Some reviews of ‘Sive’ at the Abbey Theatre

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6th year students,

If you have not already brought in your money to go to ‘Sive’, then please remember to do so as soon as possible! It will be an experience that you will not soon forget.

To whet your appetite, here are some reviews of the production that we will be going to see:

The Irish Times

The Irish Independent

The Irish Examiner

It will be a purposeful exercise to read these reviews because you will be asked to write your own review of this play when we have seen it!

Some quotes from ‘Sive’ Act 2 Scene 1

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These are quotes that you should learn from Act 2 Scene 1 of ‘Sive’.

‘Things about Sive, and how he will warm her before she is much older. A lot of other things, too, but most of it not fit to mention again.’
Liam to Mena and Mike, telling them what Seán Dóta has been saying

‘In the honour of God, I beseech you to forget about violence. I tell you I want no trouble. If I have upset ye, I’m sorry, but surely to God ye must think of this terrible auction. Ye must know that a day will dawn for all of us when an account must be given. Do not think of me. I promise I will leave these parts till Sive is a woman. I swear that on my dead mother. But do not give her to that rotting old man with his gloating eyes and trembling hands.’
Liam to Mena and Mike

‘He came wishing you joy. You’d never think he would. He wished you joy and plenty on your wedding day.’
Mena lying to Sive about Liam’s visit

‘With an oul’ devil in the corner screechin’ at me the length of the day and a dirty brat of an orphan bawling in the corner.’
Mena describing to Liam the early years of their marriage

‘I mean that hungry sow that sleeps with you. I mean that pauperised wretch you call a wife.’
Nanna to Mike about Mena

‘Are you trying to drive nails into me? What am I to do? Do you want to have she be like her poor mother? Don’t you know that Scuab has an eye for her?’
Mike trying to justify himself to Nanna

‘There is a sweet thing to their love.’
Nanna to Mike about Sive and Liam

‘How can I go aisy when my own grandchild is for sale like an animal?’
Nanna to Mike

Important quotes from ‘Sive’ Act 1 Scene 3

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The importance of learning quotes from a play can never be underestimated so here are some of the key quotes from Act 1 Scene 3 to help you along your way.

‘Ah, the back o’ my hand to you for an oul’ hag! There is no good in you – alluding and criticising always. Children bring nothing but misfortune. Didn’t you see your own – the good end they came to. The gall of you, condemning me for my lack of child.’
Mena to Nanna

‘Thanking me from the heart, she should be, the fine match I am making for her. Putting myself out to place her in a gentleman’s house.’
Mena to Nanna, about Sive

‘Dacent poor people with no home of their own. Good friends when they are needed.’
Nanna to Thomasheen and Mena, about Pats and Carthalawn

‘Will ye look at the appearance of them! A short leg and a half-fool! Two with the one word, goin’ around with their songs, frightenin’ half the country. Go on away to yeer smelly caravan and not be disgustin’ respectable people!’
Thomasheen to Pats and Carthalawn

‘The people are saying that it is a strange match that a young girl who is at the start of her days should marry an old man who is at the end of his. They say he is struggling to keep the spark of life inside him. They say she is the flower of the parish.’
Pats to Mena

‘The devil’s work is what it is!’
Nanna to Mena

‘I’m listenin’g to you, Thomasheen Seán Rua and I’m watching you and I’m telling you what you are. You are the bladder of a pig, the snout of a sow; you are the leavings of a hound, the sting of a wasp. You will die roaring. Carthalawn! Your best! Your almighty best!’
Pats to Thomasheen

‘You are a lone woman with your husband feeding worms in his trench. You have terrible gumption with no one to back you.’
Thomasheen to Nanna

‘Little your son cares about you. Long ago you should have been put in your place.’
Mena to Nanna

‘There is a hatchery of sin in this house.’
Nanna to the fire

‘I will strike you. [Full of venom] I will take the head from your shoulders.’
Mena to Nanna

‘Think about the handling of thousands and the fine clothes and perfumery. Think of the hundreds of pounds in creamery cheques that will come in the door to you and the servant boy and the servant girl falling all over you for fear you might dirty your hands with work.’
Mena to Sive

‘Please, please . . . you don’t know what you are saying. How can you ask me such a thing?
Sive to Mena

‘Will you picture yourself off to the chapel every Sunday in your motor car with your head in the air and you giving an odd look out of the window at the  poor oinseachs in their donkey-and-cars and their dirty oul’ shawls and their faces yellow and thin with the dirt by them. Will you thank God that you won’t be for the rest of your days working for the bare bite and sup like the poor women of these parts.’
Mena to Sive

‘It is time you were told, my girl. You are a bye-child, a common bye-child – a bastard!’
Mena to Sive

