McBrain then goes on to say, “So when do I get the thirty pieces of silver?” (He bangs the desk with his fist, half-self-punishing gesture) This quotation refers to the bible and how Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. This shows us as the audience the full extent of his regret and remorse. It shows us that he knows what he has done and that he’s ashamed of his actions. We then find out that his wife is ill and his guilt for betraying her as well as Waters. We know from earlier in the play that McBrain works as a docker so we know that he can’t have much money to pay for his wife’s medical treatment. This leads us to sympathise with McBrain as he committed the betrayal for good reason, whereas Samuels only betrayed Waters in order to get some extra cash for himself. This means that we as the audience feel more contempt for Samuels than we do for McBrain. We see McBrain as a warm, kind hearted character that gets on well with everybody and although he makes racist jokes in his act, he is in fact not racist.

        I do not agree with the statement as compared with Samuels who is racist and Phil who is sour, McBrain is seen as one of the more likeable characters in the play.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Jurisprudence section.

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