McGuinness’ Exploration of Caravaggio in “Innocence” Essay

Although Innocence is a fictional piece of literature it is still clear that McGuinness has indeed explored the real life artist Caravaggio and his art within the play. McGuinness has showed both in Innocence and also Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme that he has a great interest in the persona of the artists themselves. It is through both the strong characters of Caravaggio and Pyper and the world McGuinness has placed them in that we get a true sense of McGuinness’ plays as exploring the world of art. To expose how McGuinness does this I will be delving into the characters of both artists he has invented. It is then necessary to examine the social context of the world in which McGuinness has placed these characters to fully understand these plays as exploring the world of art. The artist and their art have to be closely looked at in conjunction with the society they are placed in to truly get a sense of the world of art McGuinness is exploring.McGuinness was intrigued by the notoriety of Caravaggio and it is on the eccentric artist that he built the play Innocence on. McGuinness was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish literature in 1985 which enabled him to see a full exhibit of Caravaggio’s paintings. In Helen Lojek’s book, Contexts for Frank McGuinness’s Drama, She notes that from this exhibition he brought home a catalogue full of handwritten notes. It is obvious that McGuinness had an instant reaction and compulsion to write on Caravaggio. McGuinness consciously and carefully structured this play. This is evident as we see in part I of the play in that it is centred on Caravaggio’s life, and part II on Caravaggio’s death. Although Innocence is heavily fictionalised it is actually McGuinness’ interpret…

…play is.Innocence is a play full of paradoxes and transformations. It is evidently about the struggle to see the artist as a respected figure in society. McGuinness is exploring how he sees the artistic imagination and vision of the artist and how it should be looked upon as something precious and powerful. Through Caravaggio’s ability to transform the rent boys and prostitutes into spiritual, potent pieces of art. It seems that he is appreciating the power of the artistic imagination and somehow feels a connection, which is portrayed through the artist Caravaggio. The title of the play also shows how McGuinness is exploring the power of the artists and their works. The power of these artistic images gives the outlaws of society the sense of innocence they were longing for. McGuinness ultimately is exploring the power and beauty of art and the artist’s talent.

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