‘You will sleep with that woman no longer. [She flings the schoolbag across the room.] There will be no more school for you. School is a place for schoolmasters and children. Every woman will come to the age when she will have a mind for a room of her own. I mind when I was a child, when I was a woman, there were four sisters of us in the one room. There was no corner of the bed we could call our own. We used to sit in the night talking and thieving and wondering where the next ha’penny would come from or thinking would it ever come to our turn to meet a boy that we might go with, and be talking with and maybe make a husband out of. We would kill [vexed]. We would beg, borrow or steal. We would fire embers of fire at the devil to leave the misery of our own house behind us, to make a home with a man, any man that would show four walls to us for his time in the world. [In a voice of warning] Take no note of the man who has nothing to show for himself, who will be full of rameish and blather, who would put wings on ould cows for you but has no place to make a marriage bed for you. Take heed  of a man with property. He will stand over his promise. He will keep the good word for you because he has the keeping of words . . . Now go to the room and be sure to think of what I said.’
Mena to Sive 

Some important quotes from ‘Sive’ Act 1 Scene 2

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As we progress through the play, it is important to keep up to date with learning quotes. They are, of course, essential in an exam answer. Here are some quotes that are worthwhile learning from Act 1 Scene 2.

‘The heat don’t agree with him. He would sooner a cold corner out of the way.’
Thomasheen about Seán Dóta

‘I have nothing against the poets, mind you, but they are filled with roguery and they have the bad tongue on top of it, the thieves. Oh, the scoundrels.’
Seán Dóta to Mike

‘She’s a gift for obliging. [Her voice is all praise.] She would turn on her heel from whatever she is at, to be of help.’
Mena to the household

‘But think of the dark, girl, and the phuca, the mad, red eyes of him like coals of a fire lighting in his head. There is no telling what you would meet on a black road. There’s a mad moon in the sky tonight with the stars out of their minds screeching and roaring at one another.’
Thomasheen to Sive

‘The seed is sown; the flower will blossom.’
Thomasheen to Mike and Mena as Sive and Seán leave the house

‘The money is a great temptation but there is wrong in it from head to heel. Sive is young, with a brain by her. She will be dreaming about love with a young man. ‘Tis the way young girls do be!’
Mike to Mena and Thomasheen

‘Will you listen to him! Love! In the name of God, what do the likes of us know about love?’
Thomasheen to Mike

‘You’ll have him coming into the house proposin’ next! And it might interest you to know that she has been seen on at least one occasion, ducking out of here to meet Scuab after ye were gone to bed.’
Thomasheen to Mike and Mena about Liam and Sive’s relationship

‘But there’s one easy way to stop that sort of thing and that is to move Sive into the west room where I can keep my eye on her and her only means of coming and going will be through our bedroom.’
Mena to Thomasheen and Mike

‘We must cut out every chance of their meeting. Scuab can still meet her and she comin’ and goin’ to school, so she must finish with her schoolin’.’
Thomasheen to Mena and Mike

‘You’d swear, to hear you talk, that we were all rogues and thieves. What are we trying to do only make and honest shilling. ‘Tisn’t going around stealing the dead out of their graves we are. ‘Twould be a black day for us if we robbed a widow or stole a poor-box from the chapel. Isn’t it only bringing two people together in wedlock we are?’
Thomasheen to Mike

‘She will be alright. What can harm her? I have no heart somehow for looking her in the face.’
Mike to Mena

[In disgust and fright.] ‘He was on the road with me. When we passed by the cumar near Dónal’s he made a drive at me! He nearly tore the coat off me. I ran into Dónal’s kitchen but he made no attempt to follow. Oh, the way he laughs [in disgust], like an ould sick thing. What is the meaning of it all, Gran?’
Sive to Nanna

Some important quotes from ‘Sive’ Act 1 Scene 1

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It is important to know some quotes to support any points you want to make about ‘Sive’ and so here is a list of some important ones from Act 1 Scene 1.

‘Am I to be scolded, night and day in my own house? Ah! ’twas a sore day to me my son took you for a wife. What a happy home we had before you came into it! Fitter for you  to be having three or four children put from you at this day of your life.’
Nanna to Mena

‘You have nothing else to do but talk. Saying your prayers you should be, at this hour of your days, instead of cackling with your bad tongue . . . Where was your poor amadawn of a son before I came here? Pulling bogdeal out of the ground with a jinnet, going around like a half-fool with his head hanging by him . . . you give me the puke with your grandeur. Take out your dirty doodeen of a pipe and close your gob on it, woman. I have something else to be doing besides arguing with you.’
Mena to Nanna

‘Out working with a farmer you should be, my girl, instead of getting your head filled with high notions. You’ll come to no good either, like the one that went before you!’
Mena to Sive

‘Some day that pipe will take fire where you have hidden it and you’ll go off in a big black ball of smoke and ashes.’
Mena to Nanna

‘If I do, ’tis my prayer that the wind will blow me in your direction and I’ll have the satisfaction of taking you with me. Aha, you’d burn well, for you’re as dry as the hobs of hell inside you. Every woman of your age in the parish has a child of her own and nothing to show by you.’
Nanna to Mena

