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The final act of Translations is an act in which Yolland ends up as missing, so creating a number of stories as to the circumstances of his disappearance. The final act of Translations can indeed be criticised for lacking dramatic power, as throughout the act there is no particular build up of tension that leads to one significant event. It can be seen that what happens to Yolland is fairly predictable; therefore the dramatic power is not present.
The act can also be seen as ending in confusion as there is no definitive point that tells us exactly what each character goes on to do. But despite this, the statement may be questioned as was it Brian Friel’s purpose to do this? Perhaps by ending the play with a lack of dramatic power and in confusion, he has left the rest of the play and the events leading on from it down to the imagination of the reader.
In the final act of Translations, everything flows along in a kind of way that doesn’t give dramatic power, as the subject and the dramatic power it radiates is the same as it was in the beginning of the play. The subject is still the same, being that of the changing of place names and its effect on the people of Ireland, and it never changes, therefore the readers have not experienced a build up of tension to an exciting and unannounced event.
The very fact that Yolland, a British soldier loathed by many Irish as he is changing Irish place names, has had a relationship with Maire, a pretty young Irish girl whom Manus also likes, tells us that it may be likely that something will happen to him at the end of the play as he has caused much dislike for himself from those in the play due to these things. Therefore, this also causes a lack of dramatic power when he finally goes missing in act three, as it can be argued that it was bound to happen and could have been predicted by the readers.
The final act of Translations also lacks dramatic power due to its ‘echoes’ and resonances (that is, repetitions) to previous parts of the play. Brian Friel has woven in many an echo and resonance into the structure of the play, and this also causes a lack of dramatic power as the points that have been made in previous parts of the play are just being repeated over in act three.
However, although it can be argued that there is a considerable lack of dramatic power, this may only be a lack in a physical sense, i.e. a lack of physical dramatic power, such as a fight taking place or someone being killed within the narration of the play. Throughout act three, characters emotions run high, and dramatic power can be seen as being expressed through their emotions. An example can be seen with Sarah mumbling her regret for not being able to speak more fluently. ‘I’m sorry…I’m sorry… I’m so sorry, Manus…’ This use of few words repeating themselves, and the use of a. ellipsis symbolises her not being able to fully express her feelings fully through language as her linguistic talent is limited.
The act has also been criticised for ending in confusion, and this may be down to many points which emerge throughout Act three. The final act ends with an ellipsis, in that Hugh ends with, ‘…would come forth from Lybia’s downfall…’ If this final speech had ended with a full stop, then perhaps this would have signified the end of an era or the end of a build up to events. However, the ellipsis suggests that the process is ongoing, and it is not clear where the process is leading, or what it is leading to. Therefore, we can’t directly determine what happens at the end of the play, as there appears to be no definitive end to it. The ellipsis suggests that something will happen following the end of the play, yet the readers aren’t made clear as to what that will be.
Another reason as to why the act has been criticised for ending in confusion is that we (as the readers) are not clear as to what finally happens to Yolland, or who is responsible for him going missing. We only have our suspicions to work with in trying to create an ending to the story. It seems suspicious that Manus leaves right away after it has been discovered that Yolland is missing, as Owen points out, ‘Clear out now and Lancey’ll think you’re involved somehow.’ Therefore, the readers may form suspicions about who’s involved, yet this shows how the play ends in confusion as no-one can determine what has happened to him.
The play ends in confusion as all of the characters are ended on a depressing note, with none of them showing exactly where they are going to go on to or what they’ll end up doing in life. The one thing we know is that Maire is going to go on to learn English, yet we are not told what that will take her on to. None of the characters specify what they will go on to do in life, yet each is ended in a dismal way with Jimmy Jack going mad and Yolland having gone missing. This demonstrates why the play has been criticised for ending in confusion, as the readers must only imagine what the characters go on to do. However, this may also have been purposeful by Friel to let audiences use their imaginations and minds to create an ending to the play.
Another way of interpreting this is by saying that Brian Friel has not ended the play in that much confusion, as by taking information from the history books, and by using our own knowledge, it is clear as to what happens to Ireland following on from the end of the play. Ireland does go on to be taken over completely by England, and all the place names are changed form Irish to English. Therefore, it can also be argued that the play does end in confusion but only to a certain extent as we (as readers) at least know the fate of Ireland. Therefore, the points that Brian Friel ends act three in confusion and with a lack of dramatic power can be agreed upon but can also be argued against as Brian Friel may have ended in such a way for a purpose, that being to allow the reader to use their imagination in creating the end of a ‘story.’