The Merchant of Venice: A Critical Reader 9781350082298, 9781350082328, 9781350082311

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice has often been labelled a “problem play”, and throughout the ages it has been an ob

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Table of contents :
Series Introduction
Notes on Contributors
Note on the Text
Introduction: The ‘Inter’gatories’ of The Merchant of Venice Sarah Hatchuel and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin
1 The Merchant of Venice: The Critical Backstory John Drakakis
2 The Merchant of Venice in Performance Jay L. Halio
3 The Merchant of Venice: State of the Art Shaul Bassi
4 New Directions: ‘Affections Dark as Erebus’ – Religion, Gender and the Passions in The Merchant of Venice Sabine Schülting
5 New Directions: ‘The Moon Shines Bright’: Re-viewing the Belmont Mythological Tapestry in Act 5 of The Merchant of Venice Janice Valls-Russell
6 New Directions: ‘That Ugly Treason of Mistrust’: Rhetoric of Credit and the Credit of Rhetoric in The Merchant of Venice Gary Watt
7 New Directions: The Merchant of Venice On Screen Douglas M. Lanier
8 The Merchant of Venice: Learning and Teaching Resources Lieke Stelling
Selected Bibliography
Recommend Papers

The Merchant of Venice: A Critical Reader
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The Merchant of Venice

ARDEN EARLY MODERN DRAMA GUIDES Series Editors: Andrew Hiscock, University of Wales, Bangor, UK and Lisa Hopkins, Sheffield Hallam University, UK Arden Early Modern Drama Guides offer practical and accessible introductions to the critical and performative contexts of key Elizabethan and Jacobean plays. Each guide introduces the text’s critical and performance history, but also provides students with an invaluable insight into the landscape of current scholarly research, through a keynote essay on the state of the art and newly commissioned essays of fresh research from different critical perspectives. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, edited by Regina Buccola Doctor Faustus, edited by Sarah Munson Deats King Lear, edited by Andrew Hiscock and Lisa Hopkins Henry IV, Part 1, edited by Stephen Longstaffe ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, edited by Lisa Hopkins Women Beware Women, edited by Andrew Hiscock Volpone, edited by Matthew Steggle The Duchess of Malfi, edited by Christina Luckyj The Alchemist, edited by Erin Julian and Helen Ostovich The Jew of Malta, edited by Robert A. Logan Macbeth, edited by John Drakakis and Dale Townshend Richard III, edited by Annaliese Connolly Twelfth Night, edited by Alison Findlay and Liz Oakley-Brown The Tempest, edited by Alden T. Vaughan and Virginia Mason Vaughan Romeo and Juliet, edited by Julia Reinhard Lupton Julius Caesar, edited by Andrew James Hartley The Revenger’s Tragedy, edited by Brian Walsh The White Devil, edited by Paul Frazer and Adam Hansen Edward II, edited by Kirk Melnikoff Much Ado About Nothing, edited by Deborah Cartmell and Peter J. Smith King Henry V, edited by Karen Britland and Line Cottegnies Tamburlaine, edited by David McInnis Troilus and Cressida, edited by Efterpi Mitsi Further titles are in preparation.

The Merchant of Venice A Critical Reader Edited by Sarah Hatchuel and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin

THE ARDEN SHAKESPEARE Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA BLOOMSBURY, THE ARDEN SHAKESPEARE and the Arden Shakespeare logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in Great Britain 2021 Copyright © Sarah Hatchuel, Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin and contributors, 2021 Sarah Hatchuel, Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin and contributors have asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the authors of this work. For legal purposes the Acknowledgements on p. x constitute an extension of this copyright page. Cover image taken from the 1615 title-page of The Spanish Tragedy, by Thomas Kyd All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: HB: 978-1-350-08229-8 ePDF: 978-1-350-08231-1 eBook: 978-1-350-08230-4 Series: Arden Early Modern Drama Guides Typeset by Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd. To find out more about our authors and books visit and sign up for our newsletters

This book is dedicated to our dear Rouen friends and colleagues: Michèle Willems, Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and Raymond Willems.


CONTENTS Series Introduction  ix Acknowledgements  x Notes on Contributors  xi Note on the Text  xv Timeline  xvi

Introduction: The ‘Inter’gatories’ of The Merchant of Venice Sarah Hatchuel and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin  1 1 The Merchant of Venice: The Critical Backstory John Drakakis  17 2 The Merchant of Venice in Performance Jay L. Halio  55 3 The Merchant of Venice: State of the Art Shaul Bassi  85 4 New Directions: ‘Affections Dark as Erebus’ – Religion, Gender and the Passions in The Merchant of Venice Sabine Schülting  105



5 New Directions: ‘The Moon Shines Bright’: Re-viewing the Belmont Mythological Tapestry in Act 5 of The Merchant of Venice Janice Valls-Russell  125 6 New Directions: ‘That Ugly Treason of Mistrust’: Rhetoric of Credit and the Credit of Rhetoric in The Merchant of Venice  Gary Watt  145 7 New Directions: The Merchant of Venice On Screen  Douglas M. Lanier  171 8 The Merchant of Venice: Learning and Teaching Resources  Lieke Stelling  197

Notes  226 Selected Bibliography  269 Index  288

SERIES INTRODUCTION The drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries has remained at the very heart of English curricula internationally and the pedagogic needs surrounding this body of literature have grown increasingly complex as more sophisticated resources become available to scholars, tutors and students. This series aims to offer a clear picture of the critical and performative contexts of a range of chosen texts. In addition, each volume furnishes readers with invaluable insights into the landscape of current scholarly research as well as including new pieces of research by leading critics. This series is designed to respond to the clearly identified needs of scholars, tutors and students for volumes which will bridge the gap between accounts of previous critical developments and performance history and an acquaintance with new research initiatives related to the chosen plays. Thus, our ambition is to offer innovative and challenging guides that will provide practical, accessible and thought-provoking analyses of early modern drama. Each volume is organized according to a progressive reading strategy involving introductory discussion, critical review and cuttingedge scholarly debate. It has been an enormous pleasure to work with so many dedicated scholars of early modern drama and we are sure that this series will encourage you to read 400-year-old play texts with fresh eyes. Andrew Hiscock and Lisa Hopkins

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We first and foremost wish to thank Bloomsbury for publishing this volume. We are particularly grateful to Lara Bateman for her editorial support. Our thanks also go to the series editors, Andrew Hiscock and Lisa Hopkins, for their trust and support. This volume prolongs a work that had been carried out by our friends and colleagues, Michèle Willems, Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and Raymond Willems in Rouen in 1985, to whom we remain grateful and faithful, both in research and friendship. We recognize how pioneering they were, especially in the way they connected Shakespeare’s world to ours. We wish to express our deepest gratitude to the University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, to our research centres, the RIRRA21 (Représenter, Inventer la Réalité, du Romantisme à L’Aube du XXIème Siècle, EA 4209) and to the IRCL (Institut de Recherche sur la Renaissance, l’Âge Classique et les Lumières, UMR 5186, CNRS) and to the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) for their support and for providing a very favourable research environment. We warmly thank the contributors to this volume for their unfailing patience, responsiveness and support, which have made our work on this book a truly collective venture. We finally wish to thank wholeheartedly our respective families and friends for letting us spend so much (demanding but fun) time together to prepare this volume. Sarah Hatchuel and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS Shaul Bassi is Professor of English at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where he directs the Center for Humanities and Social Change and coordinates the MA in Environmental Humanities. His publications include a critical edition of Othello (translated by Alessandro Serpieri, Marsilio, 2009); Visions of Venice in Shakespeare (co-edited with Laura Tosi, 2011); Experiences of Freedom in Postcolonial Literatures and Cultures (co-edited with Annalisa Oboe, 2011); and Shakespeare’s Italy and Italy’s Shakespeare. Place, ‘Race’, and Politics (2016). He directed the Creative Europe project ‘Shakespeare In and Beyond the Ghetto’ that produced the first performance of The Merchant of Venice in the Ghetto of Venice in 2016. John Drakakis is Emeritus Professor at the University of Stirling. He has published many articles and chapters on Shakespeare, Elizabethan and Jacobean literature and drama, modern drama, media studies, modern critical theory and cultural studies, introductory studies of Shakespeare’s Othello (1980) and Much Ado About Nothing (1981). He was the editor of and contributor to British Radio Drama (1981); Alternative Shakespeares (1985); Shakespearean Tragedy, Longman Critical Reader series (1998); Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, New Casebook series (1994); Richard III, Shakespeare Originals series (1996); and Tragedy, Longman Critical Reader series (1998). He is the editor of The Merchant of Venice (The Arden Shakespeare, Arden 3, 2011) and the co-editor of Macbeth: A Critical Reader (The Arden Shakespeare, 2013).



