Places: “MASTER HAROLD” . . . and the Boys

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1982

First produced: 1982, at the Yale Repertory Theater, New Haven, Connecticut

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Political realism

Time of work: 1950

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Port Elizabeth

*Port “MASTER HAROLD” . . . and the BoysElizabeth. City on the southern coast of South Africa. A strictly segregated city at the time of the play, Port Elizabeth is inhabited only by white families like the family of seventeen-year-old South African boy Harold (Hally), by a small merchant class of Indian origin, and by the black servants of these groups. Most black workers like Willie, who is employed in the tearoom owned by Hally’s parents, might have jobs in Port Elizabeth, but they come into the city by bus from black townships and neighborhoods including New Brighton, Kingwilliamstown, and the other localities represented in Willie’s blacks-only dance competition. Hally has lived so long as one of the privileged whites in segregated areas that he is usually unaware that others’ movements are more restricted than his own. Until Sam tells him near the end of the play, he goes for years without realizing that the reason Sam did not stay on the park bench and fly the kite with Hally is that the bench was restricted to whites only.

St. George’s Park tearoom

St. George’s Park tearoom. Shop owned by Hally’s mother. Like most South African businesses in white areas, the owners and customers are white, but the employees are black. The play takes place in the tearoom, where Hally enjoys the power and privilege of being the owner’s son, lording his position over the employees. The dynamic added by the tearoom itself allows the play to resonate beyond the themes of history and race.

BibliographyBenson, Mary. “Keeping an Appointment with the Future: The Theatre of Athol Fugard,” in Theater Quarterly. VII, no. 28 (1977), pp. 77-87.Bragg, Melvyn. “Athol Fugard, Playwright: A Conversation with Melvyn Bragg,” in The Listener. December 5, 1974, p. 734.Durbach, Errol. “ ‘MASTER HAROLD’ . . . and the Boys’: Athol Fugard and the Psychopathology of Apartheid.” Modern Drama 30 (December, 1987): 505-513. A thorough analysis of the political atmosphere of black/white relationships as portrayed by Fugard in comparison with the reality in South Africa.Freed, Lynn. “Vividly South African: An Interview with Athol Fugard.” Southwest Review 78 (Summer, 1993): 296-307. A detailed account of apartheid and the interpersonal repercussions it caused. Discusses Fugard’s impact as a playwright as well as his antiapartheid themes.Fuchs, Anne. Review of Athol Fugard: A Bibliography, by John Read. Research in African Literature 24 (Spring, 1993): 137-139. Reviews Fugard’s themes as they relate to the black/white relations in Africa through the 1950’s. Includes background information on Fugard.Fugard, Athol. “Fugard on Fugard,” in Yale Theater. I (Winter, 1973), pp. 41-54.Fugard, Athol. Notebooks, 1960-1977, 1984.Gussow, Mel. “Witness,” in The New Yorker. LVII (December 18, 1982), pp. 47-94.Kavanagh, Robert Mshengu. Theater and Cultural Struggle in South Africa, 1985.Post, Robert. “Victims in the Writing of Athol Fugard.” Ariel 16 (July, 1985): 3-17. Well-written essay that includes a comprehensive interview with the playwright regarding the characters in his work. Excellent analysis of the black “boys” of “MASTER HAROLD” . . . and the Boys. Post also analyzes the whites as victims of a society poisoned with prejudice and misinformation.Richards, Lloyd. “The Art of Theater VIII: Athol Fugard.” The Paris Review 31 (Summer, 1989): 129-151. Provides a discussion of the playwright’s background and analyzes Fugard’s talent for character and conflict development.Walder, Dennis. Athol Fugard, 1985.
Categories: Places