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Shylock's Revenge Speech from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (reading)01:53

Shylock's Revenge Speech from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (reading)

Shylock's revenge speech from The Merchant of Venice Act III scene i. The images show Orson Welles as Shylock, a portrait believed to be of William Shakespeare and the 19th century actor, Edmund Keane as Shylock.

The Merchant of Venice is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Classified as a comedy in the First Folio, and while it shares certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps more remembered for its dramatic scenes, and is best known for Shylock and the 'pound of flesh'. The play's antisemitic overtones can be troubling to modern audiences.

The title character is the merchant, Antonio, not the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who is the play's most prominent and more famous character. This is made explicit by the title page of the first quarto: The moſt excellent Hiſtorie of the Merchant of Venice. VVith the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Iewe towards the ſayd Merchant, in cutting a iuſt pound of his flesh: and the obtaining of Portia by the choice of three chests.

Characters

Shylock e jessica

Shylock and Jessica, 1876 oil painting by Maurycy Gottlieb.

  • Antonio - a merchant from Venice; Christian
  • Bassanio – Antonio's friend, in love with Portia, mostly interested in her money; Christian
  • Gratiano, Solanio, Salarino, Salerio – friends of Antonio and Bassanio; Christian
  • Lorenzo – friend of Antonio and Bassanio, in love with Jessica; Christian
  • Portia – a rich heiress
  • Nerissa – her waiting-maid
  • Balthazar – a servant of Portia
  • Stephano – a servant of Portia
  • Shylock– a rich Jew, father of Jessica.
  • Tubal – a Jew; Shylock's friend
  • Jessica – Daughter of Shylock, in love with Lorenzo; Jew
  • Launcelot Gobbo – a fool known for making puns
  • Old Gobbo – the father of Launcelot
  • Leonardo - servant to Bassanio
  • Duke of Venice - suitor to Portia
  • Prince of Morocco – suitor to Portia
  • Prince of Aragon – suitor to Portia
  • Magnificoes of Venice, officers of the Court of Justice, Gaoler, servants to Portia, and other Attendants

Synopsis

Bassanio, a young Venetian, of noble rank but having squandered his estate, wishes to travel to Belmont to woo the beautiful and wealthy heiress, Portia. He approaches his friend Antonio, a wealthy and generous merchant, who has previously and repeatedly bailed him out, for three thousand ducats needed to subsidize his traveling expenditures as a suitor for three months. Antonio agrees, but he is cash-poor; his ships and merchandise are busy at sea. He promises to cover a bond if Bassanio can find a lender, so Bassanio turns to the Jewish moneylender Shylock and names Antonio as the loan’s guarantor.

Antonio reproaching Shylock-Tales from Shakespeare

Antonio reproaching Shylock. 19th century illustration from Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare.

Shylock hates Antonio, both because he is a Christian and because he insulted and spat on Shylock for being a Jew. Also, Antonio undermines Shylock's moneylending business by lending money at zero interest. Shylock proposes a condition for the loan: if Antonio is unable to repay it at the specified date, he may take a pound of Antonio's flesh. Bassanio does not want Antonio to accept such a risky condition; Antonio is surprised by what he sees as the moneylender's generosity (no "usance" — interest — is asked for), and he signs the contract. With money at hand, Bassanio leaves for Belmont with his friend Gratiano, who has asked to accompany him. Gratiano is a likeable young man, but is often flippant, overly talkative, and tactless. Bassanio warns his companion to exercise self-control, and the two leave for Belmont and Portia.

Meanwhile in Belmont, Portia is awash with suitors. Her father has left a will stipulating each of her suitors must choose correctly from one of three caskets – one each of gold, silver, and lead – before he could win Portia's hand.[1] In order to be granted an opportunity to marry Portia, each suitor must agree in advance to live out his life as a bachelor if he loses the contest. The suitor who correctly looks past the outward appearance of the caskets will find Portia's portrait inside and win her hand.