Professor Jay L. Halio, now retired, has been teaching Shakespeare for over fifty years, first at the University of California, and since 1968 at the University of Delaware. Author of many books, articles and published reviews, he is the editor of the Oxford Merchant of Venice and the Cambridge King Lear. He also teaches and writes about modern literature, especially the modern novel. Sarah Hatchuel is Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3 (France) and former President of the Société Française Shakespeare. She has written extensively on adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays (Shakespeare and the Cleopatra/Caesar Intertext: Sequel, Conflation, Remake, 2011; Shakespeare, from Stage to Screen, 2004; A Companion to the Shakespearean Films of Kenneth Branagh, 2000) and on TV series (Lost: Fiction vitale, PUF, 2013; Rêves et series américaines: la fabrique d’autres mondes, 2015; The Leftovers: le troisième côté du miroir, 2019). She is general co-editor of the Shakespeare on Screen collection and of the online journal TV/Series. Douglas M. Lanier is Professor of English at the University of New Hampshire. His essays on Shakespearean appropriation and adaptation have appeared in many journals and essay collections; he has written two monographs, Shakespeare and Modern Popular Culture (2002) and The Merchant of Venice: Language & Writing (The Arden Shakespeare, 2019), and he has also edited Timon of Athens for the New Kittredge series (2018). He has served as trustee for the Shakespeare Association of America and for the Association of Adaptation Studies, and he was guest editor of a special issue entitled #bard for Shakespeare Quarterly in 2016. He is currently at work on two projects: a monograph on film adaptations of Othello worldwide and a book on reparative Shakespeare (uses of Shakespeare to address various forms of social trauma). Sabine Schülting is Professor of English Philology at Freie Universität Berlin (Germany). She is the general editor of



Shakespeare Jahrbuch, the yearbook of the German Shakespeare Society. Her research focuses on the contemporary reception of Shakespeare, on cultural encounters and gender studies. Recent book publications include two co-edited collections of essays, Shylock nach dem Holocaust: Zur Geschichte einer deutschen Erinnerungsfigur (2011) and Early Modern Encounters with the Islamic East: Performing Cultures (2012), and a coauthored monograph (with Zeno Ackermann), Precarious Figurations: Shylock on the German Stage 1920–2010 (2019). Lieke Stelling is Assistant Professor in English at Utrecht University. She has published articles on early modern literature in English Literary Renaissance and Shakespeare Jahrbuch, and co-edited The Turn of the Soul: Representations of Religious Conversion in Early Modern Art and Literature, with Harald Hendrix and Todd M. Richardson (2012). Religious Conversion in Early Modern English Drama (2019) is her first monograph. Her current research project is devoted to tension-relieving aspects of humour in the literature of the English Reformation. Janice Valls-Russell is a Principal Research Associate of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the Institute for Research on the Renaissance, the Neo-classical Age and the Enlightenment (IRCL), at University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3. She is project coordinator and an editor of A Dictionary of Shakespeare’s Classical Mythology and the Early English Mythological Texts Series ( She has published articles and book chapters on early modern forms of engagement with classical mythology. She is co-editor of Interweaving Myths in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries with Charlotte Coffin and Agnès Lafont (2017) and Thomas Heywood and the Classical Tradition with Tania Demetriou (forthcoming, 2020). Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin is Professor in Shakespeare Studies at the University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, former Vice President of the Société Française Shakespeare and director of



the Institut de Recherche sur la Renaissance, l’âge Classique et les Lumières (IRCL, UMR 5186 CNRS). She is co-editor-inchief of the international journal Cahiers Élisabéthains and codirector (with Patricia Dorval) of the Shakespeare on Screen in Francophonia Database ( She has published The Unruly Tongue in Early Modern England, Three Treatises (2012) and is the author of Shakespeare’s Insults: A Pragmatic Dictionary (2016). She is co-editor, with Sarah Hatchuel, of the Shakespeare on Screen series. She is currently writing a book entitled The Anatomy of Insults in Shakespeare’s World (The Arden Shakespeare). Gary Watt is a Professor in Law at the University of Warwick. This chapter was written with the support of Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship. He also holds a National Teaching Fellowship and in 2009 was named UK ‘Law Teacher of the Year’. His book Shakespeare’s Acts of Will (The Arden Shakespeare, 2016) arises from workshops in rhetoric delivered for the Royal Shakespeare Company. His other books include Trusts and Equity, Equity Stirring (Hart Publishing, 2009) and Dress, Law and Naked Truth (Bloomsbury, 2013). He is co-editor of Shakespeare and the Law (Hart Publishing, 2008) and Living in a Law Transformed (2014). He is also co-founding editor of the journal Law and Humanities and general editor of the reference work A Cultural History of Law (Bloomsbury, 2019).

NOTE ON THE TEXT Except when stated otherwise, quotations from Shakespeare’s works are taken from the latest Arden editions of the plays. The edition that is used for reference, except when stated otherwise, is John Drakakis, ed., The Merchant of Venice, The Arden Shakespeare Third Series (London: The Arden Shakespeare, [2010] 2014). We have left the authors free to refer to The Merchant’s clown in the way they wished: Lancelot Gobbo, Lancelet, Giobbe, Clown, etc. This unstable name is emblematic of the discomfort and ‘inter’gatories’ that the play cultivates.

TIMELINE 1290 Expulsion of the Jews from England 1589 Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta 1594 Trial and bloody execution of Dr Rodrigo Lopez 1600 Quarto 1605  Performance before King James and his court on Shrove Sunday, 10 February 1619 Reprint among the Pavier quartos 1623 Folio 1642 Theatres close 1656 Re-admission of Jews into England 1660 Theatres reopen 1701 George Granville, Lord Lansdowne’s Jew of Venice 1709 Nicholas Rowe’s edition of the play 1710 Charles Gildon’s critical account of the play 1741 Charles Macklin’s performance of Shylock at Drury Lane 1814 Edmund Kean’s performance of Shylock 1879  Henry Irving’s almost 250 performances in seven months 1905 Max Reinhardt’s production, with Rudolf Schildkraut as Shylock  Un miroir de Venise (Une mésaventure de Shylock), a film by Georges Méliès 1908  The Merchant of Venice (Vitagraph), a film by Stuart Blackton 1910  Il mercante di Venezia (Film d’Arte Italiana), a film by Gerolamo Lo Savio 1912  The Merchant of Venice (Thanhouser), a film by Lucius J. Henderson



1913  Shylock, ou le More de Venise (Eclipse), a film by Henri Desfontaines 1914  The Merchant of Venice (Universal), a film by Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley 1916  The Merchant of Venice (Broadwest), a film by Walter West Staging of The Merchant of Venice in the Ghetto of Venice on 27 July, partly to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Directed by Karin Coonrod, with a multinational cast of actors, members of the Italian/American Compagnia de’ Colombari. With five different Shylocks, one for each scene in which he appears 1917 In France, production of Shylock (text by Alfred de Vigny) 1923  Der Kaufmann von Venedig (The Jew of Mestri), a film by Peter Paul Felner 1927 The Merchant of Venice, a film by Widgey Newman  Dil Farosh (Merchant of Hearts, Elcesior Film), a film by M. Udvadia 1928 George Arliss plays a ‘majestic’ Shylock 1932 Frank Benson’s last performance as Shylock at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-uponAvon Theodore Komisarjevsky directs The Merchant of Venice, opening on 25 July. Conception of Shylock as the embodiment of bourgeois greed 1932–4  John Gielgud’s first Shakespearean production in London, The Merchant of Venice at the Old Vic 1937 Dil Farosh, a film by D. N. Madhok 1938 Anschluss John Gielgud’s production Hrisan Tsankov stages The Merchant in Bulgaria 1941  Zalim Saudagar (The Cruel Merchant), a film by J. J. Madan 1943 Production at the Burgtheater of Vienna, directed by Lothar Müthiel, with Werner Kraus as Shylock



1947 The Yiddish Art Theater opens Maurice Schwartz’s Shylock and His Daughter on 30 September, at the Public Theater in Lower Manhattan, New York 1953  Production in New York with Luther Adler as Shylock, closing after six performances  Le Marchand de Venise (Élysée Films and Venturini Film), a film by Pierre Billon. 1968 In Germany, Fritz Korner presents the first postwar Shylock with definite racial traits and gestures as well as Yiddish intonation 1969  The Merchant of Venice (CBS, part of the show Orson’s Bag), a television film by Orson Welles (reconstructed by Stefan Drössler in 2015) 1970  Jonathan Miller, as director, teams up with Sir Laurence Olivier as Shylock at the National Theatre in London (directed for ATV by John Sichel in 1973) 1978  John Barton directs a production for the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, The Other Place, with Patrick Stewart as Shylock, Marjorie Bland as Portia and John Nettles as Bassanio 1980 Miller produces The Merchant of Venice for the BBC, with Jack Gold as director and Warren Mitchell, a Jewish actor, as Shylock 1981  John Barton directs a production for the RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, with David Suchet, a Jewish actor, as Shylock and Sinéad Cusack as Portia 1984 John Caird directs The Merchant of Venice, with sets by Ultz, Ian McDiarmid playing Shylock and Frances Tomelty Portia (RSC, Stratford-uponAvon) 1987–8 Bill Alexander directs The Merchant of Venice, with Anthony Sher as Shylock and Deborah Findlay as Portia (RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon) 1989–90  Production by Sir Peter Hall’s company, with Dustin Hoffman as Shylock



