Brendan Behan Drama Analysis
To understand Brendan Behan’s work, one must first recognize the underlying Behan legend, which is built on paradox. Frank O’Connor, writing in the Sunday Independent (Dublin), said of Behan that “under his turbulent exterior there was quite clearly the soul of an altar boy.” Behan was a kind, gentle man who acted violently. He was insecure and feared publicity yet perpetrated outrageous stunts to capture attention. He wrote of reasonableness and absurdity in the world yet persisted in his personal irrationality. Behan was saint and sinner, moralist and profligate, and this dichotomy is carried over into his works. Even his overriding thematic consideration, a politically divided Ireland, is complex. Gordon Wickstrom believes Behan writes of three Irelands: the Ireland of contemporary, illegal Republican fanaticism, dedicated to the destruction of everything English; the Ireland of glorious memory of the Troubles and Easter Week, needing no justification beyond the private experience of valor and sacrifice; and Ireland as it actually exists, complete with police attacks, sirens, bloodbaths, and terror.
The principal themes in Behan’s works are culled from his close association with the Irish Republican Army: death, freedom, and the absurdity of humanity’s impermanence in a hostile world. Behan’s major plays, The Quare Fellow and The Hostage, examine these themes through the eyes of a prisoner, a character-type that...
(The entire section is 2080 words.)
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