The first suitor, the luxury and money-obsessed Prince Of Morocco, reasons to choose the gold casket, because lead proclaims "Choose me and risk hazard", and he has no wish to risk everything for lead, and the silver's "Choose me and get what you deserve" sounds like an invitation to be tortured, but "Choose me and get what all men desire" all but spells it out that he that chooses gold will get Portia, as what all men desire is Portia. Inside the casket are a few gold coins and a skull with a scroll containing the famous verse All that glitters is not gold / Often have you heard that told / Many a man his life hath sold But my outside to behold / Gilded tombs do worms enfold / Had you been as wise as bold, Young in limbs, in judgment old / Your answer had not been inscroll'd: /Fare you well; your suit is cold. [2] His judgment captured by outward appearances, he is an unfit suitor for Portia and his bachelor life begins.

The second suitor is the conceited Prince Of Aragon. He decides not to choose lead, because it is so common, and will not choose gold because he will then get what many men desire and wants to be distinguished from the barbarous multitudes. He decides to choose silver, because the silver casket proclaims "Choose Me And Get What You Deserve", which he imagines must be something great, because he egotistically imagines himself as great. Inside the casket, however, is the picture of a court jester's head on a baton and remarks "What? A grinning idiot? Did deserve no more than this?" The scroll reads: Some there be that shadows kiss/Some have but a shadow's Bliss/Take what wife you will to bed/I will ever be your Head---meaning that he was foolish to imagine that a pompous man like him could ever be a fit husband for Portia, and that he was always a fool, he always will be a fool, and the fact that he chose the silver casket is mere proof that he is a fool.

The last suitor is Bassanio. He realizes that the line about "Choose me and risk everything you've got." could be a reference to the fact that marriage is a tremendous gamble and could mean a drastic turning point in one's life, and chooses lead. He gets it right.

Shylock&Jessica

1868 depiction of Jessica and Shylock by Thomas Gray.

At Venice, Antonio's ships are reported lost at sea. This leaves him unable to satisfy the bond (in financial language, insolvent). Shylock is even more determined to exact revenge from Christians after his daughter Jessica flees his home to convert to Christianity and elope with Lorenzo, taking a substantial amount of Shylock's wealth with her, as well as a turquoise ring which was a gift to Shylock from his late wife, Leah. Shylock has Antonio arrested and brought before court.

At Belmont, Portia and Bassanio have just been married, as have Gratiano and Portia's handmaid Nerissa. Bassanio receives a letter telling him that Antonio has defaulted on his loan from Shylock. Shocked, Bassanio and Gratiano leave for Venice immediately, with money from Portia, to save Antonio's life by offering the money to Shylock. Unknown to Bassanio and Gratiano, Portia has sent her servant, Balthazar, to seek the counsel of Portia's cousin, Bellario, a lawyer, at Padua.

The climax of the play comes in the court of the Duke of Venice. Shylock refuses Bassanio's offer of six thousand ducats, twice the amount of the loan. He demands his pound of flesh from Antonio. The Duke, wishing to save Antonio but unwilling to set a dangerous legal precedent of nullifying a contract, refers the case to a visitor who introduces himself as Balthazar, a young male "doctor of the law", bearing a letter of recommendation to the Duke from the learned lawyer Bellario. The "doctor" is actually Portia in disguise, and the "law clerk" who accompanies her is actually Nerissa, also in disguise. Portia, as "Balthazar", asks Shylock to show mercy in a famous speech (The quality of mercy is not strained—IV,i,185, arguing for debt relief), but Shylock refuses. Thus the court must allow Shylock to extract the pound of flesh. Shylock tells Antonio to "prepare". At that very moment, Portia points out a flaw in the contract: the bond only allows Shylock to remove the flesh, not the "blood", of Antonio. Thus, if Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio's blood, his "lands and goods" would be forfeited under Venetian laws.

Defeated, Shylock concedes to accepting Bassanio's offer of money for the defaulted bond, but Portia prevents him from taking the money on the ground that he has already refused it. She then cites a law under which Shylock, as a Jew and therefore an "alien", having attempted to take the life of a citizen, has forfeited his property, half to the government and half to Antonio, leaving his life at the mercy of the Duke. The Duke immediately pardons Shylock's life. Antonio asks for his share "in use" (that is, reserving the principal amount while taking only the income) until Shylock's death, when the principal will be given to Lorenzo and Jessica. At Antonio's request, the Duke grants remission of the state's half of forfeiture, but in return, Shylock is forced to convert to Christianity and to make a will (or "deed of gift") bequeathing his entire estate to Lorenzo and Jessica (IV,i).