1991 Libby Appel’s controversial production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival 1993 David Thacker’s production, with Shylock played by David Calder, Clifford Rose as Antonio and Penny Downie as Portia (RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon) 1997  Gregory Doran’s production (RSC, Stratford-uponAvon) In February, Ananda Lal directs the play in English in Calcutta’s Jadavpur University (India) with an allfemale cast, with Sohini Sengupta-Halder playing Shylock 1998 Production at the Globe, directed by Richard Olivier, with a German actor, Norbert Kentrup, as Shylock and with the clown Marcello Magni 1999 Trevor Nunn’s Merchant, with another Jewish actor, Henry Goodman, as Shylock, performed in the NT’s Cottesloe Theatre in traverse mode  Merchant/Venice (New Butana and Westwell Productions), a film by Noel Salzman and Brian Nishii 2002 Michael Donald Edwards’s production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with Tony DeBruno as Shylock and Robin Goodrin Nordlie as Portia  The Maori Merchant of Venice (aka Te tangata whai rawa o Weniti), a film by Don Selwyn 2003  The Merchant of Venice (Wild Vision Productions), a film by Paul Wagar 2004  The Merchant of Venice, a film by Michael Radford, with Al Pacino as Shylock 2009  The Propeller Theatre Company performs The Merchant of Venice at the Gdańsk International Shakespeare Festival (Poland), directed by Richard Hall, with Richard Clothier as Shylock 2010  Stage version, directed by Daniel Sullivan, at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park and then at the Public Theatre and Broadway, with Al Pacino again as Shylock



 The Merchant of Little Venice (Friday Night Films), a film by Caroline Sax 2011 Rupert Goold’s RSC production, set in Las Vegas 2015 Production at the Globe, directed by Jonathan Munby, with Jonathan Pryce as Shylock 2016  Karin Coonrod’s production of The Merchant in Venice premiered in the Venice ghetto 2017 Rialto (Oblivion Films), a film by José André Sibaja 2018  Multi-ethnic production by the small Delaware Shakespeare Company tours the state in a variety of venues, including prisons 2019 Adaptation by Avram Oz

Introduction: The ‘Inter’gatories’ of The Merchant of Venice Sarah Hatchuel and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin

Is this a comedy, a tragedy, or something else entirely? The Merchant of Venice is an enigma that seems to evade any kind of definitive discourse. Though the play seems to end well, without any physical deaths, it is riddled with such serious and undecidable issues of religious discrimination, economic power and gender relations that we may wonder what kind of drama this is. In this play, written around 1596–7, Bassanio asks his friend Antonio, a Venetian merchant, to lend him three thousand ducats so that he is more likely to seduce a rich and beautiful heiress, Portia. She received the order from her late father to marry only a man who can make the right choice between three caskets, respectively made of gold, silver and lead. The interrogation that is at the heart of this trial of the three caskets epitomizes the enigmatic aspects of the



whole play. Antonio, having invested all his fortune in ships that are currently at sea, borrows the sum of money from a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who sets the security at a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Shylock wishes to trap Antonio, who has insulted and assaulted him. The play thus weaves a web of past and present abusive discourses aimed at Shylock. He reacts to what has become for him an ‘ancient grudge’ (1.3.43) by asking a series of questions in the famous ‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’ soliloquy (3.1.53), a speech which is again emblematic of the way the play cultivates the art of interrogation. Since the questions he raises then are left unanswered, Shylock finds his own answer by seeking reparation for what Judith Butler would call the ‘linguistic injury’1 he has suffered. His determination for revenge is further fuelled by his daughter Jessica’s eloping with Antonio’s friend, Lorenzo. Jessica’s escape from a tyrannical father, as well as her rejection of Judaism, triggers the following question: can Shylock’s violence as a father and his relish of a patriarchal system be forgiven or overlooked just because he belongs to a discriminated religious minority – one that has experienced one of the most horrendous genocides in human history? The play’s complexity lies partly in its intersectional discourse: Shylock is powerful as a father and a usurer, but vulnerable as a Jewish man, thus inciting a kind of sympathy that keeps fluctuating. As rumours of shipwreck circulate in Venice, Antonio seems ruined and Shylock asks for his due – until Portia, disguised as a judge, intervenes to save Antonio in a trial that leads to Shylock’s forced conversion to Christianism. Depending on the perspective we adopt, the play ends with loving smiles, or in terrible frustration and sadness. Here are Portia’s last words: It is almost morning; And yet I am sure you are not satisfied Of these events at full. Let us go in And charge us there upon inter’gatories And we will answer all things faithfully. (5.1.295–9)



Other plays by Shakespeare, such as Hamlet or Much Ado About Nothing, end with the idea that the story will be told again and that all mysteries will be elucidated afterwards. Other plays, such as Henry V or Othello, end with the idea that the story will go on, and point to the constraints of a dramatic format that cannot contain everything and where all ‘events’ cannot be told ‘at full’. There are even plays, such as The Winter’s Tale, hinting at a world elsewhere, after and beyond the performance, in which questions will be raised and answered. But, at the end of The Merchant of Venice, this epilogue has a more specific resonance as it brings us back to a play that has bred interrogations, both in the general and in the legal senses of the word. In the context of the play, the term ‘inter’gatories’, which is very rarely used by Shakespeare2 and which is a syncopated form of ‘interrogatories’,3 suggests that questioning in and on the play will take on a judicial meaning; that what has happened will become not only a story to be told and retold but an object of dispute and contradictory debate. In his edition of the play, John Drakakis notes that what this epilogue underlines is that the characters will be questioned ‘under oath as though [they] were offenders being formally examined in a court of law’.4 This epilogue is emblematic of a play that is full of scenes of interrogation, one that is recurrently charged for its potential anti-Semitism and in which critics and audiences try and find faithful answers. These ‘inter’gatories’ raise religious, economic and gender issues that are particularly relevant to our contemporary world and leave the readers’ and spectators’ minds ‘tossing’ on an ‘ocean’ (1.1.7) of questions that have become more specifically ethical since the Shoah and that, retrospectively, make the play strikingly uncomfortable. The main questions that make an audience uncomfortable are the following: Do the anti-Semitic slurs present in the play make it an anti-Semitic play? Are we allowed to criticize Jewish Shylock’s greed, desire for revenge and patriarchal domination after the Holocaust? Is it acceptable and ‘faithful’ to erase the anti-Semitic lines of the play in performance? This introduction is thus going to



raise interrogations about a play that has been described by Harry Berger Jr. as a ‘comedy of embarrassment’.5 ‘Is The Merchant of Venice a Problem Play?’ Here is the stimulating question that was tackled by Leo Salingar in 1985, in a volume edited by Michèle Willems, Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and Raymond Willems, entitled Le Marchand de Venise et Le Juif de Malte, Texte et représentations. The question reveals that there is even a problem in defining the play as a ‘problem play’; thus, turning Merchant into a kind of meta-problematic conundrum. Salingar described Shakespeare as ‘interested in the intertexture of experience and in the strange borderline where “good and evil, joy and sorrow” encroach upon their opposites’,6 and claimed that ‘The Merchant of Venice is the earliest of his comedies, and perhaps the earliest of his plays, where this kind of interest declares itself strongly.’7 In the conclusion to his analysis, Salingar noted that, in this play, Shakespeare ‘is interested in the contradictions between irrational emotional impulses and social rationality expressed (for example) by law’.8 For him, with The Merchant of Venice, the playwright ‘stayed on the side of romance’ but also turned ‘in the direction of [the] future problem plays’9 such as All’s Well That Ends Well or Measure for Measure. This question of genre emerges regularly in the play’s critical backstory delineated by John Drakakis, from its publication in 1600 as the first quarto, with the title The Historie of the Merchant of Venice: VVith the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Iewe / towards the sayd Merchant, in cutting a iust pound  / of his flesh: and the obtaining of Portia by the choyse of three / chests. Rewritten into The Jew of Venice by George Granville, Lord Lansdowne, in 1701, the play has quickly become Shylock’s, its performance depending on the vision one has of this character. Drakakis notes that the first critical approach to Shakespeare’s play dates back to Nicholas Rowe’s 1709 edition where issues of genre were tackled. For Rowe, Shylock’s part was more tragic than comic and the critical and performance backstory of the play shows it pulls in these ‘opposite directions’ which have turned the play into



a ‘problem comedy’. Charles Macklin’s 1741 performance of the part at Drury Lane was a key moment in the play’s history as it expressed the complexity of the character by pulling away from the comic Pantalone-like figure to emphasize the darker, more serious and ferocious aspects of the part. Drakakis describes the evolution of the stage figure of Shylock from the stock comic villain into a ‘character’, referring to the ‘characterological criticism’ epitomized by A. C. Bradley’s Shakespearean Tragedy (1906) and challenged only three decades later by L. C. Knights (1933). Strikingly, Shylock, who only appears in five scenes, seems to swallow the whole play and especially Portia’s story, somewhat like Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter who only has twenty-four minutes of screen time in Jonathan Demme’s 1991 The Silence of the Lambs but whose presence is obsessive and oppressive from the beginning to the end. The play has been the focus of ‘stagecentered criticism’, taking into account, as Russell Brown did, the subtext of the play to try and grasp the thoughts and motivations behind the words. The Holocaust is a key element in understanding the critical backstory of The Merchant of Venice, as it deeply and irrevocably questioned the presence of anti-Semitic speeches in the play as well as its classification as a comedy. From then on, more attention was given to the play’s historical context, while issues of characterization were partly replaced by analyses of dramatic organic structure and language. ‘As long as Shylock remained the center of the play, criticism was forced to tip-toe carefully around questions of “race” and especially anti-Semitism’, notes Drakakis, before stating that ‘in the years leading up to the Second World War and its aftermath, the formal or “folk” features of a play like The Merchant of Venice could be seen as a means of protecting the cultural reputation of Shakespeare against accusations of anti-Semitism’. It is in this context that the play’s festive dimension has become an object of study, notably by C. L. Barber (1959), and a number of thematic issues, such as the tension between love and money or the themes of justice and mercy, have been dealt with. The focus on the character was



