‘The Merchant of Venice’ written by William Shakespeare and ‘My Children! My Africa’ by Athol Fugard

The two plays I studied in class are ‘The Merchant of Venice’ written by William Shakespeare and ‘My Children! My Africa!’ by Athol Fugard. Both these plays belong to different centuries in time.

‘The Merchant of Venice’ was written to be performed on hexagonal shaped stage, so it will be viewed from different angles. The play was written for a more widely, popular audience which would involve with the acting throughout the play. Though at times, due to the play being written in the 1600s, the acting will be more classical, so the actors will be played more boldly for people to hear and clearly understand the play. The characters will reflect their emotions through their speech as not all the audience are capable of visualizing their faces.

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The play is classified as a Shakespearean Comedy. The play is based on themes of prejudice, love and money. There are characters from different parts of the hierarchy, the society of this play is considerably poor, and also the society is prejudiced. Although Portia is a wealthy princess, money is not valued as her pride possession. The character of Shylock values money more. But even though Shylock is often ‘bullied’ by Antonio, he is still happy enough to loan money away.

‘My Children! My Africa!’ was written in the 19th Century to be presented on a proscenium arch stage. The play was written in a time of strong racial segregation between blacks and whites in South Africa. The proscenium arch stage is fairly modern as it has a curtain which separates the stage and the audience. The type of staging is widely used for naturalistic dramas. The play was written for a wide audience. This shown through the mixture of language used. Though the play having serious topics dealt with, because of the writer’s choice of using this topic which will have a strong impact on the society as a whole.

The play is a modest and ‘low key’ drama as the gestures of the actors are more understated to those of ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ This play also revolves round the theme of prejudice and racial discrimination. The society of this is more wide spread due to the segregation of the races.

For the play ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ we had to create an improvisation based on the childhood friendship between Antonio and Shylock. For this we worked in groups. Our group created an improvisation on how Antonio and Shylock became sworn enemies. I play the part of Shylock’s father.

The scene started of with Antonio borrowing money from Shylock in school. As Shylock is in the play, he charges interest. At that time, Antonio wasn’t able to pay his money back, because of this he said he will return the money he borrowed in the evening, after school. Their friendship started to break up at this point.

When Antonio gets back home, he is asked by his father why he is late; he is then questioned on his borrowing from Shylock. As a result of this, Antonio is asked to stay away from Shylock. So this means he is incapable of paying Shylock’s money back. Therefore he sends a Christian friend to give it to Shylock.

Then Antonio’s friend goes to Shylock’s house to meet Shylock’s unwelcoming father. When his friend asks to see Shylock; I speak in an angry tone of voice and say “there is a Christian boy to see you,” this makes the Christian friend feel uneasy. After the departure of Shylock’s friend, I question him in an anxious tone of voice, why he was dealing money with Christians. Then I praise him for charging interest.

The next day, Shylock and Antonio confront each other in school, where my character meets the Antonio’s Dad. There we have a war of words; I will play this part with raged mood as I am angered at the Christian father accusing Shylock of wrong doing. I will stress the line where I warn off Antonio’s father about Antonio staying away from Shylock, this will give a sense of foreshadowing difficulties between Antonio and Shylock. My gesture will show how much I am dislike Shylock playing with Christians. This will give the audience a clear idea of what I am trying to portray to them.

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