MerchantPortiaBassanio

John Farmanesh-Bocca as Bassanio and Julie Hughett as Portia in a performance at the Outdoor Forest Theatre in Carmel, California in 1995.

Bassanio does not recognize his disguised wife, but offers to give a present to the supposed lawyer. First she declines, but after he insists, Portia requests his ring and his gloves. He parts with his gloves without a second thought, but gives the ring only after much persuasion from Antonio, as earlier in the play he promised his wife never to lose, sell or give it. Nerissa, as the lawyer's clerk, also succeeds in likewise retrieving her ring from Gratiano, who does not see through her disguise.

At Belmont, Portia and Nerissa taunt and pretend to accuse their husbands before revealing they were really the lawyer and his clerk in disguise (V). After all the other characters make amends, all ends happily (except for Shylock) as Antonio learns from Portia that three of his ships were not stranded and have returned safely after all.

Date and text

The date of composition for The Merchant of Venice is believed to be between 1596 and 1598. The play was mentioned by Francis Meres in 1598, so it must have been familiar on the stage by that date, and the title page of the first edition in 1600 states that it had been performed "divers times" by that date. Salarino's reference to his ship the "Andrew" (I,i,27) is thought to be an allusion to the Spanish ship St. Andrew captured by the English at Cadiz in 1596. A date of 1596–97 is considered consistent with the play's style.

The play was entered in the Register of the Stationers Company, the method at that time of obtaining copyright for a new play, by James Roberts on July 22, 1598 under the title The Merchant of Venice, otherwise called The Jew of Venice. On October 28, 1600 Roberts transferred his right to the play to the stationer Thomas Hayes; Hayes published the first quarto before the end of the year. It was printed again in a pirated edition in 1619, as part of William Jaggard's so-called False Folio. (Afterward, Thomas Hayes' son and heir Laurence Hayes asked for and was granted a confirmation of his right to the play, on July 8, 1619.) The 1600 edition is generally regarded as being accurate and reliable, and is the basis of the text published in the 1623 in the First Folio, which adds a number of stage directions, mainly musical cues.[3]

Performance

The earliest performance of which a record has survived was held at the court of King James in the spring of 1605, followed by a second performance a few days later, but there is no record of any further performances in the seventeenth century.[4] In 1701, George Granville staged a successful adaptation, titled The Jew of Venice, with Thomas Betterton as Bassanio. This version (which featured a masque) was popular, and was acted for the next forty years. Granville cut the Gobbos in line with neoclassical decorum; he added a jail scene between Shylock and Antonio, and a more extended scene of toasting at a banquet scene. Thomas Doggett was Shylock, playing the role comically, perhaps even farcically. Rowe expressed doubts about this interpretation as early as 1709; however, Doggett's success in the role meant that later productions would feature the troupe clown as Shylock.

In 1741 Charles Macklin returned to the original text in a very successful production at Drury Lane, paving the way for Edmund Kean seventy years later (see below).[5] Arthur Sullivan wrote incidental music for the play in 1871.[6]

Shylock on stage

Ermete Novelli Shylock

Early 20th century photograph of the Italian actor Ermete Novelli as Shylock.

Jacob Adler and others report that the tradition of playing Shylock sympathetically began in the first half of the 19th century with Edmund Kean[7], and that previously the role had been played "by a comedian as a repulsive clown or, alternatively, as a monster of unrelieved evil." Kean's Shylock established his reputation as an actor.[8]

From Kean's time forward, all of the actors who have famously played the role, with the exception of Edwin Booth, who played Shylock as a simple villain, have chosen a sympathetic approach to the character; even Booth's father, Junius Brutus Booth, played the role sympathetically. Henry Irving's portrayal of an aristocratic, proud Shylock (first seen at the Lyceum in 1879, with Portia played by Ellen Terry) has been called "the summit of his career".[9] Jacob Adler was the most notable of the early 20th century: Adler played the role in Yiddish language translation, first in Manhattan's Lower East Side, and later on Broadway, where, to great acclaim, he performed the role in Yiddish in an otherwise English-language production.[10]