supplanted by organic visions of the play such as W. H. Auden’s perception of the play’s ‘exclusionist aesthetics’ in 1963. Then came a period of more theoretically informed approaches to the play, focusing on the language of money and the moral and ethical issues it raises. Drakakis notably mentions Walter Cohen’s 1982 study which enjoins us ‘not so much to interpret as to discover the sources of our difficulty in interpreting’ by cultivating a historicized reading of the play. Such a historicized approach has led critics to explore the gender issues in the play, questioning Portia’s dominant role as well as the complexities of the relationship between Bassanio and Antonio. It has also initiated research on how the text represents the figure of the Jew, as explored by James Shapiro’s Shakespeare and the Jews (1996) and Martin D. Yaffe’s Shylock and the Jewish Question (1997). ‘The “uses” to which The Merchant of Venice has been put suggests that it has a capacity to provide a mirror for the culture in which it appears’, concludes Drakakis. This chameleon-like adaptability is confirmed in Jay Halio’s history of the play in performance. The tensions, contradictions and ‘inter’gatories’ that are revealed in the critical backstory find their expression on stage. The title of Q1 may be seen, Halio notes, as an indicator of the prominence of the Shylock plot over the one involving Portia. The play was performed in 1605 before King James and his court, and the lack of documents on the original performances makes it hard to reconstitute them except through guess work. Thus, one may only infer that Kempe played the Clown (Lancelot Gobbo). The actors who played Shylock are central in this performance history. When the play was turned into The Jew of Venice in 1701, the first actor known to have played the part is Thomas Doggett, who is supposed to have performed it as a comic villain. In 1741, when Charles Macklin restored much of the original script, he chose to play the role as a ‘terrifying’ villain. In 1814, Edmund Kean wanted, on the contrary, to emphasize the humanity of the character and to provoke sympathy, which initiated a new tradition of representation: Shylock became an ill-used, potentially tragic character. But the performance



history cannot be reduced to the various ways in which Shylock was impersonated. With Komisarjevsky in 1932, emphasis was put on a fairy-tale design and, for Halio, this production ‘signalled the end of the actor-manager tradition of staging Shakespeare’s plays’. In the pre-war period, the productions did not seem to take the context of the persecution of Jews into account, while the play could also become a tool of Nazi propaganda. In 1947, Maurice Schwartz’s Shylock and His Daughter, performed in New York, aimed at representing Jewish grandeur, with a Shylock unable to spill blood in the end. In 1970, Jonathan Miller’s production with Laurence Olivier as Shylock emphasized the tragic dimension of the play. A decade later, in his BBC version, Miller revised this approach to reach a more balanced production where the Jew and the Christians are equally guilty. Halio also focuses on the many RSC productions and especially studies John Barton’s two productions in 1978 at The Other Place and in 1981 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The two versions approach the question of Jewishness in different ways: in the 1978 version with Patrick Stewart, Shylock was just a bad man who ‘happened to be a Jew’, while in the second production with David Suchet as Shylock, ‘Jewishness was very much to the point’. These renewed visions by the same director show how the play may pull in opposite directions. Halio’s survey of productions in the UK and worldwide reveals that while Shylock is an object of constant reassessment and re-shapings, the fortunes of the part also depend on the way the other parts are performed in a play that articulates the two contrasting worlds of Venice and Belmont, where numerous other characters are of interest. The survey shows that the vision of the play depends on the types of balance that can be reached between its various components and on whether the production can resist Shylock as the only powerful magnet. As a matter of fact, Shylock – whether we use his name or choose to characterize him as the Jew, like John Drakakis who uses ‘Jew’ as speech heading in his edition of the play – seems to have often been the tree that hides a forest of



centres of interest. The state of the art drawn by Shaul Bassi in this volume shows that there are numerous doors through which one may enter a play that he sees as ‘one of the most contemporary of Shakespeare’s plays’. Bassi, who even notes The Merchant of Venice’s ‘growing topicality’, chooses not one but four ‘itineraries’ to translate and map the various critical approaches that have been adopted to tackle the play: Jewish question(s), economic tropes, forms of community and global reimaginings. Bassi first signals two monographs that stand out in the recent critical history of the play: Kenneth Gross’s Shylock is Shakespeare (2006) and Janet Adelman’s Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice (2008). He shows how Gross ‘sees The Merchant of Venice as a play exploring the dramaturgy and aesthetics of “repugnancy”’, while Adelman considers the ‘central notion of religious conversion’ and the ‘nexus between flesh and spirit’. While Gross focuses on Shylock, Adelman displaces the emphasis on Shylock’s daughter as the ‘irreducibly alien other’, a view that contradicts Lindsay M. Kaplan’s seeing Jessica as the perfect convert. Shaul Bassi first notes that the issue of Jewishness has recently fed much criticism on The Merchant of Venice: from James Shapiro’s seminal book Shakespeare and the Jews (1996) to Emma Smith’s provocative question ‘Was Shylock Jewish?’,10 critics have analysed and interrogated the representations of Jewishness. Bassi summarizes Emma Smith’s article as one that aims to show that the anti-Jewish rhetoric may stand for ‘tropes that can be used against other minorities’. This, we suggest, might to some extent be connected to what the French theoretician of insults, Évelyne Larguèche, calls ‘non-specific’ abuse, i.e. insults that are not connected to any objective or real specific characteristic of the target and victim of hate speech.11 Stephen Greenblatt, on the other hand, in an article entitled ‘The Limits of Hate Speech’ (2010) contradicts the idea that Shylock is an allegorical character who would represent all types of otherness. The title of Edna Nahshon and Michael Shapiro’s recent collection, Wrestling with Shylock (2017), cleverly translates the struggle that the study of this theme and



character constitutes for the readers, spectators and critics who see the complexity of the object. The ‘second critical route’ that is explored by Bassi focuses on economic matters which announce the rise of capitalism. Notions such as debt, interest and usury, which can be connected to ‘modern risk’, have been, Bassi shows, the object of many critical readings questioning the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. We may add here that the ‘pound of flesh’ which is at the heart of the plot connects the worlds of money and carnal consummation, inscribing the unsettling motif of voluptas carnis (pleasure of the flesh) in the relationships between Shylock and Antonio, and Antonio and Bassanio. Before concluding with a panoramic view of the dissemination of the play in all its forms throughout the world in the section on ‘global reimaginings’ (a section which is completed by Douglas Lanier’s chapter on The Merchant of Venice on screen), the third section of Bassi’s state-of-the-art chapter focuses on the studies ‘whose common ambit is the configuration of community’. These communities can be religious (Christian and Jew), social (citizen and noncitizen), sexual (queer and heteronormative), human and posthuman (human and animal). It is true that one may easily see Shylock’s asking for a pound of flesh as a de-metaphorization of the figure of the dog, all the more so since the word ‘usury’ is related to the Hebrew word meaning ‘biting’.12 Sabine Schülting’s chapter adds a new direction to the studies of Merchant’s communities by focusing on what she calls, after Barbara Rosenstein,13 the ‘emotional communities’ of the play. Schülting reassesses emotions as being part of a social process and shows that the play ‘attributes central importance to the negotiation of the emotions’. Emotions, she notes, ‘circulate in the play’ and they ‘establish social connections and intersect with economic relations and transactions’. Starting from Antonio’s initial sadness in 1.1, she analyses the dramatic function of melancholy in the play, showing how Antonio’s position of note in the margin ‘underscore[s] the happiness of the others’ and prevents him from being part of an emotional community. She also suggests that Shylock excludes himself



from ‘positive affects’ and that Merchant ‘establishes two emotional communities, one Christian, the other Jewish’, ‘sociable merriment versus solitary soberness’. Focusing on the economy of love and hate in the play, she notes that ‘hate is less the opposite of love than “a negative attachment to others”’.14 Love, hate and disgust, she shows, construct communities. In this context, ‘Shylock is an outsider who fails to align affectively (and effectively) with any collective.’ Taking the example of Jessica’s ambivalent status, Schülting shows that in Merchant ‘emotions are continuously in motion; they circulate not unlike Portia’s and Nerissa’s rings’. The analysis of Jessica’s uncomfortable, in-between status is prolonged in Janice Valls-Russell’s chapter that highlights the final scene of the play and foregrounds Shylock’s daughter who has long remained on the margins of the play and the criticism it has created. For Valls-Russell, the ‘mythological material’ that Shakespeare inscribes in the play contributes to destabilizing the happy ending convention of the comedy. She reassesses the Ovidian myths, especially the Golden Fleece, Jason and Medea, showing how they ‘create a sense of instability’. ‘Myths’, she argues, ‘are not always in the right place, not really doing what might be expected of them.’ Analysing the duet between Lorenzo and Jessica and the mythological references it conveys, she shows that instead of indicating a happy end, the allusions to Cressida, Dido, Thisbe and Medea (5.1.1–14) point to darker perspectives and a potential discord at the end of the play, which is confirmed by the reversibility of the myth of Orpheus mentioned by Lorenzo (5.1.79–82). In this ‘mythological tapestry’, Jessica is ‘the one most affected by the Janus syndrome’, ‘her cross-gendered potentiality expos[ing] her to a solitary liminality’. The analysis of the fairy tale and mythological texture of Shakespeare’s play15 thus allows the spectators to perceive aspects of otherness and identity from what Wilhelm Hortmann has termed a ‘trans-Holocaust’ perspective.16 This way of reading the play appears, in its very formulation, as full of contradictions, as is suggested by Zeno Ackermann and Sabine Schülting in their recent book on



