Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Merchant of Venice

I have never read or watch Shakespeare. Neither do my kids. Mr O claimed he has read The Merchant of Venice many many years ago. Anyway, for most of us it was our first Shakespeare experience. I have to google and read the story online. Disclaimer; Most of the info on the story comes from wikipedia. And bit and pieces from other links too. There's no way a "Bard noob" like me can understand the whole story from 1st viewing ;-)
The Histrionia Acting Troupe (HAT) is a group of homeschooling kids and this is their first play.The show was at PJ Live Arts.
They began the story by telling us that they will skip the Lorenzo-Jessica part because it's just too long and there's too much kissing. OK ;-)

The story begins with Bassanio who wishes to marry the beautiful and wealthy heiress Portia of Belmont. He approached his friend Antonio to borrow money. He need three thousand ducats to subsidise his expenditures as a suitor. Antonio agrees, but he's short of cash as his ships and merchandise are at sea. So he promises to cover a bond if Bassanio can find a lender.
So Bassanio turns to the Jewish moneylender Shylock and names Antonio as the loan's guarantor. I have to say the guy who played Shylock was really2 good. Medina said; He must be crazily angry ;-)
Portia and her confidante, Nerissa. 
Portia cannot choose her own husband. Her father left a will stipulating each of her suitors must choose correctly from one of three caskets – one each of gold, silver and lead. If he picks the right casket, he gets Portia.

Shylock, who hates Antonio because of his anti-Judaism and Antonio's customary refusal to borrow or lend money with interest was reluctant at first. But finally agrees to lend Antonio the sum without interest upon the condition that if Antonio is unable to repay it at the specified date, he may take a pound of Antonio's flesh. 
At this point, Medina was hungry and I went out to find food for Little Missy. So I missed the part where the first 2 suitors made their choice. Prince of Morroco & Prince of  Arragon. The last to choose was Bassanio, who chooses the lead casket, winning Portia's hand.
Portia is so happy that she got to marry Bassanio.
Portia and Bassanio marry. And Gratiano asked for permission to marry Nerissa. So everybody is lovey dovey & live happily. For a while at least.
Then they received news that Antonio's ships are reported lost at sea. This leaves him unable to return the loan taken from Shylock. So Bassanio and Gratiano had to leave for Venice to settle the issue. The plan is to offer double the money to Shylock. BTW, it's Portia's money :P

And unknown to Bassanio and Gratiano, Portia has sent her servant, Balthazar, to seek the counsel of Portia's cousin, Bellario, a lawyer to help her husband get out of trouble. Haissshhh.....u see? Even Shakespeare knows a man need a woman to save his life ;-)

In the court of the Duke of Venice. 
Shylock refuses Bassanio's offer of 6,000 ducats, twice the amount of the loan. He demands his pound of flesh from Antonio.
Portia disguised as Balthazar. 
She repeatedly asks Shylock to show mercy advising him that mercy "is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."
However, Shylock adamantly refuses any compensations and insists on the pound of flesh.
The quibble. Portia saves Antonio by pointing out that the agreement called for a pound of flesh, but no blood, and therefore Shylock can collect only if he sheds no blood.

As the court grants Shylock his bond and Antonio prepares for Shylock's knife, Portia points out that the contract only allows Shylock to remove the flesh, not the "blood", of Antonio. Thus, if Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio's blood, his "lands and goods" would be forfeited. And he must cut precisely one pound of flesh, no more, no less.

"If the scale do turn, in the estimation of a hair, Thou diest and all thy goods are confiscated."
Defeated, Shylock conceded. And Antonio's life is spared. 

As a token of gratitude for saving him and Antonio, Bassanio who does not recognise his disguised wife offers to give a present to the lawyer. First she declines, but after he insists, Portia requests his ring. Errrkkk... BTW he has promised his wife never to lose, sell or give the ring. And yet, under pressure, he gave in. Can u believe it??!! ;-)

Portia and Nerissa then rushes back. To make sure they reach Belmont before the guys do.
Once the guys reach Belmont, Portia and Nerissa asked about the missing ring. This scene was quite funny actually. They pretend to accuse their husbands of infidelity before revealing they were really the lawyer and his clerk in disguise. Eventually, Antonio learns from Portia that three of his ships were not stranded and have returned safely after all. It was a very good performance by the homeschoolers.

The cast.
The one who surprisingly enjoyed her first Shakespeare play.

Actually all the kids enjoyed the play very2 much. It was a good exposure to Shakespeare.

Luqman & Hajar told me the homeschoolers' play made their annual school play looked so inferior. Despite much2 lesser props. And definitely much2 lesser production cost. Probably just a fraction of what it cost to produce their school play. I have not actually watched any of their school play. But I enjoy this play very much. Kudos Histrionia Acting Troupe!! We definitely look forward for more :-)

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