Kean and Irving presented a Shylock justified in wanting his revenge; Adler's Shylock evolved over the years he played the role, first as a stock Shakespearean villain, then as a man whose better nature was overcome by a desire for revenge, and finally as a man who operated not from revenge but from pride. In a 1902 interview with Theater magazine, Adler pointed out that Shylock is a wealthy man, "rich enough to forgo the interest on three thousand ducats" and that Antonio is "far from the chivalrous gentleman he is made to appear. He has insulted the Jew and spat on him, yet he comes with hypocritical politeness to borrow money of him." Shylock's fatal flaw is to depend on the law, but "would he not walk out of that courtroom head erect, the very apotheosis of defiant hatred and scorn?"[11]

Some modern productions take further pains to show how Shylock's thirst for vengeance has some justification. For instance, in the 2004 film adaptation directed by Michael Radford and starring Al Pacino as Shylock, the film begins with text and a montage of how the Jewish community is cruelly abused by the bigoted Christian population of the city. One of the last shots of the film also brings attention to the fact that, as a convert, Shylock would have been cast out of the Jewish community in Venice, no longer allowed to live in the ghetto, and would still not be accepted by the Christians, as they would feel that Shylock was still the Jew he once was.

Themes

Feminism and women's roles

Millais - Portia

1886 depiction of Portia by John Evertt Millais.

During an age in which women’s roles in society (and literature) were strictly limited, this drama seems to give us a rather unique glimpse of early feminism. It is difficult before and indeed for some time after this period to find as influential and commanding a female character as we find in the character of Portia. She is introduced to the audience as a character who is the victim of circumstances; i.e. the restictions imposed by her father’s strange will. She says she is “weary of this great world” and has no free will in her choice of husband. She entreats Bassanio to be gentle with her as she is a mere girl without education and worldly experience yet goes on to refute this self effacement with her ultimate triumph in court. Not only does she triumph over Shylock but also over Bassanio who by her trick with the ring, is brought to subjugation and has to promise to “never again break faith” . There is also an element of legal trickery which parallels the court scene when she initially presents the ring with the admonition that if Bassanio should part with it in any way “let it presage the ruin of your love”. At the end of the play Portia’s character has transformed herself into a woman who is completely in control. She even takes credit for the safe return of Antonio’s ships and also for Shylock’s legacy to Lorenzo and Jessica which was actually a gift of Antonio and not Portia. As with modern feminist works the male characters are downplayed.: Antonio gets himself into a rather stupid situation (notwithstanding the actual legality of the pound of flesh) and seems like a rather weak character. Bassanio and his friends, including Gratiano and Lorenzo seem intent on a sort of continuous rake’s progress. Portia and Nerissa taunt Bassanio and Gratiano with their own brand of licentiousness by (falsely ) claiming a casual sexual encounter with “The Doctor” and “The Clerk”. Again the male characters of Bassanio and Gratiano are shown as ineffectual. Bassanio lost his money through his prodigal youth whilst his friend Gratiano has nothing worth saying (“talks an infinite deal of nothing”). Lorenzo for all his professed love of Jessica (when did they ever have a chance to meet?) is also penniless. Shylock (notwithstanding his human qualities) is evil, crazy and gullible to the courtroom trickery. Lancelot is a corrupt fool. The princes Aragon and Morocco are laughably abhorrent. But the female characters are intelligent, resourceful, independent and reliable. The play is constructed without too much background information about the characters whom we have to accept as they present themselves. Unlike for example Jane Austen who goes into considerable genealogic detail to achieve a realistic structure. So the play whilst being very non-realist and with many improbabilities nevertheless has a strong emotional impact upon the audience . We may note these improbabilities logically but they do not detract from the incredible emotional force of Portia's ultimate triumph in what may be the first "feminist" work of English Literature.

Shylock and the antisemitism debate

Charles Buchel Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Shakespeare s Shylock

1914 depiction by Charles Buchel of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Shylock.

The play is frequently staged today, but is potentially troubling to modern audiences due to its central themes, which can easily appear antisemitic. Critics today still continue to argue over the play's stance on antisemitism.

The antisemitic reading

English society in the Elizabethan era has been described as antisemitic.[12] English Jews had been expelled in the Middle Ages and were not permitted to return until the rule of Oliver Cromwell. Jews were often presented on the Elizabethan stage in hideous caricature, with hooked noses and bright red wigs, and were usually depicted as avaricious usurers; an example is Christopher Marlowe's play The Jew of Malta, which features a comically wicked Jewish villain called Barabas. They were usually characterized as evil, deceptive, and greedy.

