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Timeline: Irish History Surrounding 'Translations'

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Allie Courtney

on 14 October 2011

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Transcript of Timeline: Irish History Surrounding 'Translations'

Timeline Collaborative Project Examining Irish History Relative to 'Translations' Maggie Becker | Anna Boarini | Allie Courtney | Kerri Doherty | Emily Theis 1798 1916 1845-1852 (cc) image by jantik on Flickr 1833 (cc) image by jantik on Flickr Irish Rebellion Translations The Great Famine Easter Rising The Great Famine 1845 -1852 Background Information Introduction Passage / Analysis Works Cited

“Before the Famine.” The History Place. 2000. 13 July 2011.

Friel, Brian. Translations. London: Faber and Faber Limited Bloomsbury House, 1981. Print.

“Great Famine (Ireland).” Wikipedia. 2011. 13 July 2011.

"The Great Famine of 1845." History Learning Site. Web. 15 July 2011.

Nally, David. “That Coming Storm: The Irish Poor Law, Colonial Biopolitics, and the
Great Famine.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Sep 2008.
Vol 98 Issue 3. p 714-741. <http://smcproxy1.saintmarys.edu:2076/ehost/
pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=945f914f-5e07-44e-bec3-c8f5c8b70fa2% 40sessionmgr15&vid=1&hid=8>.

“Translations.” Wikipedia. 2011. 13 July 2011.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translations>. The potato famine, also known as the "Great Famine" to the Irish, occurred in Ireland from 1845 to 1852. The famine was devastating in that it caused mass starvation, disease, and emigration. Ireland lost about 25% of their population, either from people migrating to other countries, or from starvation and disease. More than one million people died between 1845 and 1852. This terrible epidemic left lasting effects in the country that still exist politically and socially. This event was so altering to the Irish community that historians commonly group Irish history as “pre-famine” and “post-famine” ("Great Famine"). Easter Rising Works Cited

“Easter Rising.” Wikipedia. 2011. 10 July 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Rising>.

Friel, Brian. Translations. London: Faber and Faber Limited Bloomsbury House, 1981. Print.

Ryan, A. P. “The Easter Rising.” History Today 16.4 (1966): 234. Web. 10 July 2011. Background Information Passage / Analysis 1916 Irish Rebellion 1798 Brian Friel's Translations is a play about 19th century Ireland. The play takes place in a townland called Baile Beag in August 1833. The plot of the play revolves around the Bristish desire to map its entire territory for the Ordnance survey. The play deals with the issue of language and how it affects the relationship between the Irish and the British. Without knowledge of the historical context between Ireland and England, a reader of the play may not understand the dynamics of the characters. The process of creating a map of Ireland involves further invasion of the British and eventual loss of Irish culture because they also were Anglicizing the names of places in Ireland. Ireland became even more controlled by the British Empire after the maps were created. We wish to explore more into the theme of the loss of Irish culture, which can be seen throughout the play. The history between Ireland and England reveal the origins of the tensions that exist in Translations, as well as explains the foreshadowing of events to come. Although Ireland did make efforts to break away from England, they remained dependent on England for many years. This shaped the history of Ireland and is the reason why English is mostly spoken in Ireland today. It is imperative for the reader to obtain an understanding of the history between the Irish and the British surrounding Translations, as the themes of language and tensions derive from these events. Background Information Works Cited

"Aeneid." Wikipedia. 2011. 16 July 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeneid>.

Egenolf, Susan B. “Our fellow-creatures: Women Narrating Political Violence in the 1798 Irish Rebellion.” Eighteenth-Century Studies Winter 2009: 217-234. Web. 15 July 2011. <http://smcproxy1.saintmarys.edu:2096/journals/eighteenth-century_studies/v042/42.2.egenolf.html>.

Friel, Brian. Translations. London: Faber and Faber Limited Bloomsbury House, 1981. Print.

Holwell, John. “A Brief History of Ireland.” Journal of Online Genealogy (1997). Web. 10 July 2011.<http://genealogypro.com/articles/Irish-history.html>.

