Dancing at Lughnasa

A guide to use when revising for a Dancing at Lughnasa exam. The pack has 28 pages and includes historical context, boxes to put in your own notes, about Dancing at lughnasa being a play, characters and important factors in the play.

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  • Created on: 02-04-12 14:52
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Dancing at Lughnasa
Dancing at Lughnasa
Brian Friel
Historical context.
1930s Ireland: A decade of change.
There are several historical references within the living memory of
the Mundy family which it will be helpful to clarify.
Uncle Jack was a chaplain to the British army in East Africa. His
photograph was taken in 1917 during the First World War. But Kate
(who would have been born in 1896) had been involved with the Irish
war of independence against Britain, "so Father Jack's brief career in
the British army was never referred to in that house".
Ireland's struggle for independence from Britain had been going on
for many centuries, but in 1916 an insurrection ­ known as the Easter
Rising ­ took place in Dublin during which an Irish republic was
proclaimed. The Rising, violently suppressed by the British, lasted less
than a week and fourteen of the rebellions leaders were executed.
Eamon De Valera, who participated in the Rising, had his sentence
commuted ­ his mother was Ametican ­ and he went on to lead the
politial party Sinn Fein (Gaelic name meaning "Ourselves Alone"). In
1918 he and his fellow MPs, all of whom refused to sit on the
Westminster parliament, set up the Dail Eireann (Assembly of
Ireland). Two years of conflict followed between the Irish Republican
Army on the Irish side and the Royal Irish Constabulary and the
British Army, reinforced by the Auxiliaries and Black-and-Tans, two
quasi-military groups that earned themselves vicious reputations, on
the British side. Hostilities were halted by the Government of Ireland
Act, which created separate parliaments for "Northern Ireland" and
"Southern Ireland" (the 26 counties of the future
Republic including Donegal).
A treaty was signed in 1921 which gave
"Southern Ireland", known as the Irish Free
State, dominion status within the British
Commonwealth. Northern Ireland was
perceived as a small entity within the United
Kingdom which did not preclude eventual Irish
unity. As a result of Partition, the "immediate
and terrible" civil war that Lloyd George, the
British Prime minister, hoped to avoid broke out
between those who supported the Treaty (free
Staters) and those who rejected it (die-hard
republicans). De Valera was one of the latter
RD 2010

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Dancing at Lughnasa
Pagan Offerings: The origins of the Festival of Lughnasa.
In Ireland the harvest festival, held every year in early August, was
called Lughnasa after Lugh, the Celtic God, provider of the crops.
Mountain tops, wells, river banks and lakes were all designated
sacred areas for the primal sites.
The festival changed over
the years ­ sacrificing
animals disappeared early
in its evolution in Ireland ­
but many elements
remained constant from
generation to generation.…read more

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Dancing at Lughnasa
In all the records an recollections of the Lughnasa festivities in
Ireland, dancing is the most prominent and persistent element. In
Kerry, or example, the best dancing couple was chosen on the hilltops
of Drung Hill and Cnoc na dTobar. Lughnasa dancing competitions
were held too, at Ganiamore in County Donegal the prize for the best
male dancer was his choice of bride from among all the female
contestants.…read more

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Dancing at Lughnasa
The Play: The Stage-World of Dancing at Lughnasa
We are in Ballybeg (as with a couple of Friel's other plays), but the
Mundy's home is two miles outside the village, necessitating a long
walk to reach any amenities. It isolates the family further in a county
which, you will remember as a result of Partition, is only joined to the
rest of the Free State by a narrow strip of land.…read more

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Dancing at Lughnasa
although his legs will be scarred, the Sweeney boy is on the mend
As with other plays set in Ballybeg, Friel creates a community which
is introduced to us through report or reminiscence by the central
characters, in this case the latter. A whole cast of off-stage characters
are assembled here for you to imagine, as is the local countryside. The
world of Dancing at Lughnasa also embraces London and more exotic,
faraway places in Europe, Australia and Africa.…read more

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