Turn to Act two, scene two and remind yourself of the whole scene. This is a very unusual love scene. How effective do you find it and how does it relate to the main concerns of the play as a whole? In act two, scene two Friel has created a very unusual love scene between Maire and Yolland who have just escaped a dance hand in hand. Soon enough language comes between them and they struggle to understand each other.
However the litany of place names, which has no essential or specific meaning, touches the heart of Maire and it somehow mysteriously brings them together.
This, only for the audience to discover when they speak in their respective languages, their desire for one another is on entirely different basis. Yolland wishes to stay with Maire in Baile Beag a place where he feels he can live, on the other hand Maire sees Yolland as a way of escaping her homeland and moving to a better life elsewhere.
The scene starts by suggesting the communication between the two worlds, two cultures is possible. However ironically the two individuals think and perceive things differently and that promise is never fulfilled.
Friel has opened the scene with music rising to a crescendo as Yolland and Maire approach running hand in hand and laughing. They begin to speak to each other after slowing down and eventually stopping. Maire speaks first saying “That leap across the ditch nearly killed me” (pg 49). This being Maire’s first words have a double meaning, other than the obvious one, a young Irish girl and an English soldier who have crossed the guilt of being together which is seen as treachery, it also shows the rejection of Maire’s Irish roots.
Yolland speaks soon after in English saying “I could scarcely keep up with you”. This seems as though they fully understand each other and are having a conversation, however they do not and even so, a feeling is conveyed that there is an inspirational form of communication between them reflected in their reserved physicality. Friel now adds in the vital stage directions which is where the language and communication begins to break down.
It is when they realise they are holding hands, which is what sparks off the immense embarrassment between the two and they become more aware of each other as they slowly drift apart. This is a technique used be Friel which adds to the effectiveness of this love scene. Maire now becomes more aware of the situation and guilt overcomes her as she says “Manus’ll wonder where I’ve got to” (pg 49), and they are still drifting apart. Maire then says “The grass must be wet. My feet are soaking” and Yolland immediately after says “Your feet must be wet. The grass is soaking”.
This may seem comical to the audience however it conveys a great message. It shows just how differently they perceive the same phenomenon and this is one of the key things that relates to the rest of the play, where we find out that both their intentions are perceived differently, these sentences only heighten the contrast between Maire and Yolland. Before they next speak, they are far apart from each other and then rejoin to introduce each others names. It is noticeable that Maire says to Yolland in Gaelic to say anything at all as she loves the sound of his speech.
Coincidentally Yolland then says the exact same words in English only a few lines later. Again this supports the idea that it seems as though they are having a normal conversation when in fact they are not. This adds to the strangeness of this love scene which Friel has created. Maire then tries Latin to communicate, but no avail, nevertheless Yolland still thinks she is speaking Gaelic. So Maire hits on her three English words ‘Water, Fire and Earth’ after each one Yolland excessively praises Maire on her ‘perfect English’ (pg 64).
Maire next tries a sentence which her aunt taught her and this stirs such an excited response from Yolland that she thinks her aunt Mary might have taught her something sexually provocative. Yolland on the other hand is so fascinated by her English that he fails to recognise Maire’s English sentence as a text book phrase. To add to this misconception Yolland extends his hand to Maire and Maire misinterpreting it moves away. Yolland is now desperately trying to attract Maire’s attention, he tries twice calling both her name and her nickname but none prevail.
It is this next attempt that we realise it is this that makes the scene such an unusual love scene. Yolland begins using Owens litany of place names to attract Maire “Bun na hAbhann”. By doing this Friel creates an emotionally charged atmosphere as Yolland ‘softly, almost privately’ recites these names to her as though he were reciting a love poem. After the second name is said, Maire finally stops and Yolland is encouraged and he is soon after joined by Maire. We can notice that these names begin to shorten in length as they get physically closer which suggests a slight quickening of the pace.
We should also notice that it is Maire who takes the initiative and holds out her hand to Yolland. This tells us that she is more strong willed and spirited than Yolland has ever dared to be. Yolland has now won Maire back by the atypical way of saying names. This is exactly what makes this love scene so peculiar as well as the blind communication between the two (different languages). With every name said a step closer is taken until they are finally united. Maire feels Yolland hands saying “soft hands; a gentleman’s hands” (pg 52).
She mentioned her hands earlier in the play saying that they were blistered from the harvest, and she is now noticing how soft Yolland’s are compared to hers. This is an indication made by Friel that the language is becoming more sensual. This is also the case when she soon after says “Your arms are long and thin and the skin on your shoulders is very white” (pg 52). They are slowly becoming more involved in the conversation as Yolland tells Maire how beautiful she is. They both tremble at the others touch and in these three lines it appears they understand each other “You’re trembling…
I’m trembling too” (pg 52). After this it is again Maire who takes the next physical step and holds his face in her hands. Yolland then says to Maire “I’m not going to leave here… ” Maire soon after says “I want o live with you-anywhere-anywhere at all always- always”. Friel has embedded this quiet irony in the words where there is a potential disagreement. Yolland wants to stay and Maire wants to escape with him elsewhere, however they cannot understand each other which prevents the possible tension. More irony is evident when Yolland and Maire repeat the sentence without knowing.
Maire says it first in Gaelic “Always? What is that word- always? ” Yolland then says exactly the same thing soon after. Again Friel may have intended for this to be comical to the audience however it remains ironic that they both have different perceptions about what they want to do. Moreover their love will be short lived and will never be ‘always’ due to the inevitability of this relationship being unsuccessful, and we say this because here is a local Irish girl in the arms of a British soldier- a romantic but also a shocking image suggesting conquest, collaboration and colonisation.
It is a sudden end where Maire and Yolland kiss just as Sarah enters and sees them. Friel relates this scene to the main concern of the play, which is that language is a barrier to moving forward and progressing in the increasingly modern society of that time, and this was due to the English soldiers presence and influence. We know this is the main concern of the play because it is firstly connected to the plays in many ways and secondly Friel spoke of ‘Translations’ in Pine saying “The play has to do with language and only language”.
In this scene both Maire and Yolland try to speak in the same language and fail to, they then speak in their own languages and many matters are perceived differently and misinterpreted. The part where Maire says her feet are wet and the grass must be soaking and then Yolland saying the same thing straight after only differently, is suggesting that the play is quietly insisting that two people can try to employ one same language and still fail to communicate. Also, as was mentioned earlier, that the scene starts with the convincing impression that two cultures and languages can communicate.
However the two individuals think, speak and perceive things differently and that the only way to success is learning the language in order to directly communicate. The scene also conveys the message that enthusiasm and desire leads you nowhere, just as was Yolland, nonetheless this took him nowhere near communicating with the Irish and the effect was devastating. In conclusion to this essay Friel has presented this scene in a very effective way and has related this scene to many concerns of the play.
Cite this essay
Unusual love scene. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/unusual-love-scene-1769-new-essay