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Russell: Blood Brothers

6. Fate and Destiny

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In this module, we think about the concepts of fate and destiny in the play, focusing in particular on: (i) the extent to which siblings – and twins in particular – are thought to have a joint destiny, and the examples from literature and myth of siblings destroying each other, e.g. Romulus and Remus, Cain and Abel, Eteocles and Polyneices, etc; (ii) the extent to which siblings – and twins in particular – are thought to have a special bond, almost a shared identity; (iii) the connections between life, fate and the human condition; (iv) the concept of catharsis ('purgation', or perhaps 'understanding') from Aristotle's Poetics, and the importance in tragedy of strong emotions; (v) the importance of Marilyn Monroe as a tragic heroine; (vi) the extent to which Russell plays with our expectations, and the contrast throughout the play between what we hope will happen and what in fact happens; and (vii) the extent to which the audience is powerless to intervene in the 'fate' of the characters as constructed by the playwright.


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 - Fate and Destiny [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Russell: Blood Brothers – Fate and Destiny." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 29 Jan 2022,

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