‘You are like all the matchmakers: you will make a rose out of a nettle to make a bargain.’
Mena to Thomasheen

‘Isn’t she a bye-child? . . . Tell her you will bell-rag her through the parish if she goes against you. Tell her you will hunt the oul’ woman into the county home. Think of the 200 sovereigns dancing in the heel of your fist. Think of the thick bundle of notes in the shelter of you bosom.’
Thomasheen to Mena

‘Be silky then, be canny! Take her gentle. Let it out to her by degrees. Draw down the man’s name first by way of no harm. You could mention the fine place he have. You could say he would be for the grave within a year or two and that she might pick and choose from the bucks of the parish when he’s gone.’
Thomasheen to Mena

‘Why should that young rip be sent to a convent every day instead of being out earning with a farmer. Good money going on her because her fool of a mother begged on the death-bed to educate her.’
Mena to Thomasheen

‘Aren’t ye in the one bed sleeping? Ye will have yeer own talk. You will come round him aisy. You weren’t born a fool, Mena. I know what it is like in the long long hours of the night. I know what it is to be alone in a house when the only word you will hear is a sigh, the sigh of the fire in the hearth dying, with no human words to warn you. I am a single man. I know what a man have to do who have no woman to lie with him. He have to drink hard, or he have to walk under the black sky when every eye is closed in sleep.’
Thomasheen to Mena

‘Money is the best friend a man ever had.’
Mike to Mena

‘Never! . . . if the sun, moon and stars rained down out of the heavens and split the ground under my feet . . . never! ‘Twill never come to pass while I have the pulse of life in me! What the devil has got into you that you should think of such a thing? Even when I was a boy Seán Dóta was a man. The grave he should be thinking of. What young girl would look a second time at him, a worn, exhausted little lurgadawn of a man.’
Mike to Mena

‘No! No! A million times no! It would sleep with me for the rest of my days. It would be like tossing the white flower of the canavaun on to the manure heap. It is against the grain of my bones, woman. Will you think of it? Think of what it is! Sive and that ‘oul corpse of a man, Seán Dóta!’
Mike to Mena

‘Be careful, let ye, and keep a watch. If ’tis a thing ye’re caught together there’ll be no more peace in his house.’
Nanna to Sive and Liam

‘I’ll wait until the crack of dawn, anyway.’
Liam to Sive

‘I would marry nobody but you, Sive, I love you. How would I marry anybody but you!’
Liam to Sive

‘Like your snake of a cousin loved her mother moryeah and fooled her likewise. Like your snake of a cousin that tricked her mother with the promise of marriage and left her a child with no name.’
Mike to Liam

‘You know as well as I do that he would have married her. You know he went across to England to make a home for her but he was drowned. He never knew she was with child when he left.’
Liam to Mike

‘You will not command the lives and happiness of two people who love each other.’
Liam to Mike

Cultural Context of ‘How Many Miles to Babylon?’ and ‘Sive’

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Cultural Context (referred to as Social Setting at Ordinary Level) focuses on the society in which the story is set. We look for evidence of the beliefs and values held by the author and characters. The social, religious, political and economic structures of society are considered here. The different roles of men and women, the notion of race, social class, customs and rituals and the importance of work can also be included in a definition of Cultural Context.

In order to write a comparative essay on ‘How Many Miles’ and ‘Sive’, start to write notes comparing and contrasting the two texts under the following headings, remembering to make reference Key Moments:

  • The effects of poverty on the characters – helplessness, disease, honour, desperation, violence, pride
  • Customs and Traditions
  • The Role of Women
  • Class Structures – one’s level in society dictates who has money, status, education, power etc.
  • Family life experienced by the characters – How does family influence actions? Obedience, love, duty, violence
  • The treatment of death
  • The attitude towards marriage
  • The attitude to education

Remember that it is the quality of your links that will determine your grade!

Towards an understanding of the Cultural Context of ‘Sive’

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Here are some questions to help you forge your own understanding of the Cultural Context of the play ‘Sive’ by John B. Keane. Write a comment on this post answering one of the questions and remember to use quotation to support every point you make.

  1. What is good about Sive’s life in the play?
  2. In what way is her life restricted?
  3. What do you think of Thomasheen’s attitude to marriage?
  4. Describe society at that time in your own words.
  5. How is family life for Sive depicted?
  6. How important are the circumstances of Sive’s birth in the play?
  7. Choose a key moment in the play that is pivotal in describing the social world for a modern reader.
  8. How important is money in ‘Sive’?
  9. Compare and contrast the attitudes of Nanna and Mena towards Sive.
  10. What is Thomasheen’s attitude towards women in the play?
  11. Who has power in ‘Sive’ and how do they gain that power?
  12. To what extent is society in ‘Sive’ male dominated?
  13. Describe some of the customs and traditions described by Keane in this play.
  14. Discuss Keane’s treatment of education in this play.