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The audience is additionally left with the understanding of the importance of language by the end of the opening sequence of the play. Through Sarah, Friel underlines the ability to form relationships without sharing a spoken language, especially in the cultural society of Baile Beag as her lack of an ability to speak and subsequent use of actions, while they restrict her from giving superficial information such as directing Manus towards the pub where Hugh is, allow her to convey more sentimental thoughts and feelings that she has.

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She notably presents Manus with some flowers as a gesture of affection towards him at which point he kisses the top of her head as a sign of appreciation. In essence this presents the audience with the concept of a society where communication can be achieved provided those involved have a degree of sentimentality between them as Sarah seems to have no trouble showing her affection for Manus, nor showing her discomfort with the eventual kiss shared between Maire and Yolland.

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When the “uneasy-with-people” Lancey is eventually introduced in the play, it seems his rigid and ignorant personality is what leads to a failure in communication between himself and Hugh, for instance repeating “a picture” in a futile, arrogant attempt to discuss mapping.

The contrast therefore present between Sarah’s sentimentality and Lancey’s self proclaimed superiority accentuates this lack of a need for a direct vocal conversation, given that there is a true presence of emotion in a person’s gestures.

Additionally Maire’s remark about the English that she doesn’t “know a word they’re saying … but sure that doesn’t matter” reinstates this idea of communication through simple and personal actions rather than speaking. Furthermore, it foreshadows her eventual relationship with Yolland in that she puts aside their lingual differences and wishes to be with him for his outward disposition.

In contrast to this, her relationship with Manus serves as one that lacks sentimentality on Maire’s behalf in spite of both peoples’ ability to speak. Manus speaks extensively to Maire in this opening sequence, only for her to be frequently dismissive in stating things such as “doesn’t matter” and “that’s better” which seems to present the audience with the idea that sometimes words cannot achieve the affection that gestures can as in spite of all Manus’ attempts to win her over, Maire does not seem particularly interested in what he has to say and chooses to go with the gesture-oriented and English speaking Yolland.

An analysis of the opening sequence of the play proves very effective in understand the nature of conflicts that follow. The interactions between characters including Manus and Sarah, and Doalty and Bridget set the foundation for the key themes of the play and in equating these characters to the themes; the audience is better able to recognise their development through the play. Ultimately by the end of the first twenty pages of the script, the audience should be almost completely aware of the increasing tension between the British and the Irish, as well as the potential misfortunes that may accompany the residents of Baile Beag.


Mazzara F. The Challenge of Translating Brian Friel’s Translations 2003

Litvack L. The Historical and Colonial Context of Brian Friel University of Belfast

Jones N. Translations, a Faber critical guide

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