During the 1600s in Venice and in some other places, Jews were required to wear a red hat at all times in public to make sure that they were easily identified. If they did not comply with this rule they could face the death penalty. Jews also had to live in a ghetto protected by Christians, supposedly for their own safety. The Jews were expected to pay their guards.[13]

Readers may see Shakespeare's play as a continuation of this antisemitic tradition. The title page of Quarto indicates that the play was sometimes known as The Jew of Venice in its day, which suggests that it was seen as similar to Marlowe's The Jew of Malta. One interpretation of the play's structure is that Shakespeare meant to contrast the mercy of the main Christian characters with the vengefulness of a Jew, who lacks the religious grace to comprehend mercy. Similarly, it is possible that Shakespeare meant Shylock's forced conversion to Christianity to be a "happy ending" for the character, as it 'redeems' Shylock both from his unbelief and his specific sin of wanting to kill Antonio. This reading of the play would certainly fit with the antisemitic trends present in Elizabethan England.

Hyam Maccoby argues that the play is based on medieval morality plays in which the Virgin Mary (here represented by Portia) argues for the forgiveness of human souls, as against the implacable accusations of the Devil (Shylock). On this reading, the Merchant is notably more antisemitic than The Jew of Malta, in which there are no good Christian characters and the Jewish villain seems to be regarded by the author with a certain covert sympathy.

The sympathetic reading

Portia and Shylock

Portia and Shylock, 1835 painting by Thomas Sully.

Many modern readers and theatregoers have read the play as a plea for tolerance, noting that Shylock is a sympathetic character. They cite as evidence that Shylock's 'trial' at the end of the play is a mockery of justice, with Portia acting as a judge when she has no right to do so. The characters who berated Shylock for dishonesty resort to trickery in order to win. In addition, Shakespeare gives Shylock one of his most eloquent speeches:

Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means,
warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer
as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us,
do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.
If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility?
Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his
sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge.
The villainy you teach me, I will execute,
and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
(Act III, scene I)

Influence on antisemitism

Regardless of what Shakespeare's own intentions may have been, the play has been made use of by antisemites throughout the play's history. One must note that the end of the title in the 1619 edition "With the Extreme Cruelty of Shylock the Jew…" must aptly describe how Shylock was viewed by the English public. The Nazis used the usurious Shylock for their propaganda. Shortly after Kristallnacht in 1938, "The Merchant of Venice" was broadcast for propagandistic ends over the German airwaves. Productions of the play followed in Lübeck (1938), Berlin (1940), and elsewhere within the Nazi Territory.[14]

The depiction of Jews in English literature throughout the centuries bears the close imprint of Shylock. With slight variations much of English literature up until the 20th century depicts the Jew as "a monied, cruel, lecherous, avaricious outsider tolerated only because of his golden hoard".[15]

Is Shylock supposed to be a sympathetic character?

It is difficult to know whether the sympathetic reading of Shylock is entirely due to changing sensibilities among readers, or whether Shakespeare, a writer who created complex, multi-faceted characters, deliberately intended this reading.

One reason for this interpretation is that Shylock's painful status in Venetian society is emphasized. To some critics, Shylock's celebrated "Hath not a Jew eyes" speech (see above) redeems him and even makes him into something of a tragic figure. In the speech, Shylock argues that he is no different from the Christian characters. Detractors note that Shylock ends the speech with a tone of revenge: "if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" However, those who see the speech as sympathetic point out that Shylock says he learned the desire for revenge from the Christian characters: "If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction."

Even if Shakespeare did not intend the play to be read this way, the fact that it retains its power on stage for audiences who may perceive its central conflicts in radically different terms is an illustration of the subtlety of Shakespeare's characterizations.

