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1 COMPABATIVE i ama Volume 29Winter 1995-96Number 4 "Master Harold" and the Bard: Education and Succession in Fugard and Shakespeare David E. Hoegberg "You must teach the boys to show you more respect, my son."1 For thou hast lost thy princely privilege With vile participation.2 Fugard's "Master Harold" . . . and the boys has been called a "family history" because it is based on incidents in the author's own life, yet it is also set during a crucial period in the history of South Africa, two years after the 1948 elections that brought the Nationalist Party to power, when the Nationalists were crafting legislation that would continue to shape South African life until the time of the play's composition (1982) and beyond.3 This choice of time, in which Fugard departed from biographical accuracy to highlight the historical context of the play's action,4 prompts us to look at "Master" Harold's psychological dilemma in the context of the ideological needs of the new Nationalist re415 416Comparative Drama gime, and it is in this context that some striking resemblances appear between Fugard's play and Shakespeare's Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, which likewise are set in the early years of a new regime and deal with that regime's attempts to solidify its power. Fugard 's historical portrait, unlike Shakespeare's history plays, is not painted on a wide canvas that includes courts, battlefields, and taverns, yet political changes such as the Group Areas Act, which proclaimed that certain "controlled" areas could be owned and occupied only by members of a designated racial group, are part of the implied setting of the drama.5 More importantly, both authors show the development of a young man into a member of the ruling elite of a nation—a process during which he must choose between competing ideologies and political visions associated , respectively, with members ofthe upper and lower classes. By "competing ideologies" I refer to sets of beliefs, metaphors, and arguments that serve to justify different configurations of social and economic relations. An ideology suited to the needs of the upper class of a given society will usually support existing social and economic relations, whereas one suited to the needs of the lower class (though not necessarily adopted by a majority of lower-class persons) will usually promote some sort ofcritique of that power structure. In both Shakespeare and Fugard, the upperclass ideologies "win" the competition, and the young men turn away from their former companions of the lower class, yet the political sympathies of the authors differ markedly, as we can see from the ways in which they present these similar situations. Although the similarity of the names "Hal" and "Hally" is probably coincidental—"Hallie" was in fact Fugard's nickname in his youth and may have been chosen for that reason alone6-— there are other reasons to think that Fugard was consciously imitating Shakespeare's Henry IV. Hally's comment to Sam that they should reserve theirjudgment about Shakespeare as a great social reformer until they have read some other plays besides Julius Caesar (p. 23) implies that the reader should scrutinize the rest of Shakespeare's oeuvre for political implications. The two parts ofHenry /^provide the closest parallel to "MasterHarold, " both in the similarity of the young men's triangular relationships with the two father-figures in their lives and in the political themes addressed as we watch their interactions and choices. Hally may not be a prince of the realm, as Hal is, but Fugard lets us know that, as a lower-middle-class white boy, he is an heir to the whitesonly bench that stands as a symbol of power and prestige in South Africa. Sam is like Falstaff in that he is older than Hally David E. Hoegberg417 and has knowledge of a different "world" of experience—the black world—that is closed to Hally. He thus becomes a kind of mentor, but he must also, like Falstaff, compete with Hally's real father for the boy's respect and loyalty. Hally is elevated above his surrogate father by his whiteness as Hal is by his royalty, while in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 415-435
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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