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Russell: Blood Brothers

12. Act 2 – "The house we got was lovely" (pp. 46-50)

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In this module, we read the first part of Act 2 up to the moment Sammy threatens the bus conductor and runs off pursued by the police. In particular, we focus on: (i) the happiness of Mrs Johnstone, but also the undertone of violence with the neighbours ("They sometimes fight on Saturday night, / But never in the week"); (ii) the happiness of Mrs Lyons, and the symbolism of dancing; (iii) the extent to which Blood Brothers could be described as a Marxist or Feminist play, thinking in particular about Catharine MacKinnon's 'Towards a Feminist Theory of the State' (1989); (iv) the tragic meaninglessness of violence; (v) the concept of hamartia – the tragic mistake; (vi) the theme of being trapped, and the inability to 'break free' of the society into which one is born; (vii) the character of Sammy, who is now sixteen years old; and (viii) the increasing presence of the police.


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Willy Russell's Blood Brothers. The first six modules serve as an introduction to play, exploring the play's historical context, the extent to which it is a 'Brechtian' play, the fact that we are told in the very first scene what will happen at the end, and the themes of superstition, nature and nurture, and destiny and fate. In the following nine modules, we go through the play scene by scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes, language, symbolism, and more.

Note: We use the Methuen Drama version of the play (ed. Jim Mulligan). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in the page numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2022, January 29). Russell: Blood Brothers - Act 2 – "The house we got was lovely" (pp. 46-50) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Russell: Blood Brothers – Act 2 – "The house we got was lovely" (pp. 46-50)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 29 Jan 2022,

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