Order, industry, fixity, and quiet are the hallmarks of Brian Friel’s life. He was born in Killyclogher, near Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, on January 9, 1929, the son of a teacher. The family lived in Omagh for ten more years before moving to Derry, the second city of Ulster and the place that, along with its County Donegal hinterland, may be properly considered to be Friel’s homeland.
Friel was educated at St. Columb’s College, Derry, and at Maynooth, the Irish national seminary, where he was graduated in 1948, though it was not his intention to study for the priesthood. He attended St. Joseph’s Teacher Training College, Belfast, from 1949 to 1950, and for the next ten years taught in various schools in Derry. In 1954, he married Anne Morrison, with whom he would have four daughters and a son.
During this period, Friel began to write in his spare time, and from the mid-1950’s, he was a regular contributor of short stories to The New Yorker. During this period, he also turned to drama as a form, beginning with two radio plays, which were broadcast in 1958, and at the end of the 1950’s, he branched out into staged drama.
In 1960, Friel resigned from teaching to devote himself to writing. The wisdom of that decision has been confirmed by the continuing string of international successes that has ensued. English and, particularly, American audiences have greeted his plays at least as enthusiastically as...
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