The Blood Knot Critical Context - Essay

Athol Fugard

Critical Context

The Blood Knot was presented for the first time in 1961 on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The production was directed by Fugard, who also played Morrie. In 1985, the play was presented in New York, again acted in and directed by Fugard. The original production established Fugard as an important and promising playwright; the 1985 version, with its two actors a quarter-century older, had an even greater impact. As an expression of “just how systematically evil” the laws of South African society were and are, and as a testament to the ability of men to act with moral conscience, the play has demonstrated enduring dramatic power. Moral conscience and social critique resurfaced as important themes in Fugard’s plays from the 1990’s. Playland (pr., pb. 1992) and Valley Song (pr. 1995, pb. 1996), among others, focused on post-apartheid South Africa and the myriad dynamics that the new social structure imposed.

Fugard himself uses The Blood Knot as a touchstone for his ideas on dramatic theory and as a reference point for other works throughout his career. He considers The Blood Knot to be part of a family trilogy representing “two generations—parents and children”—with Boesman and Lena (pr. 1969) as a “parent and parent” arrangement, Hello and Goodbye (pr. 1965) as “child and parent,” and The Blood Knot as “brother and brother.” Summarizing the importance The Blood Knot has always held for him, he describes his readiness to begin a new play as “a terrible yearning to ’tell a story’ once more—to set out, discover and live in an imagined world, the way I did with Blood Knot.”