Out of character

Frances Babbage

in Re-Visioning Myth

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780719067525
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701782 | DOI:
Out of character

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  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)


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This chapter considers a series of plays all first produced in Britain between 1969 and 1988: Maureen Duffy's Rites (1969); Caryl Churchill and David Lan's A Mouthful of Birds (1986); and Timberlake Wertenbaker's The Love of the Nightingale (1988). These three re-visions in different ways exploit tensions between daily experience and the mythical/fantastical, suggesting a permeable skin between them: here, ordinary lives are infiltrated by spirits, or alternatively a predominantly mythic frame cracks under the insistent pressure of a contemporary world. The plays are linked by their engagement with Euripides' The Bacchae, a text itself preoccupied with the fragility of boundaries. It is useful to view Rites in the context of emergent second-wave feminism: it is a one-act black farce that vividly satirises antagonism between the sexes, and articulates mounting resentment on the part of women rooted in an awareness, variously more and less conscious, of their unequal social treatment.

Keywords: plays; Britain; Rites; Mouthful of Birds; Love of Nightingale; Bacchae; feminism; women; Maureen Duffy; re-visions

Chapter.  17725 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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