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play friel english irish

a play by Brian Friel, performed in 1980, and published in 1981. This is set in 1833 in a Donegal ‘hedge school’, a place where Latin, Greek, myth, and history are taught to the Irish-speaking peasantry. But it is also a time when British sappers are passing through the region, translating the ancient place-names into English. There is inevitable conflict between the old and the new, a poor but imaginative populace and the forces of a sort of cultural imperialism, Irish ‘backwardness’ and English confidence. The play ends with the promise of reprisals as a result of the disappearance and probable death of an officer, Lieutenant Yolland, who has attempted to cross the barriers of nationality and fallen in love with a local girl, Maire. Though some critics have expressed doubt about the plausibility of this romance, there has been general admiration for the vitality and complexity with which Friel handles his theme, the nature and importance of language.

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