Shylock on the German stage where they ask the question in a section entitled ‘Transcending the Holocaust?’.17 In the next chapter, Gary Watt, adopting a presentist approach, starts by interrogating a post-truth world whose most disturbing feature is to cast ‘doubt upon the nature and extent of the Jewish Holocaust’. This leads him to analyse what he calls the ‘credit clauses’ in Merchant, such as Antonio’s opening words ‘In sooth’, echoed by Portia’s ‘By my troth’ at the beginning of the next scene. Watt puts truth, deceit and trust at the centre of his reading, noting that the play is ‘unique in that [it] is prefaced with a credit clause’. He studies the central ‘casket scene’ as conveying the ‘deceiving capacity of eloquent and ornamental rhetoric’. Watt reminds us that, according to Aristotle, ‘to be credible the rhetor must be ethical’, which allows him to analyse how Shylock, with his ‘merry bond’ (1.3.169), replaces monetary interest by ‘repayment through friendship’, of which he notes that it is ‘the quality most prized by rhetoricians for producing credit of character as an aspect of ethos’. By focusing on ‘false witness and fake news’ in his second section, Watt explores the role played by Salarino and Salanio, whom he describes as ‘devourers and divulgers of news’ and as the embodiments of Rumour and Report in the play. Watt also sees the choice between ‘trust to friendship and trust to law’ as being central to the relationships between Shylock and Antonio. The play is seen as an anatomy of trust which is constantly questioned and put to the test, contributing to making the play an unsettling and unstable ground. Raising the issue of truth and trust finally leads Watt to study how Shakespeare plays with our trust in drama and truth on stage. After three New Directions chapters that have unlocked the play by un-shylocking it, i.e. by focusing on the play as a whole or on marginal characters such as Jessica or the two ‘Sal’ characters, Douglas Lanier brings us back to the obsessive presence of Shylock, as in a kind of ‘return of the repressed’. Whatever we do, Shylock comes back to the forefront and can never be forgotten. Lanier’s history of Merchant on screen from the silent era to the present day shows how cinema has



given a prominent place to Shylock, even sometimes expanding the character. Filmmakers, Lanier remarks, have used various means such as flashbacks, epilogues or prologues to tell more about the character. He also shows that Merchant has been screened in two main genres: melodrama and heritage film. On screen, the Holocaust has had more impact than on stage: according to Lanier, ‘from the 1940s on, the dark shadow of the Holocaust has hovered over reception of the play and so determined its perceived amenability for film adaptation’. Lanier explains the popularity of the play on screen in the silent era through several factors: the ‘cultural embrace’ of antiSemitism, the picturesque potential of Venice and Belmont, the attractive basic design of the conflict between good and evil and the interest in great Shakespearean parts. The longer the films are, the more they include the romance plot. The film that he identifies as the most important in the silent era is Peter Paul Felner’s Der Kaufman von Venedig (1922), also known as The Jew of Mesri which, he notes, ‘poses an interpretive challenge’, as it both confirms the stereotype of the evil Jew and ‘magnifies his pathos’, signalling a ‘new sympathy in screen portrayals of Shylock’. After a few talkies, the play ‘languished on screen’ after the Second World War and it was not until 1953 that a French-Italian production was released, directed by Pierre Billon, with Michel Simon as Shylock. This version is emblematic of a displacement of the religious issues onto issues of class, Shylock being identified as a workingclass character rather than as a Jew. After the Holocaust, The Merchant of Venice was regarded as ‘commercially toxic’. That is why it ‘fared better’ on TV than on film. Lanier counts twenty television adaptations in the last seventy years, many of which tend to erase the ‘troubling aspects’ of the play. Lanier notably analyses John Sichel’s 1973 production with Laurence Olivier as Shylock and describes it as a ‘tragedy of attempted assimilation’. This version is remembered for Shylock’s offscreen scream that unsettles the Christian community, while Welles’s unfinished version (1969) throws into relief Shylock’s isolation. Turning to twenty-first-century screen Merchants,



Lanier shows how the play has been used ‘to address not just anti-Semitism but also other forms of racial and sexual prejudice’; concerns that are essential to Don Selwyn’s Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti (2002), ‘the first feature film in the Maori language and the first film of Merchant since Le Marchand in 1953’. In 2004, Michael Radford’s film with Al Pacino as Shylock and Jeremy Irons as Antonio ends on images that suggest that Shylock no longer belongs to any community and that Jessica is both integrated into the Christian society and alienated from it. More recent films show that directors have begun ‘to experiment with updating the play’, by addressing gender issues and extending to ‘new arenas of identity politics’, thus showing that the play can be used to speak to new generations. That is precisely what the last chapter in this volume wants to show. Even if the play is a ‘difficult’ play, as Lanier notes, or precisely because it is a difficult play, Lieke Stelling demonstrates how relevant and useful Merchant is to address issues that trouble our present-day society. In her learning and teaching resources section, she selects four topics (genre, sources and adaptations, religion, and conversions) that have been explored and the complexities of which make them particularly stimulating in the classroom and relevant to young audiences. What the four topics have in common is that they are unsettling, full of paradoxes and tensions. She reveals that questioning the genre of the play feeds different perspectives rather than ‘exclusionary labels’. Comparing Merchant with its main source – a tale by Ser Giovanni Fiorentino dating back to the late fourteenth century and printed in 1558 in an Italian collection of short stories entitled Il Pecorone (The Simpleton) – demonstrates the greater ambiguity of Shakespeare’s Shylock. The long history of adaptations shows how attractive the play is worldwide and yet how, as Marjorie Garber notes, many adapters have tried to ‘purge it of its … disturbing energies’.18 In her section on religion, Stelling formulates the paradox that ‘[f]or a play that mentions scripture and the term “Jew” so frequently, it seems strikingly unconcerned with the nature



of Judaism and Jewishness’, and notes that the Jew probably reminded an Elizabethan audience of another form of religion, Puritanism, the play thus potentially blurring the religious categories and complicating them. This complication is enhanced by the theme of conversion to which Lieke Stelling dedicates her last section. She claims that ‘[t]he pronouncement of Shylock’s punitive conversion epitomizes the play’s sense of discomfort’ and suggests that Jessica’s conversion is ‘tinged with conflicts’. Working on the trial scene is for Stelling one of the best ways of approaching the play in the classroom and the exercises that she suggests invite the students to work on their emotions and debating skills. According to Lieke, the ‘sense of uneasiness’ that the play generates definitely ‘invites critical reflection’. Although it makes us feel uncomfortable, or should we say, because it makes us feel uncomfortable, the play and its most striking motifs have left many ‘tatters’19 in all kinds of cultural fields. In a thriller film such as Seven (dir. David Fincher, 1995), the play is summoned to refer to the sin of Greed; in the action film Pound of Flesh (dir. Ernie Barbarash, 2015), the most thrilling aspect of the play is infused in a title that is evocative of a story of organ theft. These contemporary fragments reveal that the play is disturbing because it is literally thrilling (the word ‘thrill’ etymologically meaning ‘pierce’ or ‘penetrate’) when it represents Shylock piercing through Antonio’s flesh. This eagerness to feed on flesh (caro) constitutes a kind of carnival act (a word based on caro and levare, meaning ‘putting the flesh away’), without which Shylock will remain hungry for revenge and which, ironically and paradoxically, relates him to the Christian world of revellers that he denounces in the play. This thrilling gesture of cutting a pound of flesh is also mentioned in the context of The Lion King II (dir. Darrell Rooney and Rob LaDuca, 1998), suggesting that the act remains so symbolic and bloodless in the play that it can be digested by a comic animated film mainly aimed at children. However, in the popular French comedy Rio Ne Répond Plus (dir. Michel Hazanavicius, 2008), the rewriting of the ‘Hath



not a Jew eyes?’ speech into an ‘Hath not a Nazi eyes?’ speech20 is far more disturbing and leaves a rather disgusting taste for an audience aware of the complexities in Shakespeare’s play. The 2009 thirty-minute film by painter-artist Pierre Moignard entitled Who Chooseth Me 21 is another resurgence of The Merchant of Venice which replaces characters and fictional places with real bystanders and locations, with a voice-over narration that richly interrogates the play in a fragmentary form. Like Shylock’s paradoxical final words, ‘I am content’, which are supposed to translate his reaction to his forced conversion, the play leaves an abyss of contradictory feelings, which oblige us to be ‘critical readers’ and reflect on the economic system, on the patriarchy and on gender, religious and emotional relationships in general. The characters, the play itself and our own beliefs will be called to the stand in ceaseless ‘inter’gatories’ until gender, class, race and religion no longer determine the power structures of our societies.


