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Dancing at Lughnasa


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A: Brian Friel Pf: 1990, Dublin Pb: 1990 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Kitchen and garden of the Mundy family, County Donegal, Ireland, 1936 C: 3m, 5fMichael, the Narrator, reminisces about his childhood and especially the harvest-time Celtic Festival of Lughnasa, August 1936, when the five Mundy sisters bought a new wireless and their brother Father Jack returned after 25 years’ working in a leper colony in Uganda. The five sisters are all spinsters and poor, because the oldest, Kate, a 40-year-old schoolteacher, is the only wage-earner, although Agnes and their simple sister Rose make a little money knitting gloves at home. Chris, the youngest and most attractive sister, is 7-year-old Michael's mother. Kate is outraged at stories of pagan dancing for Lughnasa, but when the wireless plays a sprightly jig, even she joins in the fun. Gerry Evans appears unexpectedly. He is Michael's father, an English travelling salesman who left Chris. He asks her to leave with him, but she knows his promises are empty. It becomes clear that Father Jack has been sent home because he became too involved in pagan African ritual. Gerry is leaving to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Rose's favourite rooster is killed, presumably as a blood sacrifice by Jack, and he ceremoniously exchanges hats with Gerry. When Agnes and Rose can no longer sell their gloves, because a new knitwear factory has opened, they disappear and end up destitute in London. Gerry is wounded in Spain, and Father Jack dies within a year.

A: Brian Friel Pf: 1990, Dublin Pb: 1990 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Kitchen and garden of the Mundy family, County Donegal, Ireland, 1936 C: 3m, 5f

While not his best play, the rural nostalgia of Dancing at Lughnasa made it Friel's most popular piece, being filmed, and playing in venues across the world, including New York, where one newspaper billed it as Dancing at Lufthansa. As in the reminiscence play Williams's The Glass Menagerie (also set in 1936), Friel's drama, based on his own childhood experiences in Donegal, shows a world in transition. The healing rituals of the past are giving way to industrialization, warfare, and mass communication.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Brian Friel (b. 1929)


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