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The central character of this play is Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, who led an Irish and Spanish alliance against the armies of Elizabeth I in an attempt to drive the English out of Ireland. The action takes place before and after the Battle of Kinsale, at which the alliance was defeated: with O’Neill at home in Dungannon, as a fugitive in the mountains, and finally exiled in Rome. In his handling of this momentous episode Brian Friel has avoided the conventions of ‘historical drama’ to produce a play about history, the continuing process.
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