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John B. Keane (1928—2002)


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A: John B. Keane Pf: 1965, Dublin Pb: 1966 G: Trag. in 3 acts S: Bar and lane, south-west Ireland, 1960s C: 10m, 3fMaggie Butler comes to Mick Flanagan's bar in the small village of Carraigthomond. asking him to auction her field for her. The field is let for grazing to Thady (‘Bull’) McCabe, a local farmer, who will be keen to buy the field since it borders his land. Bull hopes to get the land cheap, since he paid rent on it for five years and tended the field. He will not allow any locals to bid against him and intends to frighten off any outsiders; so he bribes Mick to accept his bid. The next day, a stranger arrives in the bar: William Dee from Galway, newly returned from England, is looking for some land to use as a site from which to sell concrete blocks. The auction is held, and William outbids Bull, but the reserve price is not met. Mick undertakes to sell the field by private treaty. Bull gathers his clan together that night and they decide to frighten away the stranger. Bull and Tadhg lie in wait for William and give him a beating which kills him. Five weeks later, the community will not reveal the truth behind William's death, despite a moving sermon from the Bishop in which he denounces ‘the unappeasable hunger for land’ and threatens to place the whole village under interdict. Still the authorities fail to get anyone to testify against Bull, and when Bull is challenged direct, he points out how the law favours the rich and educated, while there's no law for the poor: ‘if there's no grass, there's the end of me and mine’.

A: John B. Keane Pf: 1965, Dublin Pb: 1966 G: Trag. in 3 acts S: Bar and lane, south-west Ireland, 1960s C: 10m, 3f

Despite the monstrosity of Bull's crime, Keane, himself a publican in County Kerry, has sympathy with a community that resists the intrusion of outsiders and the concreting over of their land. The Field was made into a successful film in 1991, with Richard Harris as Bull.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

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