‘Making History’ by Brian Friel.
In this essay the author examines the extent to which Is the character of Hugh O’Neill is more influenced by private feelings or by public duty.
In Brian Friels play ‘Making History’ the reader wonders whether the character of Hugh O’Neill is more influenced by private feelings or public duty. By “private feeling’s” I mean beliefs, private views and opinions and his ‘public duty’ is his obligations to the Irish people. It should be noted that Friels portrayal of the character O’Neill caused great controversy amongst readers. The strong Irish man O’Neill was once seen as in history is no longer present. Instead we see a very complex and almost emotional character in Friel’s play. This leads us to wonder if Friel’s portrayal is correct. In my next few paragraphs I will discuss this argument with special reference to the passage but also to other selected moments in the play. I will also analyse Friel’s use of dramatic techniques in these selected moments.
At the very end of the play in Act 2 Scene 2 we see Lombard on stage with Hugh. They are discussing the writing of “The History”. In this extract we see Hugh’s private feelings on numerous times throughout it. He is adamant that Mabel should play a major role in ‘The History’. Lombard however protests telling Hugh that he was the hero not Mabel. Saying things like “How many heroes’ can one history accommodate?” Lombard’s idea of the history is to recreate this Great Irish Chieftain in a book again. So the Irish people can remember this man who spent his whole life fighting for them. However Hugh rejects this image. Hugh however doesn’t seem himself. Rather he sees himself as a coward and a failure. His public duty would be to go along with Lombard but his private feelings overwhelm him. In this scene Friel uses the dramatic technique of props and symbolism. This book to O’Neill represents his failure in life and he shows us this when he “shuts the book in fury”. Hugh recognises that Mabel was more of a hero because she reached across the boundaries and was left fighting till the end of her tragic death. In reality Lombard did not meet O’Neill till he was in Rome at the end of his life. Therefore Lombard actually never met Mabel. Friel uses the dramatic techniques of Dramatic Time and Historical Time to change reality and allow the audiences views and opinions to change. At the end of the extract we see that O’Neill is still deeply grieving his wife when he says “Mabel, I’m so sorry...Please forgive me Mabel...” and “(silently sobbing)”. If he was really interested in his public duty at this point he would have let Lombard portray him as a great Gaelic man in the history. But instead Hugh insists on the truth. This shows us that his private feeling influence him more at the end of play. The play ends with Lombard’s “public recital of the History”, but it takes place with the book shut. Like the ‘truth’ of history, and the ‘privacy’ of O’Neill, the actual content of Lombard’s history remains inaccessible.
In Friel’s play ‘Making History’ he has not added any direction of music. Instead the sounds and structures of the characters dialogue and speeches create their own music. With a diversity of accents the writer can create musical affects. At the end of the play both Lombard and O’Neill take turns to speak on stage in a reciting manner. Friel uses this dramatic technique of music to create a sense of division between O’Neill’s private feeling and public duty.
In other areas of the play such as the end of Act One Scene Two we see Hugh put his private feeling momentarily in front of his public duty. Hugh was raised and educated in England yet still seen as a Great Irish Chieftain. The reader always feels that he is torn between deciding with the English or helping the Irish overthrow them. When Hugh talks about his life in England he tells us how Sir Henry called him “the fox O’Neill”. Here Friel uses the dramatic technique of...
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