1 The Merchant of Venice: The Critical Backstory John Drakakis

In his book Hamlet versus Lear: Cultural Politics and Shakespeare’s Art (1993), the late R. A. Foakes began by asserting that ‘Hamlet and King Lear, archetypal tragedies of youth and age, have always challenged for regard as Shakespeare’s greatest work.’1 This comment follows a list of critical texts that extol the virtues of both plays, followed by another list of ‘[s]ome major events 1945–65’, designed to provide some representative historical justifications for the critical shift of emphasis in the later twentieth century from one play to the other. The assumption, firmly established by A. C. Bradley in his Shakespearean Tragedy (1904), that Foakes does not challenge is that, of Shakespeare’s plays, it is the tragedies that offer the most serious reflection on important historical events. However, by 1974, when Alexander Leggatt’s Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love appeared, there had been a significant shift of focus, so that Leggatt was able to begin from the observation that ‘The complaint that there is not enough criticism of



Shakespeare’s comedies is now heard less often than it used to be.’2 Leggatt’s chapter on The Merchant of Venice amalgamates the critical discourse of formalism that provides a straitjacket for dramatic action and the allegorical meanings that it generates, and that taken together were becoming features of the study of comedy, and the focus on ‘character’ that had been established by Bradley in relation to tragedy. Elsewhere, in The Modes of Modern Writing (1977), a book that emerged only a few years after Leggatt’s, David Lodge sought to distinguish between ‘the truthfulness or verisimilitude of fictions’ and ‘the formal properties of the fictions concerned’.3 For Leggatt, The Merchant of Venice represents a significant step in the progress of Shakespearean comedy from the limited formalism of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which the characters ‘may be brought into contact with different worlds; but the result is simply to confirm their original natures, not to develop or extend them’,4 to one in which ‘the formal neatness of the earlier comedies’ is replaced by ‘a more open and natural structure, with more loose ends’.5 Leggatt’s motivation for this observation is a form of psychological analysis that has much in common with the Stanislavskian method of acting in which the ‘sub-text’ of the actor’s spoken language assumes importance.6 Leggatt argues that the range of dramatic idiom in the play [The Merchant of Venice] is extended beyond that of the earlier comedies, and includes a naturalism of manner – particularly in the revelation of feeling beneath apparent small talk – that marks a significant breakthrough. In earlier plays, the characters’ feelings were spelled out explicitly in their speeches, with nothing, or very little, left to inference; there was, for the most part, no subtext.7 Leggatt assumes, like John Russell Brown, that there is a homology between what the actor brings to the performance and what the text contains, but he immediately qualifies this somewhat sweeping statement. Even so, he puts his finger on a



problem in The Merchant of Venice that has dogged the play from its first appearance. We know, from the information conveniently provided by E. K. Chambers in his William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems (1930),8 that in addition to the number of quartos and, folios of the play that were published throughout the seventeenth century, the link between ‘Jews’ and geographical locations such as Venice and Malta in Mediterranean Europe was familiar. Indeed, Chambers notes that a lost play by Thomas Dekker was entitled The Jew of Venice (c. 1592), and, of course, the connection between Shakespeare’s play and Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta has long been of interest to critics and scholars. We do not know how Dekker may have treated Venice in the lost play, but by the time that Shakespeare came to write The Merchant of Venice, around the end of 1596, the geographical location itself had become the subject of much controversy, not least because England was emphatically not, to use Patrick Collinson’s term, a ‘monarchical republic’.9 The issue concerning which Venice Shakespeare sought to represent in the play has long been of considerable interest. In his encyclopaedic account of the traditions of Shakespearean comedy, Leo Salingar observed that Shakespeare was ‘a national playwright, but he looks towards London’.10 However, Venice appears to have been something of a special case, since John Gillies has more recently observed throughout Shakespeare’s plays the opposing themes of ‘exorbitance’ and ‘intrusion’: the former denotes ‘a type of geographical and moral adventurism associated with ancient ideas of conquest and navigation’,11 and the latter denotes ‘exotics who seek to “incorporate” themselves within a neo-imperial (if republican) city which persists in regarding them as alien’ and ‘intrusive’.12 Gillies goes on to suggest that, At once an empire and an outpost, Shakespeare’s Venice has just this doubleness. It is thus that the themes of ‘exorbitance’ and ‘intrusion’ enter the Venetian plays. The antithesis between these Shakespearean themes corresponds



closely to the contradiction within the Elizabethan idea of Venice. Self-consciously imperial and a ‘market place of the world’, Shakespeare’s Venice invites barbarous intrusion through the sheer ‘exorbitance’ of its maritime trading empire.13 Gillies provides a corrective to what Edward Soja referred to as an ‘untroubled reaffirmation of the primacy of history over geography that enveloped both Western Marxism and liberal social science in a virtually sanctified vision of the everaccumulating past’, that had impeded scholarship until the 1960s.14 When the first quarto was published in 1600, the figure of Shylock and the romantic plot involving Bassanio and Portia were advertised as being ancillary to ‘The Historie of the Merchant of Venice’: ‘VVith the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Iewe / towards the sayd Merchant, in cutting a iust pound / of his flesh: and the obtaining of Portia by the choyse of three / chests.’ Subsequent modern criticism of the play has done much to blur the distinction between ‘merchant’ and ‘Jew’ that the title page of the 1600 quarto makes clear. But over the next century, The Merchant of Venice became one of those plays of Shakespeare’s whose title was adjusted in the public imagination in accordance with the acknowledged centrality of certain of its characters. For example, Much Ado About Nothing became the comedy of ‘Benedick and Betteris’, but The Merchant of Venice did not become ‘Bassanio and Portia’ but ‘The Jew of Venice’, a title that during Shakespeare’s lifetime was associated with the lost play of Thomas Dekker. By 1701, this title had become part of a significant rewriting, indeed an adaptation, of the play by George Granville, Lord Lansdowne. The distinction between Shakespeare’s and Granville’s versions reflected changes in audience sensibility and, as James Bulman has observed, similar changes of emphasis also took place during the nineteenth century.15 Lansdowne’s version might more properly be placed somewhere between a translation and an adaptation, reducing



and altering the positioning of scenes, reassigning speeches and adding gratuitously the masque of Peleus and Thetis. The Jew of Venice might also be regarded as a scabrous critique, continuing what James Shapiro has more generally identified as a prejudice that began with the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290, and that ‘has entered into history … because of what it came to symbolize for the peoples who continued to inhabit England, and for their descendants in search of a satisfying narrative of their national past’.16 Indeed, Lansdowne’s offensively polemical version represents an intensification of anti-Jewish hostility, and comes almost half a century after the readmission of Jews into England in 1656. The first critical approach to Shakespeare’s play is Nicholas Rowe’s edition, and the accompanying comments on the life of Shakespeare. Hitherto, the theatrical depiction of Shylock had been characterized by the actor Thomas Dogget, who had played Shylock in Lansdowne’s version as a miserly ‘stock-jobbing Jew’, punished by means of ‘A piece of justice, terrible and strange’ (Prologue).17 In his variorum edition of 1888, H. H. Furness judiciously observed that although it was thought that Shylock was originally acted as a ‘comic part’, there was no evidence to support this claim, and that ‘[t]o assert it is to imply that Lansdowne’s “Shylock” and Shakespeare’s Shylock are identical’.18 Nicholas Rowe’s much more considered judgement came some eight years after Lansdowne in 1709 when he noted that His [Shakespeare’s] plays are properly to be distinguish’d only into Comedies and Tragedies. Those which are called Histories, and even some of his Comedies are really Tragedies with a run or mixture of Comedy amongst ’em.19 The early critical reception of The Merchant of Venice seems to have gone hand in hand with innovations in performance and with the restoration of a full text of the play. Here, the yardstick appears to have been the shift in the treatment of the figure of Shylock. There is no need to chart the early performance history



of the play since this has already been thoroughly undertaken by James Bulman and by Miriam Gilbert,20 except to note that the shift of perception occurred with the advent of Charles Macklin’s 1741 performance at Drury Lane. Despite Rowe’s conviction that Shylock was more of a tragic than a comic figure, how the role was conceived determined the way in which Venice was perceived. The Arden 2 editor, John Russell Brown, notes that Macklin was a renowned comic actor but that, although his Shylock ‘cannot have been “tragic”’, he ‘gave full vent to the Jew’s contrasting passions’.21 It is this fullness of theatrical characterization, pulling in opposite directions, that has, since the mid-eighteenth century, pushed the play into the category of ‘problem comedy’. It was also Macklin’s understanding of the role of Shylock that stimulated the Augustan poet Alexander Pope to produce the following epitaph for the actor: ‘Here lies the Jew / That Shakespeare drew.’22 In 1710, Charles Gildon produced a critical account of the play that was prefixed to a seventh volume of The Works of Mr William Shakespeare. Gildon observed a number of formal characteristics of the play and, while acknowledging that it ‘has receiv’d considerable Advantages from the pen of the honourable George Granville, Esq.’, he then proceeded to single out ‘the Character of the Jew’ that was Very well distinguish’d by Avarice, Malice, implacable Revenge, etc. But the incidents that necessarily shew these Qualitys are so very Romantic, so vastly out of Nature, that our Reason, our Understanding is every where shock’d, which abates extremely of the Pleasure the Pen of Shakespeare might give us.23 Gildon’s description is torn between an admiration for Shakespeare’s acquaintance with ‘the Authors of the Latin Antiquity’ through whom he had gleaned ‘the fabulous stories of the old Poets’, on the one hand, and on the other, a certain ‘calm’ soullessness deriving from an absence of



