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Violence and Comedy in the Works of Martin McDonagh

Autor:   •  July 21, 2012  •  Case Study  •  2,062 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,027 Views

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A central theme to much of McDonagh’s work is the presence of both violence and comedy on stage. Fintan O’Toole summarises that “much of contemporary Irish drama seems to follow this tradition of using comedy to explore the darker side of the human experience ”. However, in order to move our argument forward, it is useful to investigate the purpose of combining both extreme violence and moments of great comedy. McDonagh uses these elements for a specific purpose and to move our debate forward we must look at what McDonagh is saying through his representation of such cruelty on stage. To look at O’Toole’s statement, we can assess that he believes truth and identity are two key struggles presented in McDonagh’s contemporary theatre. As discussed previously, McDonagh is urging the nation to move from a nation revelling in historical myth to one embracing globalization and a more modern culture. He states; “I walk that line between comedy and cruelty…because I think one illuminates the other .” He critiques the ideas of terrorist violence and nationalistic violence in The Lieutenant of Irishmoore, and from his presentation of an overflow of violence on stage he claims to be condemning it.

Ireland’s history of deep mythologizing can be focused on by looking at one of the most famous figures in Irish literature, the Shan Van Vocht figure. It has associations with national violence; Yeats presents the idea of her in his famous propaganda play Cathleen Ni Houlihan . She embodies and represents Ireland; she is an old hag lady who is rejuvenated into a beautiful young woman through the act of bloodshed and violence for the sake of the nation. This use of propaganda was significant in the Irish’s fight against the British in order to reclaim the thirty- two counties during the Easter Rising in 1916. McDonagh presents this violence in the form of a paramilitary group in The Lieutenant of Irishmoore yet their violence seems to be more for the sake of violence rather than for the sake of the nation. It is as if McDonagh is saying that when using violence, the purpose becomes blurred and lost.

John Peter asserts that "The violence is neither gratuitous nor self-admiring: it pays its way as drama because it is soaked in moral anger and lit up by the comedy of humane reason ". The Lieutenant of Irishmoore explores the significance of terrorist violence. The play follows the actions of paramilitary members of the INLA, a group with the same ethics as the IRA but with a much more fanatical approach. They attempt to ambush a former colleague, Padraic, by killing his cat whom he has a deep affection for. This act lures him home and the play comes to a conclusion with a bloody and gruesome shoot out, leaving dead body parts strung about the stage. Patrick Lonergan’s analysis of the play argues that “McDonagh’s target is not just Irish


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