My practical work in March was a scripted piece for which we took three scenes from ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller. My contribution to the performance was playing two characters – Mercy Lewis and Mrs Putnam. I took part in all three of the scenes we chose to perform which included two scenes from act one and a section of the court scene in act three. To help me in my work I went to see a production of ‘The Crucible’ in Stratford as well as watching the film. Both of these were very different to my own interpretation of the script but they did help me to get a better understanding of my characters.
‘The Crucible’ was first produced in 1953 and is based on the ‘witch-hunt’ taking place in Salem at the time. ‘The Merchant of Venice’ however was set in Venice in the Elizabethan era and is about a Jew named Shylock who wishes to take ‘a pound of flesh’ from silk and spice merchant Antonio. The main difference between the two plays is the time they are set in and the language. The language in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is very different to nowadays and is at times difficult to understand.
Shakespeare also often gives his characters long speeches in order to deliver a point whereas Arthur Miller tends to give his characters snappy comebacks which in my opinion makes the play more interesting and also adds humour occasionally. Although the language is still old fashioned it is still understandable as it isn’t too different to how we speak now. The biggest similarity which connects the two plays is that they both feature a court scene. However, these court scenes are quite different from each other.
Although there is quite a heated argument in ‘The Merchant of Venice’, it remains relatively calm compared to the court scene in ‘The Crucible’ which becomes so disorderly that it actually becomes quite funny. It is a lot louder and more frantic than in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and has a completely different atmosphere. Arthur Miller creates quite an eerie feel in the court scene when the girls start to repeat everything Mary says and also builds up a lot of anger later of when Proctor is talking to Danforth.
Shakespeare also creates a lot of anger is the atmosphere with Shylock, but it doesn’t get to a point where it is out of control like in ‘The Crucible. ‘ Our performance was naturalistic all the way through and we didn’t have any need to use techniques such as monologues or narration. ‘The Merchant of Venice’ was also naturalistic throughout the play and doesn’t require any techniques to enhance it. We made a great effort to ensure that our characters all had suitable costumes which I think added to the performance and helped me to feel in character.
It also helped the audience to keep track of which character was being played by who, as there were a quite a lot of changes of actors throughout the play. As well as helping with the characters I think that by having costumes we managed to capture the right time and culture. Whilst working on the play we also experimented with accents but decided against using them in the performance as it just adds unnecessary complications. Overall I learnt a lot from both plays as they were very different to anything I had previously worked on. I found it interesting and enjoyable to work in a completely different culture and time period.