Scholars learn how love is blind

Chevening Scholars had the chance to experience some of the fantastic work of British playwright Sir William Shakespeare. At the Globe Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, scholars were introduced to ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by Dr Christie Carson, before taking their seats to view the play later that evening.

Danilo Soares, a Chevening Social Media Ambassador, tells the story of the day:

‘I travelled to Stratford-Upon-Avon with other three Cheveners from the University of Manchester. After preparing a birthday surprise for a friend in one of the city’s lovely cafés, in front of the house where Shakespeare was born, we joined the group of scholars for a talk by Dr Christie Carson, who is a professor at the Shakespeare MA at Royal Holloway, University of London. 

Dr Carson’s talk served not only as an introduction to The Merchant of Venice for those who did not know the play, but also as an invitation to look deeper into the play and the different ways in which its characters have been portrayed over time. She started by giving us a brief summary of the plot, taking care not to spoil the twists and turns of the story for those who hadn’t read or watched it. Then she briefly discussed the most sensitive aspect of The Merchant of Venice: is the play anti-semitic or is the play about anti-semitism? What was Shakespeare’s stance on religion? Did the persecution of Catholics in Shakespeare’s time influence the writing of the play, and how? All those questions were posed by Dr Carson in the pre-theatre talk. Instead of giving us answers (there might not be a definite answer for any of those questions), she provided us with relevant information to watch the play with a critical eye – and enjoy it even more. 

After the talk we all stopped at Barnabys, a famous local fast place, for a quick taste of traditional British food: different kinds of fish and chips and a wide variety of pies. The meal served as a starter for the main course of the night: our visit to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, one of the most important temples for theatre in the world. Built in a bucolic setting, right next to the River Avon and the Bancroft Garden, the theatre is welcoming from the outside and imposing from the inside. Our seats gave us a perfect view of the stage mirrored stage used for the play. Polly Finlay’s cold, unsettling production made a strong impression on scholars, and the discussion topics raised in the pre-theatre talk were still discussed by us long after the play had ended – a sign that the cast and director had fulfilled their goal. It was a powerful experience and an unforgettable night for all of us who love theatre and art.’