Wednesday, July 9, 2008

to mix race

For some other research I'm doing this summer, I've been reading about miscegenation, a horrible word. The context I'm working in concerns the inter-marriage or inter-racial love between blacks and whites in the U.S. There are numerous plays about it in the late 19th and early 20th century. But in reading more about it, I realize that whereas I've only known it as applied to black-white relations, the word applies to all manner of boundary-crossing between all sorts of people (Jews and Christians, Asians and Caucasians, etc.)

Hugh O'Donnell would be proud of me here: the root of the word "miscegenation" is from the from Latin miscere ‘to mix’ + genus ‘race’

Anyway, I realize that to me, it's no big deal in Translations when Yolland and Maire get together, but of course in the world of the play their union is a form of miscegenation, a mixing of Irish and British, probably of Catholic and Protestant (although this play is oddly silent about religious matters). And a directorial challenge is how to convey the enormous significance of their taboo-breaking, for an audience who may not be aware of the chasm between Irish and British culture in this era. Although their II.ii love scene is so innocent and sincere, their miscegenation leads to the murder of Yolland.

JIMMY (to Maire): Do you know the Greek word endogamein? It means to marry within the tribe. And the word exogamein means to marry outside the tribe. And you don't cross those borders casually--both sides get very angry. Now, the problem is this: Is Athene sufficiently mortal or am I sufficiently godlike for the marriage to be acceptable to her people and to my people? You should think about that.

it reminds me of the problem of conveying to today's audience the taboo of a Montague loving a Capulet

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