“Irish Rebellion of 1798.” Wikipedia. 2011. 10 July 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Rebellion_of_1798>. Passage / Analysis Earlier in the play Hugh persists that “we must learn where we live, we must learn to make them our own” (Friel 88). He further explains that it is not facts and history that create culture, but “images of the past embodied in language” (Friel 88). Hugh is not in favor of the British Anglicizing all of the Irish names of places. The Irish names signify Irish culture and history, and thus taking away those names will yield to a loss of culture. Because the play takes place after the Irish Rebellion, perhaps Hugh is alluding to the tensions that still remain between the Irish and the British and thus is urging the people to not stand for the Anglicizing of names. By finally closing out his argument with the story of the Trojans and the Tyrian towers, he is stating that although the Irish Rebellion did not end favorably for the Irish, they will rise up again to overthrow the British. The fact that Hugh uses Latin in telling the story goes back to his argument that history is preserved in language. As a teacher, Hugh believes it is important to preserve culture and learn “dead” languages to learn about these cultures. Hugh hopes that the Irish history does not get lost over the years. The Irish Rebellion of 1798 precedes the time period of the play, but ultimately sets up the tensions and themes that exist throughout Translations. The strained relationships between the Irish and British are highlighted by Brian Friel throughout the play. Hugh closes out the final Act with this passage from the poem “Aeneid”, referencing how the Trojan people planned to overthrow the oppressive and dominating Tyrian towers. This mirrors the Irish Rebellion of 1798, with the Trojans symbolizing the independence-seeking Irish and the Tyrian towers representing the torturous and powerful British regime. Hugh displays his love for the classics by using this example of the Trojans that are also representative of Homer’s The Illiad and The Odyssey, which Jimmy reads in the opening scene. In the play, the British had just demonstrated their power over the Irish by threatening to shoot all the livestock in Baile Beg and to evict and destroy their houses if they did not return with information about the whereabouts of Lieutenant Yolland. The Irish wanted to defeat the British, just as the Trojans wanted to destroy their enemies from Tyre ("Aeneid"). Hugh There was an ancient city which, ‘tis said, Juno loved above all the lands. And it was the goddess’s aim and cherished hope that here should be the capital of all nations - should the fates perchance allow that. Yet in truth she discovered that a race was springing from Trojan blood to overthrow some day these Tyrian towers - a people late regem belloque superbum - kings of broad realms and proud in war who would come forth for Lybia’s downfall - such was - such was the course - such was the course ordained - ordained by fate... What the hell’s wrong with me? Sure I know it backways, I’ll begin again.
(Friel 90-91) The Act of Union was passed in August 1800, which “took away the measure of autonomy granted to Ireland’s Protestant Ascendancy” (“Irish Rebellion of 1798”). The Rebellion left thousands of dead over three months on both sides. On January 1, 1801, the Act of Union came into effect and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and “not surprisingly, the union in Ireland was highly unpopular and relations continued to deteriorate between the Catholic and Protestant populations” (Holwell). The Rebellion’s outbreak started in and around the city of Dublin on May 24, 1798, with the heaviest fighting taking place in County Kildare. The rebellion did not stay in one area of Ireland, “but moved across the land, through villages, countryside, and private estates“ (Egenolf). The homes of the Irish “were absorbed into the rebellion, often employed as military headquarters and infirmaries or burned to the ground by either faction” (Egenolf). The Rebellion lasted until July 14, and was mainly a “bloody rural guerrilla war,” and at times “took on the worst characteristics of a civil war” (“Irish Rebellion of 1798”). The British Government practiced large scale massacres of captured and wounded rebels after their victories. The Society of United Irishmen was formed in 1791, and “openly put forward policies of further democratic reforms and Catholic emancipation” (“Irish Rebellion of 1798”). The Society was “forced underground and toward armed insurrection” following the execution of Louis XVI in 1793 (“Irish Rebellion of 1798”). The British Establishment responded with martial law, including tactics such as house-burnings, torture, pitchcapping that involved tar to rip off hair or flesh, and murder. Since 1691, Ireland had been controlled by a Protestant Ascendancy whose members were loyal to the British Crown. The ideals of the American Revolution inspired many parts of the world at this point in history, including the Irish. A group among the ruling class joined forces with the Catholic populace to seek reform and freedom from the British. The Irish Volunteers were created as a militia to defend the country against French invasion once France became involved in America’s Revolutionary War (“Irish Rebellion of 1798”). With further inspiration from the French Revolution, the Irish Volunteers along with the Irish Patriot Party pushed for self-rule, a more independent parliament, and greater enfranchisement. The mention of a possible potato blight as well as their susceptibility to the Anglicization of their place names due to economic hardships in Translations foreshadows the much large role England will play in Ireland during the Great Famine. Because of the famine, the British government was able to take more control of Ireland, believing that “agricultural rationalization, fiscal restructuring, and population clearances were necessary to 'ameliorate' and 'improve' Irish society” (Nally 1). In 1838 the Poor Law Ireland Act had been passed, which gave England further control over Ireland disguised as famine aid. The English used the law to change the make-up of Ireland, for they believed that “progress could only be achieved by eliminating the cottier and small tenant class, [and] creating a landless labor pool” (Nally 10). In other words, despite knowing that the Irishman’s livelihood depends on owning a plot of land and raising crops, the British preferred to Anglicize the Irish economy by having “farms redrawn and resettled in more commercial ways—which is to say in less communal and less egalitarian ways” (Nally 10). It became clear that British “theories tagged as 'ameliorative' were later wielded as tools to radically restructure Irish society” (Nally 17). In the grand scheme of things, the Irish dependence on the potato crop left them vulnerable to England’s takeover. Many Englishman believed that “Ireland was a nation in need of transformation” ("Before the Famine"). The British could not understand the rural Irish lifestyle, and “to the industrious, ambitious British, their rural Irish neighbors seemed to be an alien, rebellious, backward people, stuck in an ancient agrarian past” ("Before the Famine"). A disaster in their way of life, such as a famine, would be exactly the sort of excuse the British could use to exert their control. During the time period in which Translations is set, Ireland’s economy had been absorbed by Britain, and “although free trade now existed between the two countries, England generally used Ireland as a dumping ground for its surplus goods” ("Before the Famine"). Furthermore, a survey revealed that in 1835, “75 percent of Irish laborers were without any regular work and that begging was very common” ("Before the Famine"). This widespread hardship explains why the Irish were susceptible to the British army’s invasion and map-making, as well as to Lancey’s threats in Act 3. The Irish’s main concerns were survival and quality of life, not the long term implications of the Anglicizing of their place names. Manus Just the sweet smell - that’s all?

