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In Beckett’s Murphy in Chapter 9, we find that the eponymous character’s quest for self-validation is an aspect of an autistic spectrum disorder and that it is his relentless attraction to patterns that draws him to Mr. Endon. In the game of chess between Endon and Murphy, it is the former’s refutation of any kind of analogy that spins Murphy out of himself and ultimately leads, in an absurd but also interconnected concatenation of small steps, to his death by a gas explosion in his garret. As in other works of Beckett, our attention is rivetted on the absurd semiotic of language itself as an aspect of hermeneutical delirium. This is closely tied to Murphy’s aporetic speech that is also part of his autistic syndrome. The failure to find a reflection of himself in the mind of Mr. Endon is what ultimately undoes Murphy’s sense of self-integration and triggers his rapid unravelling.
This chapter argues that Arthur Murphy’s tragic dramaturgy is more radical than has been recognised, notably in its treatment of the classic Enlightenment concerns with religious toleration and the ‘savage’ or indigenous critique of colonial invasion. Murphy’s serious plays are Drydenic in spatial reach, stretching from East Asia (The Orphan of China ) to Peru (Alzuma [1757/1773]) via Syria (Zenobia ) and Greece (The Grecian Daughter ). Murphy’s imperial dramaturgy swerves from his predecessor’s, however, in focusing on female protagonists and reiterating indigenous or non-European literary historical accounts of colonial conquest and resistance. Contextualising Murphy’s tragic writing via his Irish and Catholic origins (partially subsumed by his later metropolitan British and Anglican affiliations), this chapter explores Alzuma’s reiteration of Voltaire’s and Hill’s Alzire/Alzuma, themselves redactions of Garcilaso de la Vega’s Royal Commentaries of Peru. Noting how Murphy’s profound attachment to his devoutly Catholic mother informs his critique of forced conversion, Orr shows how his dramatisation of the black legend topos is linked to other Irish Patriot uses of this trope, by radical politician Charles Lucas and by well-known Patriot author Henry Brooke, in the latter’s Montezuma [undated].
In this chapter challenge cases to Knowledge Counter-Closure discussed so far are distinguished from cases of transmission failure and easy knowledge. I explain how these challenge cases work and argue that Knowledge Counter-Closure can be replaced by a plausible principle phrased in terms of justification, rather than knowledge. I then discuss Murphy's claim that inferential knowledge can arise from unjustified belief and from non-belief. I close the chapter by showing that rejecting Knowledge Counter-Closure avoids substantial costs.
Macklin’s Henry the VII (1746) has received little critical attention. This chapter reads the play as part of a tradition of Irish history plays that were influenced by Joseph Addison’s Cato (1713). Addison’s themes of personal self-sacrifice, love of country and resistance to tyranny proved inspirational for Irish dramatists in the wake of the Declaratory Act (1720) as can be seen in William Philips’s Hibernia Freed (1722) and Henry Brooke’s Gustavus Vasa (1739). History plays then might offer an alternative genealogy of eighteenth-century Irish theatre which is often focused on comedies.
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