Shakespeare at Drum Castle

We saw the Merchant of Venice at Drum Castle last night by Illyria. It was brilliant and the acting was superb. The cast of just five meant they all played several roles and the changing of costumes and accents was flawless.

We saw them once before with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as then, we feared the kids would get bored or it would pour with rain or the midges would bite. It did rain but only very slightly and not enough to dampen our enjoyment (see what I did there?). The kids enjoyed it also and Daniel asked us afterwards whether we’ll go to the next performance.


There was something a bit pantomimey about it with men dressing up as women and women dressing up as men. I suppose that was a great tradition when Shakespeare lived. They even threw in a Donald Trump joke which went down very well because he’s universally disliked here. Ben gave us all a brief explanation of the plot on the way there which was very helpful. If you go to see it and are not familiar with the play then I recommend reading the Wikipedia page for a summary first. This play is the origin of the phrase, pound of flesh.

I felt very sorry for the Jew, Shylock, at the end. Even though he was not a kind man I felt he was treated unfairly. Did Shakespeare want us to feel sorry for him? Was he trying to demonstrate the prejudice against Jews at that time or was he just appealing to the general feeling of the masses? I also wondered why Portia didn’t just tell Bassanio which box to choose.

It’s much easier to follow Shakespeare when it’s brought to life by a very talented group of actors and you can watch it live next to a 14th century castle. Illyria will be back at Drum Castle on the 24th August with The Pirates of Penzance.



5 thoughts on “Shakespeare at Drum Castle”

  1. I cannot restrain myself: do you remember what the Trump joke was? It doesn’t seem to matter what era his plays are being performed in, Shakespeare has relevance for each one.

    1. Yes, I do remember the joke. In the play there are three caskets that would-be suitors must choose from to win Portia’s hand in marriage. One is gold, one is silver, and one is lead and they need to select the one with the portrait of Portia inside. To help them choose each casket has a message inscribed on the surface.

      The message on the gold casket reads, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire” and inside is a skull and a note – “All the glisters is not gold”.

      The message on the silver casket is, “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves” and inside is the portrait of a fool which in this case was Donald Trump 🙂

      The lead casket says “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath” and is the right one.

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