David Ward: In the National Library of Ireland, a trove of notes shed light on Brian Friel’s development of his famous autobiographical play. One possible answer is Friel’s use of myth and metaphor (2). Transformation through dance (3) is the ritual that occurs in Dancing at Lughnasa (4). Resonant . It is and harvest time in County Donegal. In a house just outside the village of Ballybeg live the five Mundy sisters, barely making ends meet, their ages.

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In this play, Kate dictates what is acceptable ; she deems reality and imagination to danding mutually exclusive ; the unhappy mutations and collision of nature and culture. On one level it is a denotative and connotative code reinstantiating the ethos and rituals underlying La Lughnasa and other celebrations long overlaid by Christianity and other cultural encodings epitomised by the monolithic Kate.

But Dancing at Lughnasa, has its own perspective and agenda. Traditionally the revels of Lughnasa celebrated the cycle of death and resurrection and brought together males and females in a natural fashion, offering to provide both the setting and the means for joyous sexual encounter.

Seven at the time of the action of the play, he moves as a young man across the stage remembering that crucial year of his childhood.

Dancing at Lughnasa – Brian Friel

When she leaves the signifying chain incomplete saying, ‘Because, because, because’, she signals the demise of a critical spirit through her inability to counter the dominant ideology any longer. La Lughnasa is the. In this one character, Friel has drawn together the most influential dimensions of the patriarchal and logocentric tradition.

Metaphorically, eancing play conflates boundaries, beian that reality and imagination are mutually exclusive, and demonstrating that the cycle of life, like the body’s dance of self-exploration, although short, can effect transformation. Unleashed, these rhythms, flowing through the women’s actions, reflect how and why they are so open to the imaginary. Transcendence and oppression flex this play’s metaphor of dance and the associative system; oppression is identified and challenged and thwarted, if only partially by Agnes and Lughnaaa.

Thus Friel establishes that this is a play in which the techniques of stagecraft subject the ostensible, a very spare ‘action,’ to the scrutiny of memory.


As O’Faolain points out, these nationalistic premises led to the rejection lhghnasa much Anglo-Irish writing, such as Synge’s, because it was held not to be an adequate interpretation of Irish life. Retrieved from ” https: Indiana University Press, The Dancer or the Dance? Part of Friel’s interrogation of this logocentricity is built into the multivocal dialogue between Kate and her sisters, and part of it is built into the women’s music.


Totally enclosed by an almost animate harvest, the kitchen set is lean and functional, reflecting hardship. He is suffering from malaria and has trouble remembering many things, including the sisters’ names and his English vocabulary.

He then gathered his thoughts in a two-page summary lughhnasa incorporates a note from his diary: She suspects that the real reason is her brother Jack, whose heretical views have become known to the Church and have tainted her by association.

Clearly and without bitterness Christina tells Evans that she spends her days looking after ‘his lordship’, referring to Michael, DL, p.

Dancing at Lughnasa – Wikipedia

Family life — make-believe — remembering and remaking the past — betrayal — groping towards love. In this sense, he is, like a resurrected dancing master, inciting the dance of life. Through the use of archetypal myth and encyclopaedic metaphor, Friel achieves a play dominated by the concepts of growth and unlimited semiosis Michael Mundy encapsulates the momentum of childhood memories closely associated with the Mundy family’s acquisition of their ‘first wireless set’, ‘Marconi’, whose music, he says, ‘obsessed’ them DL.

The decision to use a narrator in the play came early but Friel was at first unsure who he was or whether there was only one of him. At their most complex, as the voice of pre-historic subjectivity, they express an abundance of brina, of phantasies and tangible reality. This leads the women into sudden outbursts of wild dancing.

This is indicative of the metaphor of dance where there is a flagrant and intentional crossing of type-boundaries whilst simultaneously asserting that there are significant analogies between the things compared. Thus the play gathers metaphoric force because it draws upon and presents spectators with heightened images neither entirely local nor entirely universal, not wholly present but sensed as possessing innate significance. On one level it signifies the fruitful union of the earth’s male and female aspects since both the poppy and the sacred.

The popular songs of the ‘s signal a wider frame of reference and culminate in ‘Anything Goes’, a counter-creed to everything that has moulded their lives. Consequently her sisters are faced with a choice; either they can dance or stand still.


Memories of dance linger into the final lines of the play as Michael, the narrator, looks back on his years in the sisters’ home, memories in which language seemed to have surrendered to movement “as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary”. Recently returned home after 25 years is their brother Jack, a priest who has lived as a missionary in a leper colony in a remote village called Ryanga in Uganda.

And yet, to leave Ballybeg, as Rose and Agnes eventually do, questioning and ultimately rejecting servitude, is also suspect. In a similar manner, Friel has Michael Mundy reinstantiate his whole family and, thereby, interrogates the forces which regulated it in a life manifest with images dancinb need, exploitation, domination and falsity, explicitly and implicitly raising questions about reality and, especially, female self-definition.

In its structural aspects, the play is thematically very close to Joyce particularly Finnegans Wake and Synge particularly The Playboy of the Western World. Throughout this analysis, a definition of structure will include cognitive, linguistic, ideological, physical and social structures, the constraining forces.

This page was last edited on 26 Novemberlhghnasa Peter Connolly, Gerrards Cross: This is a play that could go disastrously wrong, but in this production it goes magnificently well. The works are published in the electronic edition of the magazine under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike 4.

On 20 May, he wonders “What is the play about?

Agnes and Rose knit gloves to be sold in town, thereby earning a little extra money for the household. Gerry, Michael’s father, is Welsh.

Dancing at Lughnasa – Brian Friel Review | CultureVulture

This ‘effect of dancung has been typed as characteristic of a Celtic temperament by critics like Shaw and Eliot. The play’s brooding Chekhovian ethos of stasis and disintegration, of being and becoming, is apparently explicated around the summer of and the festival of La Lughnasa but, exploded by two pughnasa from an antic outsider, a Welshman, Gerry Evans.

Friel revives this bridgework, embedded in his densely metaphoric play but specifically to show the deprivation of these ‘brave Glenties women’.

These conflictual dynamics of pre-Christian and Christian energies are realised through componential representation, a layered metaphoric composition, potentially infinite because of its polydimensional network of semiotic properties.