Essay Sample on a Modern Drama Play by Brian Friel

Published: 2023-01-29
Essay Sample on a Modern Drama Play by Brian Friel
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Languages Multiculturalism Human behavior Community Dramatic literature
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1153 words
10 min read

A modern drama play by Brian Friel enacts some of the challenges faced by Britain and Ireland, particularly on social consciousness around intercultural communication and imperialism between the two countries. One of the significant issues that led to animosity between the two counties was the inevitable language barrier, which remains the central theme of Friel's play. The following study analyzes the translations and language barriers and how they impact cultural identity and community. The study also extends to gender issues, education, and imperialism.

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In the play, there are many translation conflicts that Friel introduces. The primary conflict in translation is the language. However, there are also issues related to mapping. The English spent time mapping the whole of Ireland using a technique known as cartography. Cartography plays a role in the translation between the British and the Irish. When Ireland was under British control in the 19th century, the British mapped the whole of Ireland using the Anglicizing Ordnance Survey. The cartography method meant that the British had to translate the whole of the Irish map into English to better understand the area. The use of the mapping technique has been used over the years to convert the country into a geological record. The translation was aimed at connecting the two countries by translating the geographical details from one language to another.

Two of the characters Yolland and Own serve as examples of the language translations from Gaelic to English. The two characters are tasked with the translations of the geographical locations in Ireland. An example is the Irish location Poll nag Caorach, which translates to "hole of the sheep." In English, the name translates to Poolkerry. Friel highlights the harmony that exists between the two characters despite their language differences. Yolland is of English descent while Owen is from Gaelic origin. Friel paints a picture that two different cultures can co-exist with one another and learn together provided that one culture does not reign supreme over the other. However, as the play continues, it is evident that the British meddle with the Irish culture transforming it.


Friel highlights the challenges that come with the interaction between the Irish and the British. One of the difficulties is language barriers. The translation of Gaelic naming of locations into English is one of the key players in creating a language conflict. The translation of the sites to English is the primary driver of the Irish losing their identity. Yolland's main task was to take all the locations in Ireland with Gaelic names and Anglicize them. Throughout the play, Friel highlights how the Irish are stripped of their identity and language as the British turn everything with a Gaelic name; even rocks.

Language plays a central role in the play. The playwright uses language as a driving force behind the issues happening in Baile Beag, Ireland. Friel's play shows the unmindfulness of the characters to abandon their language. This leads to a lot of misunderstandings between the characters as no one is willing to compromise for the sake of the other. The language conflicts translate even to the Irish Hedge Schools. The schools played a central role in students learning the Gaelic language. However, the disappearance of Hedge schools contributed primarily to the demise of the Gaelic language. As a result, the English system gradually took over the Irish educational system. Same extends to the relationship between Yolland and Marie. The language barrier between the two prevents them from understanding one another. The two have no understanding of what the other wants. Marie wants to travel outside Ireland while Yolland intends to stay in Ireland. However, Marie decides to learn English to work things out with Yolland. The concept extends to the Irish population who begin to learn the English language to make interactions with the British easy.

Cultural Identity

The play Translations depicts cultural identity crisis as a result of years of colonization, which results in the imbalance of power. Friel uses his creativity to show how cultural conflicts exist between the British and the Irish. On the one hand, there exist two languages. However, only one language is spoken on stage showing how one culture has fully been absorbed by the other. Being an Irish playwright, Friel still uses English in stage enactment as it is a widely recognized language. This shows how the Gaelic language has been lost throughout colonization. Friel shows the cultural dilemma as the Irish are keen to maintain their identity. However, they are unable to fully embrace their identity because of colonization.

Another key player to the loss of Irish identity is the translation of the Gaelic language into English. When the British translate the Irish locations into English, the Irish residents are left with no land as it effectively turns into British territory. Without land, the Irish people rescind their culture and identity.


Marie establishes a relationship with Manus. She, however, seems to have power over him despite relying on him as the sole provider in the household. Marie has an argument with Manus over applying for a job at the national school, which highlights their relationship. However, throughout the argument, it is still visible that Marie is restricted to her status as a woman. Marie, despite being authoritative, cannot work in a man's job and has to rely on Manus to sustain her showing the limitations of gender.

The play highlights some of the societal issues, especially in Ireland, whereby women have the potential to participate in society. However, some of the limitations that come from being a woman mean that they are locked out of anything male-dominated. Friel depicts a typical 19th-century society where women were considered housewives and could not participate in the industrialization process in the society. Therefore, women had to depend on men to work and provide for the family.


Education plays a central role in the play Translations. The British plan to replace the Irish language with English. The ideology behind this change is that translating the Irish language to English will facilitate effective transactions and trade between the Irish and the British. The Hedge Schools facilitate the learning of English by slowly transitioning into the British system of education and using Engish as the primary mode of teaching. Hedge schools, however, were earlier created to help with teaching the Gaelic language. The primary role of these schools is to ensure that the public understands English.

The play shows the conflicts that affect how the two cultures interact with one another in promoting learning activities. The Gaelic language, English Language, Yolland, Manus, The National school system, and the Hedge schools all conflict with one another. Manus represents the old way of Irelan's teaching system while Yolland identifies with the new Ireland which embraces the English culture and teachings while maintaining the identity of the Irish. Cultural conflicts play a role in how education is carried out in Ireland.

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