Sexuality in the play

Antonio, Bassanio

Antonio's unexplained depression—"In sooth I know not why I am so sad"—and utter devotion to Bassanio has led some critics to theorize that he is suffering from unrequited love for Bassanio and is depressed because Bassanio is coming to an age where he will marry a woman. In his plays and poetry Shakespeare often depicted strong male bonds of varying homosociality, which has led some critics to infer that Bassanio returns Antonio's affections despite his obligation to marry:

ANTONIO: Commend me to your honourable wife:
Tell her the process of Antonio's end,
Say how I lov'd you, speak me fair in death;
And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge
Whether Bassanio had not once a love.
BASSANIO: But life itself, my wife, and all the world
Are not with me esteemed above thy life;
I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all
Here to this devil, to deliver you. (IV,i)

In his essay "Brothers and Others", published in The Dyer's Hand, W. H. Auden describes Antonio as "a man whose emotional life, though his conduct may be chaste, is concentrated upon a member of his own sex." Antonio's feelings for Bassanio are likened to a couplet from Shakespeare's Sonnets: "But since she pricked thee out for women's pleasure,/ Mine be thy love, and my love's use their treasure." Antonio, says Auden, embodies the words on Portia's leaden casket: "Who chooseth me, must give and hazard all he hath." Antonio has taken this potentially fatal turn because he despairs, not only over the loss of Bassanio in marriage, but also because Bassanio cannot requite what Antonio feels for him. Antonio's frustrated devotion is a form of idolatry: the right to live is yielded for the sake of the loved one. There is one other such idolator in the play: Shylock himself. "Shylock, however unintentionally, did, in fact, hazard all for the sake of destroying the enemy he hated; and Antonio, however unthinkingly he signed the bond, hazarded all to secure the happiness of the man he loved." Both Antonio and Shylock, agreeing to put Antonio's life at a forfeit, stand outside the normal bounds of society. There was, states Auden, a traditional "association of sodomy with usury", reaching back at least as far as Dante, with which Shakespeare was likely familiar. (Auden sees the theme of usury in the play as a comment on human relations in a mercantile society.)

Other interpreters of the play regard Auden's conception of Antonio's sexual desire for Bassanio as questionable. Michael Radford, director of the 2004 film version starring Al Pacino, explained that although the film contains a scene where Antonio and Bassanio actually kiss, the friendship between the two is platonic, in line with the prevailing view of male friendship at the time. Jeremy Irons, in an interview, concurs with the director's view and states that he did not "play Antonio as gay".

Adaptations and cultural references

The Merchant of Venice (2004) - Home Video Trailer02:16

The Merchant of Venice (2004) - Home Video Trailer

Fully licensed video from Fandom Video.

Film adaptations

The Shakespeare play has inspired several films.

  • 1914—silent film directed by Lois WeberWeber, who also stars as Portia, became the first woman to direct a full-length feature film in America with this film.
  • 1932—musical comedy directed by King Vidor
    • The cast includes Bing Crosby and Marilyn Miller.
  • 1973—television film directed by John Sichel
    • The cast included Laurence Olivier as Shylock, Anthony Nicholls as Antonio, Jeremy Brett as Bassanio, Joan Plowright as Portia, Louise Purnell as Jessica.
    • The Merchant of Venice at the Internet Movie Database
  • 1980—A BBC television film directed by Jack Gold.
    • The cast included Warren Mitchell as Shylock and John Rhys-Davies as Salerio
    • The Merchant of Venice at the Internet Movie Database
  • 1996—A Channel 4 television film directed by Alan Horrox
    • The cast included Paul McGann as Bassanio and Haydn Gwynne as Portia
    • The Merchant of Venice at the Internet Movie Database
  • 2001—A BBC television film directed by Trevor Nunn
    • Royal National Theatre production starring Henry Goodman as Shylock
    • The Merchant of Venice at the Internet Movie Database
  • 2002—The Maori Merchant of Venice, directed by Don Selwyn.
    • In Maori, with English subtitles. The cast included Waihoroi Shortland as Shylock, Scott Morrison as Antonio, Te Rangihau Gilbert as Bassanio, Ngarimu Daniels as Portia, Reikura Morgan as Jessica.
    • The Merchant of Venice at the Internet Movie Database
  • 2003 Shakespeare's Merchant, directed by Paul Wagar and produced by Lorenda Starfelt, Brad Mays and Paul Wagar.
  • 2004—The Merchant of Venice, directed by Michael Radford.
    • The cast included Al Pacino as Shylock, Jeremy Irons as Antonio, Joseph Fiennes as Bassanio, Lynn Collins as Portia, Zuleikha Robinson as Jessica.
    • The Merchant of Venice at the Internet Movie Database
  • 2006-Shakespeare's Collections - The Merchant of Venice, directed by Jack Gold.

