Brian Friel

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of Translations published in 1995.
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Act 1 Quotes

Maire: That's the height of my Latin. Fit me better if I had even that much English.

Jimmy: English? I thought you had some English?

Maire: Three words. Wait — there was a spake I used to have off by heart. What's this it was?

Her accent is strange because she is speaking a foreign language and because she does not understand what she is saying.

“In Norfolk we besport ourselves around the maypoll.” What about that!

Related Characters: Jimmy Jack Cassie (speaker), Maire Chatach (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Bridget: Did you know that you start at the age of six and you have to stick at it until you're twelve at least — no matter how smart you are or how much you know.

Doalty: Who told you that yarn?

Bridget: And every child from every house has to go all day, every day, summer or winter. That's the law.

Doalty: I'll tell you something — nobody's going to go near them — they're not going to take on — law or no law.

Bridget: And everything's free in them. You pay for nothing except the books you use […] And from the very first day you go, you'll not hear one word of Irish spoken. You'll be taught to speak English and every subject will be taught through English and everyone'll end up as cute as the Buncrana people.

Related Characters: Doalty (speaker), Bridget (speaker), Manus
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Maire: I'm talking about the Liberator, Master, as you well know. And what he said was this: “The old language is a barrier to modern progress.” He said that last month. And he's right. I don’t want Greek. I don't want Latin. I want English.

Manus reappears on the platform above.

I want to be able to speak English because I'm going to America as soon as the harvest's all saved.

Related Characters: Maire Chatach (speaker), Manus, Hugh
Page Number: 24-25
Explanation and Analysis:

Maire: You talk to me about getting married — with neither a roof over your head nor a sod of ground under your foot. I suggest you go for the new school; but no - 'My father’s in for that.' Well now he's got it and now this is finished and now you've nothing.

Manus: I can always ...

Maire: What? Teach classics to the cows? Agh —

Related Characters: Manus (speaker), Maire Chatach (speaker), Hugh
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Lancey: His Majesty's government has ordered the first ever comprehensive survey of this entire country — a general triangulation which will embrace detailed hydrographic and topographic information and which will be executed to a scale of six inches to the English mile.

Hugh: (pouring a drink) Excellent - excellent.

Lancey looks at Owen.

Owen: A new map is being made of the whole country.

Lancey looks to Owen: Is that all? Owen smiles reassuringly and indicates to proceed.

Related Characters: Hugh (speaker), Owen (speaker), Captain Lancey (speaker)
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

Manus: And they call you Roland! They both call you Roland!

Owen: Shhhhh. Isn't it ridiculous? They seem to get it wrong from the very beginning — or else they can't pronounce Owen. I was afraid some of you bastards would laugh.

Manus: Aren't you going to tell them?

Owen: Yes - yes - soon - soon.

Manus: But they...

Owen: Easy, man, easy. Owen - Roland - what the hell. It's only a name. It's the same me, isn't it? Well, isn't it?

Related Characters: Manus (speaker), Owen (speaker), Captain Lancey, Lieutenant Yolland
Page Number: 36-37
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

Owen: Bun is the Irish word for bottom. And Abha means river. So it's literally the mouth of the river.

Yolland: Let’s leave it alone. There's no English equivalent for a sound like that.

Owen: What is it called in the church registry?

Only now does Yolland open his eyes.

Yolland: Let's see ... Banowen.

Owen: That's wrong. (Consults text.) The list of freeholders calls it Owenmore — that's completely wrong: Owenmore’s the big river at the west end of the parish. […] (at map) Back to first principles. What are we trying to do?

Yolland: Good question.

Owen: We are trying to denominate and at the same time describe that tiny area of soggy, rocky, sandy ground where that little stream enters the sea, an area known locally as Bun na hAbhann… Burnfoot! What about Burnfoot?

Related Characters: Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

Owen: Can't you speak English before your man?

Manus: Why?

Owen: Out of courtesy.

Manus: Doesn't he want to learn Irish? (to Yolland) Don't you want to learn lrish?

Yolland: Sorry - sorry? I - I –

Manus: I understand the Lanceys perfectly but people like you puzzle me.

Related Characters: Manus (speaker), Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Even if I did speak Irish I'd always be an outsider here, wouldn't I? I may learn the password but the language of the tribe will always elude me, won't it? The private core will always be ... hermetic, won't it?