‘sinewy Passions, which ought every where to shine in a serious Dramatic Performance, such as most of this is’.24 Here the shadow of Granville’s portrayal conflicts with an emerging sense of the dramatic potential of a character like Shylock, or what an Augustan sensibility might regard as the occasional improprieties of a Portia whose ‘[m]anners are not always agreeable or convenient to her Sex and Quality’.25 Critical comments such as this, as Margreta de Grazia once observed more generally, ‘will always prepare the way for their reading’.26 Indeed, by the time of Lewis Theobald’s corrective of Pope’s 1725 edition of Shakespeare in his Shakespeare Restored (1726), and the subsequent appearance of his own edition in 1733, preparation for the reading of the plays was well under way. For example, in a note on The Merchant of Venice 4.1.121ff., he sought to correct Gratiano’s line ‘Not on thy SOUL! But on thy SOUL, harsh Jew’ to ‘Not on thy SOLE, but on thy SOUL, harsh Jew’, affirming that ‘this is the very Antithesis of our Author; and I am the more confident because it was so usual with him to play on Words in this manner, and because in another of his Plays he puts the very same Words in Opposition to one another, and that from the Mouth of one of his serious Characters’.27 Throughout the eighteenth century, successive editions added explanatory notes to the text of The Merchant of Venice and established a standard and a pattern of editorial mediation that has continued to provide a template, and, indeed, a conceptual framework for modern editions. In the case of Malone’s 1790 ten-volume edition, replete with detailed textual notes, what emerged was what De Grazia has called ‘a shifting text’ that ‘may not have been so very far from the physicality of Shakespeare’s pages, where any word could take varying forms and yet remain the same word’.28 De Grazia went on to conclude that Malone’s emphasis on Shakespeare’s ‘authorship’ and ‘the notion of a single authorial consciousness (with its occasional lapses into unconsciousness)’ effectively converted ‘the “copiousness” of both mechanical and rhetorical “copy” into personal idiosyncrasy’. What emerged was the image of



a ‘negligent’ Shakespeare, occasionally error-prone, for whom the challenges of ‘verbatim repetition’ of detail could be ‘put under the mastery of precisely the historicized, individuated, and entitled subject that Malone both presupposed and projected in his 1790 Shakespeare’.29 However, of the editions published during the eighteenth century, the most adventurous was Edward Capell’s (1768) which departed from the normalized speech prefix ‘Lancelet/Launcelot’ in favour of Q1’s occasional deployment of ‘Clown’. Such departures pointed towards certain characteristics of Q1 (1600) that it was for future generations of textual scholars, with access to considerably more knowledge about printing house practices, to explore. Throughout the eighteenth century, The Merchant of Venice competed with Romeo and Juliet in popularity. But Macklin’s theatrical realization of Shylock skewed critical reception. Indeed, Bulman notes a suggestion that the sheer ferocity of Macklin’s performance stimulated the thought of an alternative adaptation ‘in which Shylock would become the wronged hero’.30 In general, critical comments on The Merchant of Venice during this period were sporadic rather than systematic, emphasizing that Shakespeare’s play was based on what Coleridge called ‘popular tales’.31 While in Edmund Kean’s mid-nineteenth-century and Henry Irving’s 1879 performances, the emphasis on Shylock served to establish Venice (as opposed to Belmont) as the centre of the play, these performances also helped to transform the play’s generic affiliation as ‘one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies’.32 Coleridge’s oddly ambivalent response could generalize about the ‘organic’ nature of Shakespearean dramatic form33 and the universality of the appeal of his characterization,34 on the one hand, while at the same time overlooking the threat posed by the theatrical distortion of the comedy as a consequence of the theatrical representation of Shylock. This instability has carried over into modern criticism of the play and has, if anything, been exacerbated by modern historical events such as the mid-twentieth-century Holocaust, although it must be



emphasized that anti-Semitism has been a persistent feature of Western culture for many centuries. At the beginning of the twentieth century, after seeing a comic performance of Shylock, the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset could observe that the production was an insult to Shakespeare’s sense of dramatic balance: If in The Merchant of Venice the figure of Shylock, the regulating weight, appears even more accentuated by the  insignificance of the actors who play the other roles, the work fails, losing absolute balance, and falls into pieces over the head of the aloof spectator with all the weight of its age-old materials. If Antonio, Portia, Bassanio, and Jessica do not enter the realm of our perception, the moneylender will remain, to us, reduced to an old and shaggy dog that, from his kennel, barks at passers-by.35 By the mid-nineteenth century, both an English and a European model had been evolved for the play in performance and for the text in literary critical discourse. Indeed, for William Hazlitt, the emphasis on the figure of Shylock as ‘the depositary of the vengeance of his race’ is coupled with ‘a strong, quick and deep sense of justice mixed up with the gall and bitterness of his resentment’.36 But Hazlitt then compares his knowledge of earlier performances and of what he calls ‘the play’, with the experience of Edmund Kean’s performance as Shylock: When we first went to see Mr. Kean in Shylock, we expected to see, what we had been used to see, a decrepit old man, bent with age and ugly with mental deformity, grinning with deadly malice, with the venom of his heart congealed in the expression of his countenance, sullen, morose, gloomy, inflexible, brooding over one idea, that of his hatred, and fixed on one unalterable purpose, that of his revenge. We were disappointed, because we had taken our idea from other actors, not from the play.37



As was the case with Macklin, so again with Hazlitt, competing conceptions of the play, and particularly of the role of Shylock, collided with the history of its performances, thereby raising serious questions about the play’s generic classification as a comedy. Small touches such as Kean’s exchanging of Shylock’s customary orange wig for a black one was a further indication of the extent to which the role had been transformed.38 Indeed, the gradual evolution of the stage figure of Shylock from the stock comic villain of Dogget, through the more nuanced performances of Macklin and, during the nineteenth century, Kean (1814) and Irving (1879), into a ‘character’ is described by the actor Edwin Booth’s son: I believe that Burbage, Macklin, Cooke, and Kean (as did my father) made Shylock what is technically termed a ‘characterpart,’ – grotesque in ‘make-up’, and general treatment, not so pronounced, perhaps, as my personation has been sometimes censured for. I think Macready was the first to lift the uncanny Jew out of the darkness of his native element of revengeful selfishness into the light of the venerable Hebrew, the martyr, the avenger. He has had several followers, and I once tried to view him in that light, but he doesn’t cast a shadow sufficiently strong to contrast with the sunshine of the comedy … to do which he must, to a certain extent, be repulsive, a sort of party that one doesn’t care to see among the dainty revellers of Venice in her prime.39 Booth’s conflicting impressions, given a much greater sophistication in Irving’s 1879 depiction of the role, served to elevate Shylock further and to historicize him. James Bulman notes that Irving’s depiction of Shylock as a ‘Levantine Jew’ emphasized ‘not his exotic difference so much as his inherent dignity and patriarchal nobility’.40 By 1927, the North American scholar and critic E. E. Stoll could isolate the figure of Shylock and speculate knowledgeably on the conditions of original performance and the problem that the play creates for a modern audience. Stoll observed that ‘[r]ace-hatred,



indeed, or the desire to profit by it, may have prompted the writing of this play’.41 But he then proceeded to evolve a view of the dramatic character that sought to balance sympathetic identification with the demands of comic form: The very dignity and isolation – the picturesque aspect – of the figure makes it pathetic for us, such sentimentalists are we! But in doing so we ignore the rest of Shylock, the traits not noble or appealing at all. Though not an ogre or scarecrow like [Marlowe’s] Barabas, he is villainous enough and comic enough, as it were, in his own right. He is a trickster, a whining and fawning hypocrite, and he sweareth to another’s hurt and changeth to avoid his own.42 Here the ‘historical’ Shylock came into conflict with what Stoll, somewhat dismissively, calls a modern audience’s ‘sentimentality’. This was substantially the dilemma that Shakespeare’s play created in the minds of actors and critics and it prevailed for some considerable time into the twentieth century. For example, the director and playwright Harley Granville-Barker produced a series of ‘prefaces’ to a range of Shakespeare’s plays in the 1930s, and he began a chapter on The Merchant of Venice by asserting the dramatist’s fascination so that ‘when his own creative impulse was quickened, he could not help giving life to a character’. The result is a figure such as Shylock, who is ‘real’, despite the ‘fabulous’ nature of ‘his story’, while Bassanio and Portia ‘become human, though, truly, they never quite emerge from the enchanted thicket of fancy into the common light of day’.43 Barker’s adoption of what, since Bradley’s Shakespearean Tragedy (1906), had set the standard for a characterological criticism became, by 1930, a standard that was shortly to be challenged in 1933 by scholars such as L. C. Knights.44 Barker had also held on to a Coleridgean notion of the play as an unspecified ‘dramatically organic whole’;45 another critical concept that was shortly to be radically refined by Knights to a focus on a stable organization



