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Jacob's Wake


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A: Michael Cook Pf: 1975, Lennoxville, Quebec Province Pb: 1975 G: Trag. in 2 acts; Newfoundland dialect S: The Blackburns' home on the Newfoundland coast, 1970s C: 4m, 2fSkipper Blackburn is lying upstairs in bed, as he has done for the last 30 years since his elder son Jacob died. He is waited on by his long-suffering daughter-in-law Rosie. His surviving children are Mary, a prim teacher, and Winston, Rosie's husband, a good-for-nothing who lives off his illegal still and welfare payments. Rosie and Winston's three sons come home for Easter: Alonzo, Brad with his wife Mary, and Wayne, all of them with guilty secrets, although Wayne is a member of the provincial legislature. In less than 24 hours, the action unfolds and the past is revealed. Alonzo forges his father's signature, so that Skipper will be removed to an institution, but his fraud is exposed. Brad, facing his guilt over the death of a girl he made pregnant, leaves the house to die in a storm. It transpires that Jacob lost his life when his father ordered him out on to the ice to hunt seals, just as a storm was brewing. Skipper now imagines that Winston is Jacob. As another storm gathers momentum, Skipper is dying. His ghost appears in full Master's uniform as the storm reaches its height. Ordering the women below decks, he assumes command of his ship during a seal hunt. Suddenly, the whole house is engulfed by a huge wave which drowns everyone.

A: Michael Cook Pf: 1975, Lennoxville, Quebec Province Pb: 1975 G: Trag. in 2 acts; Newfoundland dialect S: The Blackburns' home on the Newfoundland coast, 1970s C: 4m, 2f

With echoes of Ibsen and O'Neill, Michael Cook's bleak image of a family living in Jacob's ‘wake’ (both the trail he has left behind, and the celebration of his death) has been staged internationally. The Blackburns represent the decline in the traditional values of their Newfoundland fishing community: although Skipper is a crazy old man, he stands for something more solid than the mendacity and callousness of the younger generation.


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