Related Characters: Lieutenant Yolland (speaker), Owen
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Owen: Do you know where the priest lives?

Hugh: At Lis na Muc, over near...

Owen: No, he doesn't. Lis na Muc, the Fort of the Pigs, has become Swinefort. (Now turning the pages of the Name-Book - a page per name.) And to get to Swinefort you pass through Greencastle and Fair Head and Strandhill and Gort and Vhiteplains. And the new school isn't at Poll na gCaorach - it's at Sheepsrock. Will you be able to find your way?

Related Characters: Hugh (speaker), Owen (speaker)
Page Number: 50-51
Explanation and Analysis:

I understand your sense of exclusion, of being cut off from a life here; and I trust you will find access to us with my son's help. But remember that words are signals, counters. They are not immortal. And it can happen — to use an image you'll understand — it can happen that a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of… fact.

Related Characters: Hugh (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Owen: What is happening?

Yolland: I'm not sure. But I'm concerned about my part in it. It's an eviction of sorts.

Owen: We're making a six-inch map of the country. Is there something sinister in that?

Yolland: Not in ...

Owen: And we're taking place-names that are riddled with confusion and ...

Yolland: Who's confused? Are the people confused?

Owen: … and we're standardising those names as accurately and as sensitively as we can.

Yolland: Something is being eroded.

Related Characters: Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 52-53
Explanation and Analysis:

And ever since that crossroads is known as Tobair Vree — even though that well has long since dried up. I know the story because my grandfather told it to me. But ask Doalty — or Maire — or Bridget — even my father — even Manus — why it's called Tobair Vree; and do you think they'll know? I know they don't know. So the question I put to you, Lieutenant, is this: what do we do with a name like that? Do we scrap Tobair Vree altogether and call it — what? — The Cross? Crossroads? Or do we keep piety with a man long dead, long forgotten, his name ‘eroded’ beyond recognition, whose trivial little story nobody in the parish remembers?

Related Characters: Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Owen: (explodes) George! For God's sake! My name is not Roland!
Yolland: What?

Owen: (softly) My name is Owen.


Yolland: Not Roland?

Owen: Owen.

Related Characters: Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Maire: Don't stop - I know what you're saying.

Yolland: I would tell you how I want to be here - to live here - always - with you - always, always.

Maire: 'Always'? What is that word - 'always'?


Maire: Shhh - listen to me. I want you, too, soldier.

Yolland: Don't stop - I know what you're saying.

Maire: I want to live with you - anywhere - anywhere at all-always-always.

Yolland: 'Always'? What is that word -'always'?

Related Characters: Maire Chatach (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3 Quotes

Manus: (again close to tears) But when I saw him standing there at the side of the road - smiling - and her face buried in his shoulder - I couldn't even go close to them. I just shouted something stupid - something like, 'You're a bastard, Yolland.' If I'd even said it in English... 'cos he kept saying 'Sorry-sorry?' The wrong gesture in the wrong language.

Related Characters: Manus (speaker), Maire Chatach, Lieutenant Yolland
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Owen: How are you? Are you all right?

Sarah nods: Yes.

Don't worry. It will come back to you again.

Sarah shakes her head.

It will. You're upset now. He frightened you. That's all's wrong.

Again Sarah shakes her head, slowly, emphatically, and smiles at Owen. Then she leaves.

Related Characters: Sarah (speaker), Owen (speaker), Captain Lancey
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

Hugh: (indicating Name-Book) We must learn those new names.

Owen: (searching around) Did you see a sack lying about?

Hugh: We must learn where we live. We must learn to make them our own. We must make them our new home.

Related Characters: Hugh (speaker), Owen (speaker)
Explanation and Analysis:

Hugh: Urbs antiqua fuit - there was an ancient city which, 'tis said, Juno loved above all the lands.

Begin to bring down the lights.

And it was the goddess's aim and cherished hope that here should be the capital of all nations - should the fates perchance allow that. Yet in truth she discovered that a race was springing from Trojan blood to overthrow some day these Tyrian towers - a people kings of broad realms and proud in war who would come forth for Lybia's downfall ...

Related Characters: Hugh (speaker)
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
No matches.