The Quare Fellow

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The Quare Fellow is Brendan Behan's first play, first produced in 1954.

The title is taken from a Hiberno-English pronunciation of queer, accessed 19 March 2008. The word came into use in the 16th century, related to the German quer, meaning 'across, at right angle, diagonally or transverse' - queer has generally meant 'strange', 'unusual', or 'out of alignment'. meaning 'strange' or 'unusual'. In context, the word lacks the denotation of homosexuality which it holds today. The play does feature a gay character, but he is referred to as The Other Fellow.

NB; In this context Quare means great


The play is set in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin. The anti-hero of the play, The Quare Fellow, is never seen or heard; he functions as the play's central conceit. He is a man condemned to die on the following day, for an unmentioned crime. Whatever it is, it revolts his fellow inmates far less than that of The Other Fellow, a very camp, almost Wildean, gay man.

There are three generations of prisoners in Mountjoy including boisterous youngsters who can irritate both other inmates and the audience and the weary old lags Neighbour and "methylated martyr" Dunlavin.

The first act is played out in the cramped area outside five cells and is comedic, sometimes rather like an Irish episode of Porridge. After the interval, the pace slows considerably and the play becomes much darker, as the time for the execution approaches. The focus moves to the exercise yard and...
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