Cultural references

Arnold Wesker's play The Merchant tells the same story from Shylock's point of view. In this retelling, Shylock and Antonio are fast friends bound by a mutual love of books and culture and a disdain for the crass anti-Semitism of the Christian community's laws. They make the bond in defiant mockery of the Christian establishment, never anticipating that the bond might become forfeit. When it does, the play argues, Shylock must carry through on the letter of the law or jeopardize the scant legal security of the entire Jewish community. He is, therefore, quite as grateful as Antonio when Portia, as in Shakespeare's play, shows the legal way out. The play received its American premiere on November 16, 1977 at New York's Plymouth Theatre with Joseph Leon as Shylock, Marian Seldes as Shylock's sister Rivka and Roberta Maxwell as Portia. This production had a challenging history in previews on the road, culminating (after the first night out of town in Philadelphia on September 8, 1977) with the death of the larger-than-life Broadway star Zero Mostel, who was initially cast as Shylock. The play's author, Arnold Wesker wrote a book chronicling the out-of-town tribulations that beset the play and Zero's death called "The Birth of Shylock and the Death of Zero Mostel."

Edmond Haraucourt, the French playwright and poet, was commissioned in the 1880s by the actor and theatrical director Paul Porel to make a French verse adaptation of the Merchant of Venice. His play Shylock, first performed at the Théâtre de l'Odéon in December 1889, had incidental music by the French composer Gabriel Fauré, later incorporated into an orchestral suite of the same name.[16]

One of the four short stories comprising Alan Isler's Op Non Cit is also told from Shylock's point of view. In this story, Antonio was a boy of Jewish origin kidnapped at an early age by priests...

Ralph Vaughan Williams' choral work Serenade to Music draws its text from the discussion about music and the music of the spheres in Act V, scene 1.

Notes

  1. The story of The Three Caskets is found in the 12th Century Gesta Romanorum[1]; this version of the tale can be found in Idries Shah's collection World Tales. It was presented before that in Barlaam and Josaphat, and later in the first tale of the tenth day of Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron.
  2. Merchant of Venice, Act .2 scene 7
  3. Stanley Wells and Michael Dobson, eds., The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 288.
  4. Charles Boyce, Encyclopaedia of Shakespeare, New York, Roundtable Press, 1990, p. 420.
  5. F. E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964, Baltimore, Penguin, 1964; pp. 261, 311–12. In 2004, the film was released.
  6. Information about Sullivan's incidental music to the play at The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 31 December 2009
  7. Adler erroneously dates this from 1847 (at which time Kean was already dead); the Cambridge Student Guide to The Merchant of Venice dates Kean's performance to a more likely 1814.
  8. Adler 1999, 341.
  9. Wells and Dobson, p. 290.
  10. Adler 1999, 342–44.
  11. Adler 1999, 344–350
  12. Philipe Burrin, Nazi Anti-Semitism: From Prejudice to Holocaust. The New Press, 2005, ISBN 1-56584-969-8, p. 17.
    It was not until the twelfth century that in northern Europe (England, Germany, and France), a region until then peripheral but at this point expanding fast, a form of Judeophobia developed that was considerably more violent because of a new dimension of imagined behaviors, including accusations that Jews engaged in ritual murder, profanation of the host, and the poisoning of wells. With the prejudices of the day against Jews,atheists and non-Christians in general Jews found it hard to fit in with society. Some say that these attitudes provided the foundations of anti-semitism in the 20th century. "
  13. The Virtual Jewish History Tour - Venice
  14. Lecture by James Shapiro: "Shakespeare and the Jews"
  15. The Fictive Jew in the Literature of England 1890–1920 David Mirsky in the Samuel K. Mirsky Memorial Volume.
  16. Nectoux, Jean-Michel (1991), Gabriel Fauré: A musical life, Cambridge University Press, pp. 143–146, ISBN 0-521-23524-3 

References

  • Adler, Jacob, A Life on the Stage: A Memoir, translated and with commentary by Lulla Rosenfeld, Knopf, New York, 1999, ISBN 0-679-41351-0.
  • Caldecott, Henry Stratford: Our English Homer; or, the Bacon-Shakespeare Controversy (Johannesburg Times, 1895).
  • Smith, Rob: Cambridge Student Guide to The Merchant of Venice. ISBN 0-521-00816-6.
  • Yaffe, Martin D.: Shylock and the Jewish question.

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