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MIXED MARRIAGE

a play in four acts by St. John G. Ervine
First performed in 1911

The following analysis of Hyacinth Halvey was originally published in The British and American Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915. pp. 215-6.

This is primarily a play of character, the sort in which this dramatist excels. The men and women, and the environment in which they exist, are what interest him.

In order the better to set off his characters he has introduced a thesis, which is clearly stated in the first act. Rainey says: "A wudden have a sun o' mine marry a Cathlik fur all the wurl. A've nathin' agin the girl, but A believe in stickin' t'yer religion. A Cathlik's a Cathlik, and a Prodesan's a Prodesan. Ye can't get over that." Tom replies: "Och, sure, they're all the same. Ye cudden tell the differs atween a Cathlik an' a Prodesan if ye met them in the street an' didden know what their religion wus. A'm not one fur marryin' out o' my religion meself, but A'm no bigot. Nora Murray's a fine wumman." With this plain statement of theme we might be prone to expect at first a thesis play, pure and simple, but the next speech affords at least a cue as to the trend the play will take. When Rainey declares, "Fine or no fine, she's a Cathlik an' A'll niver consent til a son o' mine marryin' her," it is reasonable to assume that the play will be one of "conflicting wills." This is in fact what it is, and the wills conflict over a question which is after all of only secondary artistic importance. Rainey and Mrs. Rainey, Nora Murray and Hugh, must have something to struggle about, something which will develop and expose their characters.

This first act, like the succeeding ones, is well balanced: character against character, with sufficient plot and sufficient background to form an harmonious whole.

The struggle, it has been frequently observed, is one of the basic principles, though not unalterable laws, of the drama from time immemorial. A play in which there is a sharply indicated clash of interests, like Echegaray's Madman or Saint and the present work, begins with a more or less general statement: in the case of Mixed Marriage it consists in Rainey's objection to the intermarriage of Protestants and Catholics. First we are shown that his son Hugh is in love with Nora Murray, a Catholic. But the dramatist does not consider it sufficient to confine the struggle to these few people: he introduces external forces. Michael's words are ominous: "It mightn't be gain you on'y though?" Notice how the struggle develops from the particular to the general.

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