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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Paul Davies Prowles,
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
This is the best available performance of my favorite Shakespeare
I did not appreciate the Gemma Jones recording of The Merchant of Venice until recently when I reviewed five DVD's for showing to a class of undergraduates.
While I personally prefer the 1973 recording with Laurence Olivier, on the strength of his superior performance of Shylock, I found the production to be inadequate for most of the other scenes. This is especially true in the marvelous smaller scenes that need to be explained to students in detail, such as Act II, scene v, where Lancelet reads all kinds of innuendo into telltale palm of his hand -- a fine piece of comedy which Shakespeare wrote for Will Kempe. Also there is the scene where Portia informs Nerissa that they will be dressing as men to defend Antonio (Act III, scene iv) which, here in this production, is actually acted out while the others seem to avoid it. In this famous "cross-dressing" scene, we actually get a sense of the marvelous street slang and punning that would have appealed to Shakespeare's original audience. I also found that in the final act, where the three couples reaffirm their commitments and Portia and Nerissa confront their husbands regarding the rings, the scene is most appealing to a young audience.
I believe the 1980 performance stands out from those available on DVD and should not be overlooked.
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