A Lesson from Aloes
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A Lesson from Aloes

Athol Fugard

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📖 eBook - ePub

A Lesson from Aloes

Athol Fugard

About This Book

Two former political activists confront each other and the events which led to their sudden falling-out years ago.

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Act One


The backyard. It is cluttered with a collection of aloes in a variety of tins of all shapes and sizes.
There is a gate with a nameboard: Xanadu.
PIET, seated at a garden table with an aloe in front of him, is studying a small field book on the plants. He is wearing spectacles, short trousers, no shirt and sandals without socks. GLADYS, behind sunglasses, sits very still on a garden bench.
Time: late afternoon.

PIET (Reading from the book) “... small, glaucous leaves, erect or incurved . . .”(Studies the specimen in front of him, then turns back to the book) “Tuberculate-based . . .”(Turns to the glossary at the back of the book) Tuberculate ... “Having knobby or warty excrescences. ”(Back to the entry he was reading) “Tuberculate-based soft prickles on both surfaces.” (He holds the book at arm’s length for a comparison between the illustration and his plant. He shakes his head) No. That’s not it.
(He closes the book, and takes off the spectacles. He gets up quietly, the aloe in his hands, and looks at GLADYS)
GLADYS (Without moving) I’m awake.

PIET Well, my dear, we have a stranger in our midst. Aloe Anonymous! Because that is what it is until I know its name. I’ve been through my book twice, page by page, but there is nothing that looks quite like it. I don’t think I can allow myself to believe I’ve discovered a new species. That would be something! I’d name it after you, my dear. Hail aloe Gladysiensis! Sounds rather good, doesn’t it? (He reads the other aloes) Hail ferox! And you aristata ... arborescens ... ciliaris ... and now Gladysiensis! Welcome to the most noble order of Eastern Cape aloes. An impressive array of names, isn’t it? And knowing them is important. It makes me feel that little bit more at home in my world. And yet, as little Juliet once said: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.” (These lines, and all his other quotations, although delivered with a heavy Afrikaans accent, are said with a sincere appreciation of the words involved. He thinks about those he has just quoted) Alas, it’s not as simple as that, is it?

GLADYS Are you talking to me?

PIET Who else, my dear?

GLADYS The aloes ... or yourself. I’m never sure these days.

PIET Names are more than just labels. (He sits beside her on the bench) Petrus Jacobus Bezuidenhout. (He gives a little smile) “So, would Petrus, were he not Petrus called,/Retain that dear perfection which he owns without that title?”

GLADYS What are you talking about?

PIET The balcony scene. Where the little lady laments Romeo’s name. I was just thinking about mine, trying to hear it as others do.


PIET Nothing ... except that when other men say Piet Bezuidenhout it is me they are talking about. Yes! That is what’s in a name. My face, my story in mine, as much as theirs, is in Romeo and Juliet. “Then deny thy father and refuse thy name.” Hell! I don’t know about those Italians, but that’s a hard one for an Afrikaner. No. For better or for worse, I will remain positively identified as Petrus Jacobus Bezuidenhout; Species, Afrikaner; Habitat, Algoa Park, Port Elizabeth, in this year of our Lord, 1963 ... and accept the consequences.
(He looks at his wrist watch)
GLADYS What is the time now?

PIET Just on four o’clock.

GLADYS It’s passing very slowly, isn’t it?

PIET Yes, it is. The sun is as lazy as we are this afternoon.

GLADYS (Shaking her head) It’s because we’re waiting.

PIET Let me get you something to read.

GLADYS I’m all right.

PIET I’ve got today’s paper inside.

GLADYS Stop fussing, Peter. I’ve learned how to sit and wait. When should we expect them?

PIET I didn’t fix a definite time. I just said, “Supper.” So what do you think? Half-past six? Seven? They won’t be too late because of the children. If we start to get ready at five, we should be all right. Everything under control in the kitchen?


PIET Then relax, my dear. Enjoy the sunshine.

GLADYS I’m perfectly relaxed.
PIET Good.

GLADYS You’re the one who can’t keep still.

PIET (He moves back to the garden table where we first saw him) Just tidying up my mess.

GLADYS I hope I’m not getting too much sun.

PIET No danger of that on an autumn afternoon. This is the start of our gentle time, Gladys ... our season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom friend of the maturing sun. On the farm there was almost a sense of the veld sighing with relief when autumn finally set in. We certainly did. Man and animal. Months of grace while we waited for the first rains.

GLADYS My skin can’t take it. I learned that lesson when I was a little girl.

PIET Sunburn.

GLADYS Yes. A holiday somewhere with my mother and father. On the very first day I picked up too much sun on the beach and that was the end of it. My mother dabbed me all over with calamine lotion to soothe the pain. I can remember looking at myself in the mirror ... a frightened little white ghost. Mommy was terrified that I was going to end up with a brown skin. But she needn’t have worried. It all peeled away and there I was, the same as before.

PIET The voortrekker women had the same problem. That’s where the old white bonnet comes from. Protection.

GLADYS I think it was Cape Town. Not that it...

Table of contents

Citation styles for A Lesson from AloesHow to cite A Lesson from Aloes for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Fugard, A. (1993). A Lesson from Aloes ([edition unavailable]). Theatre Communications Group. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/729773/a-lesson-from-aloes-pdf (Original work published 1993)
Chicago Citation
Fugard, Athol. (1993) 1993. A Lesson from Aloes. [Edition unavailable]. Theatre Communications Group. https://www.perlego.com/book/729773/a-lesson-from-aloes-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Fugard, A. (1993) A Lesson from Aloes. [edition unavailable]. Theatre Communications Group. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/729773/a-lesson-from-aloes-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Fugard, Athol. A Lesson from Aloes. [edition unavailable]. Theatre Communications Group, 1993. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.