– Kartikeya Gouthi
With reference to specific episodes, discuss the presentation and significance of English characters in Translations.
It is a common saying that “Everything is not as it seems” and Brian Friel’s play –‘Translations’ reflects the truth in this statement. Set in 1833, in the village of Baile Beag in the agricultural heartland of colonial Ireland, Translations explores the impact of intervention, re-mapping and anglicization of Gaelic names by the English. Translations is a play “about language and only about language”, and through this text Friel explores the effect of British intervention on Irish people, language and culture. However, what is also underlined by his descriptions of the English characters is that ‘Everything is not as it seems’.
We are first introduced to the English characters in the ending scene of the first act of the play. Until that point has, one by one, introduced us to all the other characters in the play. Brian Friel has deliberately left the introduction of the English characters for the last because they stand in sharp contrast to the motley group of Irish character who do not seem to be very coherent. Also it gives the Irish characters a chance to discuss the “red-coats” surveying the countryside and further develop the traditional view of the British. Friel uses the entire first act of the play to introduce us to the various characters, playing on the typical stereotypes of Irish and English people.
However, the introduction of Owen and the English character – Captain Lancey and Lieutenant Yolland appear to both break and reinforce these stereotypes. “Captain Lancey is middle-aged; a small, crisp officer, ... Uneasy with people”. Lieutenant Yolland is a contrast to Lancey, who is a typical British officer – smart, to the point, skilled in his job, following orders and getting the work done. Yolland on the other hand is younger, in his late twenties/early thirties. “He is tall and thin and...