Shakespeare auf dem Klassentreffen
Shakespeare at a Q1 Class Meeting: Performance of “The Merchant of Venice”
We, English class of Q1 (Sns), have lately had our first class meeting. It was special because we went to the “Deutsches Theater Göttingen” and visited a play by Shakespeare in English! Seriously, how awesome is the idea of watching a Shakespearean play in its English original in your neighboring town?! To us that seemed like a really good idea and it turned out to really have been!
When we arrived at the theatre on February 10th, many of us were excited. Generally speaking, we were really looking forward to seeing the play although – of course – there was some tiredness at 7:15 pm. But surely tiredness did not keep us from enjoying ourselves talking to each other and relaxing in our first row seats before the play finally started at 7:45 pm. Anyway, there was some surprise before the play: Not only Mrs. Seinsche and Mrs. Thies accompanied our English class but also Mr. Kohn and Mrs. Stein-Grubic, whom we – coincidentally – met there sitting next to us!
“The Merchant of Venice” is a famous comedy by William Shakespeare. It is about a man called Bassanio who is eager to marry the prestigious Portia. However, Bassanio needs money as to be able to marry her, so he borrows some from his good friend Antonio, a successful merchant. Antonio himself then needs to borrow the sum from the Jew Shylock. Shylock lends him the money without interest but requests a pound of Antonio’s flesh in case Antonio is not be able to pay him back in time. Meanwhile, Bassanio gives his best coquetting with Portia…
The performance by the American Drama Group Europe itself was really good! Most students could understand the actors and actresses easily. They spoke the Shakespearean English in a very articulated and often simplified way so that it came close to the English we are used to from school. But even for those who had difficulties to follow the detail of the plot, the play was a real success due to the outstanding performance of the actors and actresses. There were many scenes which were simply so well acted that you did not need to get the text as to understand what was going on. In addition, there were many really funny scenes and you could really feel with the actors. The costumes were very colorful, and the actors very much fitting to the role they were in. The only negative aspect of the play was that most students got confused about which role which actor was in at which point in time during the play. This was due to a role switch that was intended by Shakespeare in the actual play, and which was not clear at first, since the actors had switched roles before. Admittedly, this is criticism on a high level. At this point in this article, we most certainly also have to express the great admiration we have for the six actors and actresses who performed the play all by themselves – with only six people! An incredible work that has been done there!
“The Merchant of Venice” is usually referred to as a comedy. Contrary to this idea, the interpretation of the play we saw included a different view of the play – despite the fact that it had many funny scenes we liked. The director Paul Stebbings gave room for an interpretation that differs from the one of a comedy since he left two of the main characters, Shylock and Antonio, depressed at the end. This proves the unresolved religious conflict between Jews and Christians, and explains the controversy about what Shakespeare meant to state with “The Merchant of Venice”.
For pictures of the performance see http://www.theater-bamberg.de/index.phtml?La=1&mNavID=1681.80&object=tx%7C1828.1055.1&kat=&kuo=2&sub=0. For further information read “The Merchant of Venice” or check the website of the American Drama Group Europe (http://www.adg-europe.com).
Thanks to those students who gave me their impressions of the play! Also, many thanks to Mrs. Seinsche and Mrs. Thies for coming with us. If you would like to go see a play at the “Deutsches Theater” yourself, either persuade your class to go or get (at least) 15 people together to request a reduced group price.
Hannah Tschammer, Q1