A Comparison/Contrast of Brendan Behan's 1940'-IRA stagework "An Gaill" and its English version "The Hostage"

Essay by TylerguyHigh School, 12th gradeA+, April 2004

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From An Gaill to The Hostage and the greatness lost therein

Brendan Behan is arguably the most prolific post World War II writer to come from Ireland. A joint American-English audience, expecting another Joyce or Swift eagerly accepted the new author into the world of English theater. A scandalous character, he was known as a wild "angry youth"(Ricks 9), often appearing drunk in public and being arrested for that charge several times while on travels in America, Canada, and England (Boyle 137). Of his work offered to contemporary theater, the play An Gaill was the most praised. Published in 1958, it was set in current day Ireland. Two years earlier, in 1956, Ireland saw the launch of operation "Harvestman" by the IRA, the first total border campaign for the liberation of Ulster from British rule (Coogan 228). History is wound into the story in that the character Leslie is plucked out of County Armagh and slipped effortlessly across the border.

This is actually quite accurate in describing the Nationalist feeling of Armagh and the lack of border security. Also, the play is based on an actual event, where a British soldier by the name of Bruce Lennon was captured and held in Belfast in an attempt to halt the hanging of a captured IRA man. The play vividly challenges modern thinking in Ireland concerning Nationalism and dieing for ones country, mixed in with a severely witty use of the Irish (Gaelic) language's many double meanings and hidden references. However, the Gaeltacht audience is not an extremely large one, so with the aid of Joan Littlewood he translated his play into English, trusting her to know the wants of an English audience. Alas, as with all matters Irish, the Anglicization of Irish culture always leaves a mere perverted shell of its...