The Voices of the Dead and the Silence of the Living in Brian Friel’s Drama

In: Silence in Modern Irish Literature

This chapter explores the ways in which the spirits of the ancient Greek God of Silence, Harpocrates, and that of Thanatos, the ancient Greek God of Death, intertwine the voices of the dead and the silence of the living in the theatre of Brian Friel. It addresses Friel’s drama in terms of its representation of spiritual and eschatological truths that arise in Irish environments marked by stifled dreams and expectations. A wide range of plays by Friel are discussed in these terms, drawing on Antonin Artaud’s assertions concerning theatre as magic and religious, in addition to Peter Brook’s notion of holy theatre. The chapter explores speech and silence in Friel’s drama particularly in relating to varieties of traumatic experience arising from Irish historical and social circumstances.