Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE: Our Class Enacts The Three Caskets

In our previous post, we gave an overview of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which we are reading in the Advanced Reading class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP). Early in November, we will attend a performance of the play by students in the Department of Theater Arts and Dance at Loyola University New Orleans, under the direction of Dr. Laura Hope.

Part of our preparation for reading The Merchant of Venice included a narration of key scenes by LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone, with students acting out the characters' roles. We would like to share with you our enactment of the three caskets! Below, you see our three caskets: one of gold, one of silver, and one of lead.
Our three caskets: gold, silver, lead
These three caskets figure in an interesting sub-plot of The Merchant of Venice. Any man wishing to win the beautiful and wealthy Portia as his wife must undergo the trial of the three caskets. Portia's father has died and has specified in his will that Portia is not free to choose her own husband but must marry the man who correctly chooses the casket containing Portia's portrait. However, there is a further severe requirement: if a man makes his trial of the caskets and fails, he must swear a solemn oath never to approach a woman with love for the rest of his life! Most men, learning of this requirement, choose to depart with the caskets untried. But a few determined men are willing to take the risk.

The Prince of Morocco, played by LIEP student Alaa Mufti of Saudi Arabia, is the first of these determined men. He chooses the gold casket, with its inscription, "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire," beleiving that only gold is rich enough to contain the portrait of Portia, a woman desired by men from all corners of the world. Alas! The gold casket contains a skull and a scroll admonishing, "All that glistens is not gold." The Prince of Morocco leaves in sorrow.
The Prince of Morocco (Alaa Mufti of Saudi Arabia) stares in horror at the skull found in the gold casket!
The Prince of Aragon, played by LIEP student Mohammed Alghayudah of Saudi Arabia, is equally determined. He chooses the silver casket, with its inscription, "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves," for the Prince of Aragon believes himself to be a deserving man. Alas! The silver casket contains a fool's head and a scroll admonishing, "Some there be that shadows kiss; such have but a shadow's bliss." The Prince of Aragon goes away, deeply disappointed.
The Prince of Aragon (Mohammed Alghayudah of Saudi Arabia) is disappointed with a fool's head in the silver casket!
Finally, Bassanio of Venice, played by LIEP student Faisal "Solee" Mouamenah of Saudi Arabia, arrives to make his choice. Bassanio chooses the lead casket with its inscription, "Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." Bassanio declares that he is willing to give all for his love. He is rewarded with the portrait of Portia and with the real Portia as his wife. The scroll in the lead casket invites Bassanio, "Turn you where your lady is, and claim her with a loving kiss."
Bassanio (Solee Mouamenah of Saudi Arabia) happily gazes at the portrait of Portia found in the lead casket!
Unlike the lead casket in Shakespeare's play, our class's lead casket also contained a bag of dark chocolates for Bassanio (Solee) to distribute to the class!
Bassanio (Solee Mouamenah of Saudi Arabia) admires the bag of dark chocolates found in our class's lead casket and prepares to distribute them to the class!
This preparation, along with our viewing of the 2005 Michael Radford film of The Merchant of Venice, starring Jeremy Irons as Antonio and Al Pacino as Shylock, was very helpful in our reading of Shakespeare's play. A big THANK YOU to Alaa Mufti, Mohammed Alghayudah, and Solee Mouamenah - all of Saudi Arabia - for taking the roles of the Prince of Morocco, the Prince of Aragon, and Bassanio of Venice!

Our next post will invite you, first, to join us in a discussion with Dr. Laura Hope of Loyola University New Orleans' Department of Theater Arts and Dance. Dr. Hope is the director of Loyola's performance of The Merchant of Venice. In addition, our next post will give you an overview of the performance itself. We are excited about talking with Dr. Hope and then seeing the Loyola performance of The Merchant of Venice together!

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