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 ... See full summary »




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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Franklyn-Robbins ...
Alan David ...
Gemma Jones ...
Susan Jameson ...
Daniel Mitchell ...
Marc Zuber ...
Joe Gladwin ...
Roger Martin ...
Leslee Udwin ...


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 Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama





Release Date:

17 December 1980 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice  »

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Did You Know?


Director Jack Gold chose an unusual presentational method in this episode; completely realistic and authentic costumes, but a highly stylized non-representational set against which the characters contrast; "if you imagine different planes, the thing closest to the camera was the reality of the actor in a real costume - the costumes were totally real and very beautiful - then beyond the actor is a semi-artificial column or piece of wall, and in the distance is the backcloth, which is impressionistic." See more »


Version of Masterpiece Classic: The Merchant of Venice (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

It's the best one for kids
26 August 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I use this version to accompany my British Lit unit. I own all of the versions and while I love Olivier, the modernization of the play makes the themes of the play more difficult to imagine. The most recent one has so many cut lines and frankly nudity that I am not showing in my classroom, that I am left with this version. As an earlier poster stated Gemma Jones is too old for the part and not attractively made up, but maybe that age gives a sense of maturity that makes her knowledge easier to accept. In addition, when Shylock is forced to kiss the cross, I and my class always discuss the uncomfortable feeling of denying someone their heritage. The play is full of conflicts but to a certain degree if it didn't, the play would be somehow condoning the very acts we find repulsive today. The limits of the Jews, women, and social class are all symbolized in the caskets. If one is to see how this can be used in a modern connotation, you only have to ask students who has the newest ipod, car, or house and they see the concept of gold, silver, or lead in a very modern light. I warn them before they see the play that they are watching a filming of a play, the costumes are Elizabethan, not the period it would have been lived and the acting is somewhat the result of BBC trying to pump out all of the Shakespeare plays on a limited budget, but all the lines are there!

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