Bridget They say that’s the way it snakes in, don’t they? First the smell; and then one morning the stalks are all black and limp.

Doalty Are you stupid? It’s the rotting stalks makes the sweet smell for God’s sake. That’s what the smell is - rotting stalks.

Maire Sweet smell! Sweet smell! Every year at this time somebody comes back with stories of the sweet smell. Sweet God, did the potatoes ever fail in Baile Beag? Well, did they ever-ever? Never! There was never blight here. Never. Never. But we’re always sniffing about for it, aren’t we? - looking for disaster.

This fear of a future potato blight clearly foreshadows the famine of the 1840's and illustrates how critical the potato crop is for the Irish, for Maire calls a potential potato famine a “disaster” (Friel 18). Although Translations is set in 1833, twelve years before the “Great Famine” in Ireland, the play foreshadows the famine in a way that showcases not only how important the potato crop is to the Irish, but also how devastating a famine would be, both physically and politically. Early in the play, the fear of a potato blight is mentioned in the school house (Friel 18). The famine changed Ireland forever. Physically, more than a quarter of the population was lost to either death or emigration. Socially, the make-up of society was altered. In 1845, around 700,000 people made up the labor class. In 1910, there were about 300,000 laborers. Also, the numbers of smaller farms decreased while farms that maintained a large amount of acres increased. The Irish language suffered a loss as famine weakened the country, especially in rural areas where the Irish language was spoken the most. With the end of the famine also came the end of the middleman rent system. Arguably most important, the end of the famine brought on a new wave of nationalism for the Irish in the wake of the tragedy. The Irish had rallied behind the lack of help from the British, and this surge of nationalism set up the Easter Rebellion in the next century ("The Great Famine of 1845"). The dependency on potatoes coupled with the arrival of blight, a plant potato disease, caused the onset of the Great Famine in 1845. In early 1845, Irish newspapers first warned of the blight spreading through other parts of Europe. On September 13th, it was announced that the blight had indeed reached Ireland. Approximately 1/3 of the potato crops in Ireland were lost. In 1846, 3/4 of the crops in Ireland were lost to blight. In the fall of 1846, the first deaths that were directly traced to starvation occurred. Britain’s response to the famine was arguably unhelpful. The British government sent to ship a large amount of corn to feed the Irish, but due to weather the corn became both delayed and inedible. In 1846, the British government announced that they had faith in the market to provide food for everyone. This laissez-faire attitude halted relief efforts, and as a result more and more Irish citizen fell victim to starvation. The brutal middlemen tenants also started to evict their leasers to prevent liabilities for themselves. As a result of these evictions, impending starvation, and lack of help from the British government, millions of families emigrated to America to evade the famine ("Great Famine of 1845"). The cause of the Great Famine can be traced back to the Irish Rebellion, which culminated in the 1801 Act of Union that placed Ireland in the United Kingdom and all power derived from Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Chief Secretary of Ireland to positions chosen by the British. From this, the British imposed several laws on the Irish Catholics, which comprised of 80% of the population, creating tensions and hardships for the Irish Catholics. The property system that existed in Ireland during the 1840’s was a “middle man” system, where rent collection became the responsibility of the landlord’s agents, or "middlemen". These middlemen were usually of higher class than the Irish Catholics and thus were ruthless towards them with outrageous policies. These middlemen leased out smaller areas of land, in order to maximize their revenue. By selling smaller portions of land, the middlemen were able to charge higher rents for more customers. This land was such a small area that only potato