ACIS Logo The Irish Oikos: Classical Drama and Domestic Spaces in Brian Friel and Marina Carr

The classical tradition has been an invaluable well to draw from for Irish literature, and particularly Irish drama over the years, and critics have done excellent work in considering how the tradition has maintained such a hold on the imagination of dramatists. Furthermore, particularly in recent years and with regard to women dramatists, the exploration and interrogation of the domestic sphere has also been well-observed. However, there has been less consideration of how the appropriation of classical drama by Irish dramatists has served as a means in itself for contemplating the intimate life of the oikos, the domestic sphere and the relationships of the people who inhabit it. The work of Brian Friel (Living Quarters) and Marina Carr (By the Bog of Cats and Phaedra Backwards) provides particularly rich examples of a classical lens being turned upon intimate Irish spaces. This classical lens, I argue, serves two functions. First, it provides a canonical authority or grounding for the interrogation of such a private and intimate sphere, and one which is less entangled in religious commitments, skirting the many controversies that might invite; secondly, the classical lens reminds the audience that the cracks or rifts in the domestic sphere are far from new, and while each iteration is, in its way, distinct, the trials and woes themselves have a long history which provides resources for contemplation and, perhaps, for forging a better path forward.