Using five examples of dialogue and five of stage directions, how does Friel present a scene of touchingly dramatic beauty in the love scene between Yolland and Maire? You could use the following:
- The failure to understand each other's language.
- The ways in which the scene works, despite them being unable to communicate.
- How the stage directions show their attempts to communicate.
- Stage directions showing their intimacy.
- Uses of Latin, Irish and English: how this all seems to triumph over the boundaries that surround them.
- The use of body language and movement in the stage directions.
- How the scene reaches a beautiful point of understanding on pages 66 and 67.
Examine the scene in detail, giving your own reactions to Friel's writing and the dramatic techniques he usues. I will also do this piece of writing.
Right at the start of Act Two, Scene Two, a stage direction is given describing the stage setting at the start of the scene. The mention that "it would be preferable to lose — by lighting — as much of the schoolroom as possible" implies a sudden change in location, which in combination with the change in lighting, signals to the audience that there has been a development of some sort and attracts their attention. This is the perfect setup for a key scene, and also helps to make it more memorable for the audience.
This is followed by an auditory description. The mention of how "The music rises to a crescendo" is a dramatic effect which draws attention and helps add to the idea that something important is being anticipated. This is followed by the description of how the audience is to hear "Maire and Yolland approach — laughing and running". Since this is what the crescendo has led up to, this focuses the audience's attention on the sound they are making, demonstrating their joy - a perfect setup which anticipates the following love scene. The focus on non-verbal auditory communication is also significant considering the context, and relates to how Maire and Yolland fall in love with the sound of each other's speech, despite not understanding the explicit meaning behind it due to the language barrier. It is reduced to an expression of emotion similar to laughing and running, or the musical crescendo - still powerful, but with some loss of semantics.
After a short exchange of dialogue, there is another stage direction describing how Maire and Yolland "now realise that they are alone and holding hands — the beginnings of embarassment. The hands disengage. They begin to drift apart. Pause.". This sudden change in mood and body language creates a sense of tension and awkwardness, as they stop and reflect on their emotion. This makes their reaction to this sudden awkwardness all the more important, as it clearly dictates to the audience that they are about to expose their genuine feelings towards each other.
This is followed by another short exchange of dialogue. Both Maire and Yolland are discussing the same subjects, but again without knowledge of the specific meaning of each other's language. One particularly interesting example of this is Maire commenting on how her "feet are soaking" due to the grass being wet, and Yolland reiterating that her feet must be wet - showing the same literal meaning, but instead with the subject of conversation being Maire instead of himself. This demonstration of how synchronised their topic of conversation has been shows that despite the language barrier, they understand each other very well, and are very emotionally in tune with each other - and also demonstrates how Yolland cares about Maire, showing concern for Maire's soaked feet without so much of a mention of his own.
The conversation from this point onwards relies on heavy usage of gesturing and body language, as dictated by the stage directions provided. At some points, such as with "Maire nods: Yes — yes.", the explicit meaning of this body language is stated, making it very clear what the intended semantics are. This in turn demonstrates a reader of the play script that the understanding of these gestures between them is not impeded in the slightest - despite all their differences in backgrounds and languages, these gestures are the only form of communication universal enough that their meaning is passed on losslessly and without the slightest ambiguity.
After Maire and Yolland introduce their first names to each other in their respective languages, Maire tells Yolland, "Say anything at all. I love the sound of your speech". This is the first explicit demonstration of the reason for why they continue to speak to each other in languages which the other person cannot understand - no longer for the primary purpose of language, which is to communicate a specific meaning, but instead as a form of bonding activity as they enjoy the interaction with one another, even when stripped of all semantics. This is reinforced by the immediate following of a stage direction stating how Yolland responds to this "Eagerly". He first attempts to establish better communicataion and "looks around, hoping for some inspiration that will provide him with communicative means", before realising the futility of it and stating how he also "loves the sound of [Maire's] speech". Both characters are well aware at this point that there is a very clear language barrier which they are struggling to overcome, however they have temporarily sidestepped this barrier altogether by continuing to communicate while no longer trying to focus on the meaning of each other's words.
This is further backed up by how Maire quotes the one line of English she knows, despite not knowing its meaning - saying "George, in Norfolk we besport ourselves around the maypoll". Yolland's reaction to this quite sudden, unexpected comical statement is not one of disbelief or confusion, but immediate excitement at Maire's attempt to speak his language. He again begins passionately talking in English, this time about the relevance to his own past, showing his enthusiasm at the very slim opportunity of potential conversation on a common tongue.
Afterwards, when Yolland mentions two Irish place names, he immediately catches Maire's attention, who listens intently. Yolland further proceeds to list off place names, and Maire joins in as well. For a brief fleeting moment, both of them understand exactly what the other person is saying, as the topic is the only thing they have in common - the places around them. However despite this, the interaction is still devoid of any real semantic meaning or intent behind these words, with no meaning whatsoever other than place names just being outright stated. This highlights how the language barrier between them is still very much present, and also reinforces the core idea throughout the play that the English soldiers do not have a true understanding of the meaning of the various place names, and the culture and history behind it.
The repeated line of "Don't stop — I know what you're saying" is very ironic, as in the literal sense neither Maire nor Yolland understand each other's languages. It suggests the closeness of the two characters, once again showing how they are determined to not be separated by language barriers, and again repeats the idea that they are able to understand the emotion and the human element behind the foreign words being spoken.
Finally, the scene ends with Sarah discovering Maire and Yolland kissing, and "Music to crescendo". This references the start of the scene, which also began with a crescendo in the music, helping to draw an effective "conclusion" of sorts to the scene. It once again highlights the tension of that moment where they have been discovered, and implies potential dramatic consequences via the usage of dramatic music. It leaves the audience questioning what will happen next, and feeling sympathy or worry for Yolland and Maire. It is a harsh reminder that all good things must eventually come to an end, and makes the brief relationship all the more valuable and memorable in this key scene.