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 »
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
One is compelled to give three very rousing cheers to any performance of this, my favourite Shakespeare play, that does not cut out words and phrases offensive to that curse of the modern age, political correctness.
As another reviewer has said, The Merchant was written in another age when sentiments that would now land one in trouble were commonplace.
Shylock is definitely not the hero of this play but it is impossible to think of him as an out and out villain either. Warren Mitchell brings out this ambiguity well.
The Olivier performance, although unmissable, omits too much to the Jew's discredit.
The recent Al Pacino production, which I bought the minute it became available, was also a great letdown with potentially racist/anti-Semitic words left out and with the text, what was left of it, horribly modernised. It was visually stunning, though.
It may have been wrong of Portia to say what she did of the Prince of Morocco when he bade her a sad farewell, but those were the words that the Bard put in her mouth and they should be left there.
The whole 37 plays, that the BBC produced in the 1970s/1980s, are now available on DVD. An excellent investment!
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