crops were able to successfully grow. These social and political factors led to complete dependency on the potato, especially for those in poverty, which was the large majority of Ireland ("Great Famine"). Here you will find two video clips about the Easter Rising. The first is from the film Michael Collins. This shows a depiction of the actual fighting and when the rebels surrendered. The second tells the story of the Rising with pictures and actual footage from the event. The ending of Translations also links to the Easter Rising. The reader never finds out what happens to Manus or Yolland. While the story reaches a resolution, at the same time the reader is left wondering what will happen. This is also true for Ireland’s relationship with England. It seems every time the Irish think they have found resolution with the English government, be it with finally being granted home rule or becoming their own nation, it seems that something goes wrong and the problems do not get resolved. Lancey Lutienent Yolland is missing. We are searching for him. If we don’t find him, or if we receive no information as to where he is to be found, I will pursue a course of action.

Owen They are searching for George. If they don’t find him -

Lancey Commencing twenty-four hours from now we will shoot all the lives stock in Ballybeg.At once.

Owen Beginning this time tomorrow they'll kill every animal in Baile Beag - unless they're told where George is.

Lancey If that doesn't bear results, commencing forty-eight hours from now we will embark on a series of evictions and levelling of every abode in the following selected areas.

Lancey, through Owen, then lists the areas of Donegal where the evictions will take place (Friel 79-80). Translations foreshadows the events that would be sparked with the Easter Rising. It is based almost 100 years earlier than the rebellion, but the play touches on why the Irish fought back. Ireland was a colony of England and when English troops came to Anglicize the country, the people felt threatened. When the names of towns and geographic locations were being changed while the whole country was being mapped, this was only for the benefit of the British, not the Irish. The final pages of Act 3 also illustrate how the British treated the Irish. When Yolland goes missing, the Army threatens to burn crops and kill the cattle if he is not found by a certain date. On Easter Monday 1916, a rag tag group of Irish rebels took control of Dublin using the General Post Office as its headquarters. The rebels also controlled the Four Courts, Liberty Hall and St. Stephens Green. For seven days the rebels under the control of leaders like Eamon de Valera, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, and Michael Collins fought the British for control of the city. After the week long rebellion, the city of Dublin was devastated. The Saturday after Easter Monday, the rebels surrendered and many of the leaders were courts-martialed and executed by the English. On the whole, the people of Dublin and those living in Ireland were not happy with the rebels for destroying their capital. However, after the English began to execute the men, the Irish rallied behind the cause, proclaiming those that were killed martyrs. After the Irish Republican Army and their government Sinn Fein were able to regroup, they went to war with the British. Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising was a seven-day rebellion that proclaimed to the world that Ireland would no longer settle with just being an English colony. The Irish wanted to be their own free, independently ruled nation. Ireland had been a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland after the Acts of Union passed in 1800. The Irish lost their own parliament in Dublin and were then ruled from Westminster. It would take over 100 years for Ireland to become Independent, but even then the English remained a presence in Ireland. Famine Memorial in Dublin Painting depicting a struggling famine family Irish Folk Song Depicting the 1798 Rebellion Irish Folk Song Depicting the 1798 Rebellion Irish Folk Song Depicting the 1798 Rebellion English Involvement in the Great Famine Brian Friel Stage of the Play
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