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The Merchant of Venice (1973)

Antonio's friend Bassanio is in love and needs money to go courting. Using Antonio as his collateral, he borrows money from Shylock. But when the debt comes due, Shylock demands repayment ... See full summary »

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. See more awards »
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Cast

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Louise Purnell ...
Malcolm Reid ...
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Kenneth MacKintosh ...
Barry James ...
Michael Tudor Barnes ...
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Storyline

Antonio's friend Bassanio is in love and needs money to go courting. Using Antonio as his collateral, he borrows money from Shylock. But when the debt comes due, Shylock demands repayment in the form of a pound of Antonio's flesh. This is a video of the 1970 National Theatre stage production with most of the same cast. Written by Kathy Li

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7 October 1973 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

A Kaddish is sung over the end credits, supposedly indicating that Shylock has died. See more »

Connections

Version of Venetsian kauppias (1968) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A compelling and enlightening production
2 April 2014 | by (Netherlands) – See all my reviews

This is one of those Shakespeare productions that makes the language, plot and themes all the clearer because of the exceptional acting and the very intelligent direction. Olivier has, with some justification, earned an outstanding reputation as a Shakespearean actor, and while some of his earlier work is, for me, a bit too theatrical, this is pitch perfect. There is no reason that I can discern for setting this play at the turn of the 20th Century - unlike, for instance, the very clever Ian McKellan/Richard Loncraine production of Richard III, which benefited greatly from a 1930s setting that evoked militarism and the rise of National Socialism - and yet it works well, allowing both a degree of peculiarity that the language requires and a familiarity that helps the story transcend its moment in history.

As others have commented, this version of The Merchant of Venice works very well because neither Shylock nor Antonio are wholly good or bad. Of course, it makes sense to us that Shylock is not what he seems to his Christian contemporaries, but neither is he completely free of responsibility for what happens to him. Anthony Nicholls' Antonio is likewise more gray than black or white, and more human for it, although not particularly likable, except perhaps to his immediate circle.

The surprise, even though it should not be, is Joan Plowright, who does an exceptional job as Portia. Her young woman, particularly her young woman as a man of the law courts, is outstanding and a little troubling in her zeal. All in all, this is a superior production, and one in which nearly every line is made clear and every theme is explored.


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