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A rich merchant, Antonio is depressed for no good reason, until his good friend Bassanio comes to tell him how he's in love with Portia. Portia's father has died and left a very strange will: only the man that picks the correct casket out of three (silver, gold, and lead) can marry her. Bassanio, unfortunately, is strapped for cash with which to go wooing, and Antonio wants to help, so Antonio borrows the money from Shylock, the money-lender. But Shylock has been nursing a grudge against Antonio's insults, and makes unusual terms to the loan. And when Antonio's business fails, those terms threaten his life, and it's up to Bassanio and Portia to save him. Written by
Marvelous Production That Says What Shakespeare Wrote
This is much, much better than Olivier's version, of which I own a copy and have used to teach high school Shakespeare. Gemma Jones is excellent as Portia (and not too old) and Shylock is performed the way Shakespeare wrote the part. I would argue the issue of anti-semitism in this play: it's not as cut and dried as people seem to think. But it is a product of Shak's time, not ours (which can't do anything controversial unless it is left-wing politically and politically correct). I recently saw Al Pacino play Shylock and his performance and the production was absurd. Unfortunately, because of WWII and the wrong-headed (but good-hearted) people who are afraid to touch any play that shows Jews in a negative way, this play is off limits to a decent production of The Merchant.. except it seems for the BBC production. Also, the viewer who gave this production a "one" rating obviously came to the play predisposed to dislike anything that wasn't modern in look and perspective. He/she simply didn't want to watch the play Shakespeare wrote. The BBC series of all the plays did have a number of clunkers, but this isn't one of them.
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