PL EN


2011 | 1 | 252-267
Article title

One, Mad Hornpipe: Dance as a Tool of Subversion in Brian Friel'sMolly Sweeney

Content
Title variants
Languages of publication
EN
Abstracts
EN
The plot of Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney oscillates around the theme of perception, blindness and eye-sight recovery. Although visually impaired, the eponymous character is a self-reliant and independent person who is very active, both professionally and socially. What serves as the source of tragedy in the play is the male desire to compensate for Molly's physical disability perceived as a sign of deficiency and oddity that needs to be normalized. Prompted by her husband, Molly decides to undergo a surgery which gives her a chance to regain sight and, thus, become a part of the world of the visually abled. Yet, subsequent to the operation, Molly cannot adapt herself to the new reality and develops a medical condition called blindsight, which leads to her final alienation and confusion.Focusing predominantly on the main character of the play, this paper examines the ways in which Molly Sweeney experiences the surrounding world and seeks satisfaction and self-fulfilment through physical activities, such as swimming or dancing, which she vividly describes in her monologues. It explores the double nature of Molly who, despite her self-sufficiency, capacity for rebellion and a sense of autonomy, seems prone to male manipulation exercised at first by her father, later by her husband Frank and doctor Rice. Her expression of independence becomes particularly conspicuous in the scene of a party organized the night before her surgery when she performs a wild and frantic hornpipe, which serves as a form of momentary upheaval and a visualization of the outburst of extreme emotions. Although the dance is not presented onstage, it has a crucial function in the play, for it serves as its powerful climax, after which Molly experiences gradual deterioration.Interpreted in the context of the history of Irish dance, the mad hornpipe appears replete with meanings and allusions. Traditionally associated with human sexuality and the female element, dance was often treated by the Irish clergy with a great deal of distrust as a source of evil and moral corruption. Consequently, like in the case of the frenzied reel in another famous Frielian play, Dancing at Lughnasa, the limitless and unrestricted performance in the climactic scene of Molly Sweeney may be seen as a tool of subversion and female opposition to the Irish patriarchal order. It is a unique moment in which the protagonist seizes male power and gains full, though very temporary, control over her life.
Keywords
Year
Volume
1
Pages
252-267
Physical description
Dates
published
2011-01-01
online
2011-11-23
Contributors
  • University of Łódź
References
  • Bertha, Csilla. "Brian Friel as Postcolonial Playwright." The Cambridge Companion to Brian Friel. Ed. Anthony Roche. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 154-65.
  • Breathnach, Breandán. Folk Music and Dances of Ireland. Dublin and Cork: Mercier, 1980.
  • Brennan, Helen. The Story of Irish Dance. Lanham: Roberts Rinehart, 2001.
  • Cave, Richard Allen. "Questing for Ritual and Ceremony in a God-forsaken World: Dancing at Lughnasa and Wonderful Tennessee." Brian Friel's Dramatic Artistry: ‘The Work Has Value.’ Ed. Donald E. Morse, Csilla Bertha and Mária Kurdi. Dublin: Carysfort, 2006. 181-204.
  • Cohen, Marshall. "Primitivism, Modernism and Dance Theory." What is Dance? Readings in Theory and Criticism. Ed. Marshall Cohen and Roger Copeland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. 161-77.
  • Coult, Tony. About Friel: the Playwright and the Work. London: Faber, 2003.[WoS]
  • Fraleigh, Sondra Horton. Dance and the Lived Body: A Descriptive Aesthetics. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 1987.
  • Friel, Brian. Dancing at Lughnasa. London: Faber, 1990.
  • Friel, Brian. Molly Sweeney. New York: Dramatist Play Service, 1996.
  • Friel, Brian. Wonderful Tennessee. Loughcrew: Gallery, 1993.
  • Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic, 1983.
  • Kavanagh, Donncha, Kieran Keohane and Carmen Kuhling. "Dance-work: Images of Organisation in Irish Dance." SAGE Directions in Organization Studies. Ed. S. R. Clegg. London: SAGE, 2008. 725-42.
  • Levin, David Michael. "Philosophers and the Dance." What is Dance? Readings in Theory and Criticism. Ed. Marshall Cohen and Roger Copeland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. 85-93.
  • McMullan, Anna. "Performativity, Unruly Bodies and Gender in Brian Friel's Drama." The Cambridge Companion to Brian Friel. Ed. Anthony Roche. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 142-53.
  • Moloney, Karen M. "Molly Astray: Revisioning Ireland in Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney." Twentieth Century Literature 16 (2000): 285-310.[Crossref]
  • Mulrooney, Deidre, ed. Irish Moves: An Illustrated History of Dance and Physical Theatre in Ireland. Dublin: Liffey, 2006.
  • Murray, Christopher. "Friel and O'Casey Juxtaposed." Irish University Review 29 (1999): 16-29.
  • Murray, Christopher. "Molly Sweeney and its Sources: A Postmodern Case Study." Brian Friel's Dramatic Artistry: ‘The Work Has Value.’ Ed. Donald E. Morse, Csilla Bertha and Mária Kurdi. Dublin: Carysfort, 2006. 229-50.
  • Niel, Ruth. "Disability as Motif and Meaning in Brian Friel's Drama." Brian Friel's Dramatic Artistry: ‘The Work Has Value.’ Ed. Donald E. Morse, Csilla Bertha and Mária Kurdi. Dublin: Carysfort, 2006. 205-28.
  • O'Brien, George. "The Late Plays." The Cambridge Companion to Brian Friel. Ed. Anthony Roche. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 91-103.
  • Pine, Richard. The Diviner: The Art of Brian Friel. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 1999.
  • Royce, Anya Peterson. The Anthropology of Dance. Alton: Dance, 2002.[PubMed]
  • Sweeney, Bernadette. Performing the Body in Irish Theatre. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
  • Wyschogrod, Edith. "Blind Man Seeing: From Chiasm to Hyperreality." Crossover Queries: Dwelling with Negatives, Embodying Philosophy's Others. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006. 112-24.
Document Type
Publication order reference
Identifiers
YADDA identifier
bwmeta1.element.hdl_11089_971
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.