God’s Gift is based on the work of Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811).
Reviewing The Broken Jug, Gerry Colgan noted in the The Irish Times Banville’s ‘impeccable sense of a play’s structure and pace’.
The setting of God’s Gift, Banville’s version of Kleist’s Amphitryon, is County Wexford, 1798. In the aftermath of the Battle of Vinegar Hill, General Ashburningham, returning home in triumph, experiences a night that ‘plays tricks’ on him, his wife and sundry characters. Following impersonations by the gods and the surprising outcome of one of Jupiter’s promiscuous liaisons, the play’s predicament is clear: while mortals long for love to make them divine, it’s humans’ mortality which gods envy.
God’s Gift proves further John Banville’s empathy with Kleist in both writers’ capacity to mix tragic and comic moods in spritely lines and succinct wit.