The morbid interest of Irish writers in prison, hangman and death, as manifested in plays of Sean O'Casey and Lady Gregory, emerges again in the grim film that Arthur Dreifuss has made of Brendan Behan's sad play, "The Quare Fellow," which opened at the Carnegie Hall Cinema yesterday. Horror and hatred of penal servitude and especially of the practice of punishing criminals by death constitute the total tenor and atmosphere of this film, which has a harsh Irish eloquence about it and a certain brutal dramatic punch. From the moment the film enters a Dublin prison it coldly erodes any notion that prisons are human and that hanging is justifiable by any mortal or social need. The melancholy song of an unseen singer that comes up from the ominous well in the courtyard of the great stone prison, the skeptical look on the face of an older guard when a young one prattles his disciplinary zeal, the anger and tension among the inmates as time grows shorter before the execution date of a condemned man—the mythical "Quare Fellow"—these all transmit a sensitive mood.
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Access options available:. New Hibernia Review 6. This drama was influenced by earlier executions Behan witnessed, especially that of Bernard Kirwan in , and largely written to the moment; Ireland and Britain were then embroiled in an acrimonious public debate over capital punishment.
Alan Simpson has pointed out the contemporary relevance of the play's critique of this practice: "The impact of The Quare Fellow in was greatly sharpened by the fact that judicial hanging was still practised by the governments of both Britain and Ireland. This reading of Behan's drama also delineates a tentative outline of an anticolonial Irish drama and assesses the place of The Quare Fellow in this dramatic tradition. The westernGaeltacht served as an effective counterweight to the urban life in Dublin into which Behan had been born.
He was introduced to this rural, largely depopulated landscape while in Arbour Hill prison with Sean O'Briain, a native Irish speaker from Kerry. Ulick O'Connor, Behan's first biographer, notes that "under his tuition, Brendan very quickly became a good and then a fluent Gaelic speaker. It was only natural for an IRA prisoner such as Behan to engage with the Irish language and literary tradition, but his knowledge of both was not a mere veneer adopted to legitimize his political outlook at the time, as it was for some IRA prisoners.
Rather, Behan steeped himself in this rich linguistic and literary tradition partly out of a real interest, and partly because of his temperament. He was well known for his dramatic adaptations of literature while in prison and, until his death, enjoyed entertaining crowds in pubs and private houses. As an entertainer with a plethora of songs, poetry, and impersonations, Behan naturally felt a strong affinity with the Gaelic storytelling tradition. O' Connor notes that Behan even dictated his last three books— Brendan Behan's Island , Brendan Behan's New York , and Confessions of an Irish Rebel — into a tape recorder in an effort to reinvigorate his writing late in his career.
Unfortunately, these works were not as polished as earlier written ones, since Behan merely published directly from his garrulous musings, leaving his editors to piece together what he had spoken. Behan's interest in Kerry Irish and Blasket literature was unabated some fifteen years later. As Michael O'Sullivan, one of Behan's most recent and comprehensive biographers has noted, The Scarperer , a serial fiction piece of thirty installments, had occupied Behan's creative energy immediately before his writing of The Quare Fellow.
Despite being written for money, this work further demonstrates his abiding interest in the rural West of Ireland and in its culture and language Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.
Institutional Login. LOG IN. New Hibernia Review. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: New Hibernia Review 6. Additional Information. Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Eliot Prose. Contact Contact Us Help.
The Quare Fellow
The Quare Fellow , play in three acts by Brendan Behan , performed in and published in The Quare Fellow. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Home Literature Plays. See Article History.
The Quare Fellow: A Comedy-Drama
Borstal breaker: Behan pounding away on incendiary prose. It is striking that some of the most innovative writing in Ireland in the decade after the second World War began its life behind bars. He was just 16, and the experience later produced his prose masterpiece, Borstal Boy He then served five years of a year sentence for trying to shoot a Garda detective at an IRA funeral. When Behan reworked it as a long three-act drama in English, now called The Quare Fellow , it met the same fate.
Screen: 'The Quare Fellow':Behan Film Is Grim but Harshly Eloquent
The Quare Fellow is Brendan Behan 's first play, first produced in The title is taken from a Hiberno-English pronunciation of queer. The play is set in Mountjoy Prison , Dublin. The anti-hero of the play, The Quare Fellow, is never seen or heard; he functions as the play's central conceit. He is a man condemned to die on the following day, for an unmentioned crime. Whatever it is, it revolts his fellow inmates far less than that of The Other Fellow, a very camp, almost Wildean , gay man.