“This posthumous life of mine”: Tragic Overliving in the Plays of Marina Carr

Kelly A. Marsh, Mississippi State University
Vol. 30, No. 1 (Spring 2011), 117-139

The work of contemporary Irish playwright Marina Carr is illustrative of what Emily Wilson has identified in Mocked with Death: Tragic Overliving from Sophocles to Milton (2004) as “a central thread in the tragic tradition that is concerned not with dying too early but with living too long, or ‘overliving’” (p. 1). Understanding Carr’s engagement with tragic overliving offers grounds for re-envisioning Carr’s oeuvre, various though it appears, as a cohesive whole underlain by a coherent philosophy of tragedy. She has inherited this philosophy, but she has also reconceived it by offering a sustained exploration of the ways female characters respond to the consciousness of overliving and the impact of the potential to conceive and bear children on that consciousness. This article analyzes the manifestations of the problem of overliving in six of Carr’s published plays in a effort to trace the continuities between the plays commonly known as Carr’s “trilogy”—The Mai (1994), Portia Coughlan (1996), and By the Bog of Cats . . . (1998)—and her three subsequent plays—On Raftery’s Hill (2000),  Ariel (2002), and Woman and Scarecrow (2006)—which have been received as significantly different from the trilogy and from each other.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]