of words on the page that allowed the critic to share ‘the speech idiom that is the basis of Shakespeare’s poetry’.46 Barker sees as the problem of the play a challenge to maintain our interest in Portia’s story with its ‘high romance’ alongside ‘a rasping hate’ that characterizes the Shylock narrative.47 He then proceeds to isolate particular moments in the play that require both the actor’s and the director’s attention. He observes of the casket scene (3.2) that there and ‘throughout the play, and the larger part of all Elizabethan drama for that matter – effects must be valued very much in terms of music’.48 However, his critical ingenuity forces him to give himself up to the theatrical moment, as evidenced in his comments on the trial scene (4.1). The demise of Shylock implies a prospective loss of ‘tragic dignity’, but Portia’s legalistic reversal of his case against Antonio introduces a curious volte face that effectively trumps his earlier ‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’ speech (3.1): Something of the villainy the Jew taught them the Christians will now execute; and Shylock, as helpless as Antonio was, takes on a victim’s dignity in turn.49 Evidently, though not entirely, Barker is relieved to be done with this problematical section of the play since he observes, not without a qualm, that immediately after the trial scene ‘[t]he tragic interest is posted to oblivion cavalierly indeed’.50 Barker does, however, have an interest in what he calls ‘Shakespeare’s Venice’, which he perceives as a construct ‘that lived in the Elizabethan mind’. It is a city of royal merchants trading to the gorgeous east, of Jews in their gaberdines (as rare a sight, remember, as to us a Chinese mandarin is, walking the London streets today), and of splendid gentlemen rustling in silks. To the lucky young Englishman who could hope to travel there Venice stood for culture and manners and the luxury of civilization; and this – without one word of description is how Shakespeare pictures it.51



This, of course, is the Venice of the seventeenth-century traveller Thomas Coryat, and the partial account of the young Sir Henry Wotton who had visited there in 1591.52 But it is not only that Shakespeare does not ‘picture’ the location in graphic terms. Indeed, some of the qualms that GranvilleBarker entertains about the questionable ‘organic unity’ of the play may well have to do with the controversial political significance of Venice as a ‘republic’. We are a long way from the professional historicist turn that Shakespeare scholarship and criticism was to take in the later twentieth century, or from John Gillies’s re-articulation of the thematic and political significance of geographical space in the play, but what early performance critics such as Barker intuited was that there was something disturbing about The Merchant of Venice in that it laid open to question what were, at the time, perceived as primarily aesthetic rather than cultural or political issues. At the same time as Granville-Barker was producing what J. L. Styan calls ‘stage-centred criticism’,53 the formal study of Shakespeare was gathering pace and in a number of different directions. Styan notes how, by the third decade of the twentieth century, ‘A. W. Pollard and W. W. Greg were attempting to establish as nearly as possible the original texts as they might have been printed directly from playhouse manuscripts’, and E. K. Chambers had published his study of The Elizabethan Stage (1923), followed in 1930 by his William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems.54 Before them, director William Poel had sought to recreate Elizabethan performance conditions,55 and, by 1966, when John Russell Brown’s Shakespeare’s Plays in Performance was published, it was possible to devote a whole chapter to the stage history of the creation of the role of Shylock.56 Russell Brown recuperated a history of Shylock performances, after explaining the concept of ‘subtext’ in Shakespearean drama more generally.57 This essentially Stanislavskian concept, developed for dealing with the plays of Chekhov in the Russian theatre of the late nineteenth century,58 had been anticipated by Henry Irving’s recalling of William Macready’s account of



locating in the figure of Shylock ‘the depths of character … its latent motives  … its finest quiverings of emotion’ as part of the process of understanding ‘the thoughts that are hidden under the words’.59 This method of analysis was particularly appropriate to a stage figure such as Shylock whose motivations were clearly ‘latent’, that successive generations of actors went on to interpret. Russell Brown notes the occasion at 3.1, when Shylock is confronted by Salerio and Salarino with the news of his daughter’s elopement; his behaviour is one of those ‘unguarded, unpremeditated moments [that] show the centre of his grief’. At this point, Shylock’s ‘heart is alarmingly exposed’, signalling the first of two ‘great “transitions” of the scene’.60 This has been the strategy that countless performances of the role have adopted, indicating a shift from Shylock’s erstwhile ostensibly light-hearted attitude to the bond to a more hostile one driven by a specific focus on revenge. The stimulus given to the study of Shakespeare by progress on a number of fronts was intensified in the case of The Merchant of Venice as a result of the Holocaust during the Second World War. Indeed, Russell Brown’s observation that ‘Shylock is allowed to grow in the audience’s knowledge independent of the other major characters’61 extended well beyond theatrical performance, as evidenced in John Gross’s Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend (1992).62 Behind much of this was a debate concerning the status of ‘comedy’ in general, and the classification of The Merchant of Venice in particular, replete with its explicit anti-Semitism. Modern criticism of the play can be divided into a number of categories. Following on from Geoffrey Bullough’s publication in 1957 of the first volume of Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare: Early Comedies, more attention has been given to the play’s historical context. This, in turn, has provoked questions about the play’s investments in biblical detail, about its thematic structure and, following on from some of the suggestions made in W. H. Auden’s essay on the play, ‘Brothers and Others’,63 a greater concentration on questions of gender and the ways in which they are represented in the play. More



recently, Auden’s shrewd observation that ‘Shylock is a Jew living in a Christian society, just as Othello is a negro living in a predominantly white society’,64 has led to the investigation of Shylock’s ‘Jewishness’, and histories of the representation of Jews have led to investigations of economic questions such as usury and the play’s representation of economic practices. The years 1957–60 are significant in the emergence of Shakespearean comedy as a serious dramatic form. Since the appearance of H. B. Charlton’s Shakespearean Comedy (1938) and the awareness that comedy as a genre had been overshadowed by tragedy, critical attempts began to be made to rescue the comedies from the claim that they were ‘artless Outpourings of a Shakespeare carelessly warbling his native woodnotes wild’.65 John Russell Brown’s Shakespeare and His Comedies (1957), C. L. Barber’s Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy (1959) and Bertrand Evans’s Shakespeare’s Comedies (1960) mounted a substantial challenge to this superficial impression by exploring thematic (Russell Brown), cultural and anthropological (Barber) and literary (Evans) approaches to comedy, each picking up strands of earlier scholarly emphases in the study of Shakespeare. The challenge to the primacy of characterization in the language of Shakespeare criticism began in the 1930s with the work of G. Wilson Knight (The Wheel of Fire, 1930), M. C. Bradbrook (Themes and Conventions in Elizabethan Tragedy, 1935) and L. C. Knights (Drama and Society in the Age of Jonson, 1937). By the time of John Russell Brown’s Shakespeare and His Comedies, attention had moved away from issues of characterization to questions of dramatic structure and language. This is how Russell Brown described his task: It briefly discusses the variety of comic structure and then, by following a few themes, or ideas, through all of the early comedies it tries to discover the judgements which inform the individual plays. The themes which are chosen for discussion are explicitly treated in tragedies, history-plays, or poems composed at about the same time; this, together



with their recurrence in many of the comedies, suggests that they were fundamental to Shakespeare’s creative mind at this stage of his career.66 In his treatment of The Merchant of Venice, Russell Brown narrows down the play’s thematic focus to a ‘single image through the plays, the image of love as a kind of wealth’.67 He traces the linguistic occurrence of this theme through Romeo and Juliet, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Sonnet 6, The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew68 before stating that ‘The Merchant of Venice is the most completely informed by Shakespeare’s ideal of love’s wealth’.69 However, Russell Brown does not limit his treatment of theme, indeed, he embarks on an analysis that anticipates his later treatment in 1966 of ‘subtext’ when he concludes that we must judge ‘Shakespeare’s ideal of love’s wealth’ and the ‘harmony’ that the comedy finally produces only ‘after we have judged, as in life, between mixed motives and imperfect responses’.70 On the subject of Shylock, he concludes that ‘our revulsion’ of his ‘hatred and cruelty is mitigated by the way in which his opponents goad and taunt him; we might suppose that he was driven to excessive hatred only through their persecution’.71 Unlike in the case of Stoll, who keeps the ‘historical’ Shylock apart from modern responses, Russell Brown brings them back together in order to supply a motivation for the character. However, in doing so, he resurrects a persistent myth – signalled by the inclusive and problematical ‘we’ – concerning Shakespeare’s sensibilities in the suggestion that while some of the play’s implicit judgements would pass a theatre audience by, they were, nonetheless, part of Shakespeare’s own conscious or unconscious creative processes: We would almost certainly fail in our response if, during performance, our whole attention was given to recognising and elucidating such judgements. But, consciously or unconsciously, they were in Shakespeare’s mind as he wrote the play and helped to control its shape, its contrasts,



relationships and final resolution, and to direct and colour the detail of its dialogue; … they are the pattern of the dance that we are appreciating and in which, imaginatively, we participate.72 Russell Brown’s sophisticated critical vocabulary invokes a variation on the theme of Coleridge’s sense of the play as an ‘organic’ unity, where plot, characterization, language and theme are brought together in one complex whole. This is a form of critical reading that seeks to engage the play’s judgements, whether implicit or explicit, and to acknowledge them as part of the dramatist’s artistic process and the critic’s apparatus. It would not be until the early 1980s that this kind of reading would come under severe pressure. So long as Shylock remained the centre of the play, criticism was forced to tiptoe carefully around questions of ‘race’ and especially anti-Semitism. M. C. Bradbrook, in her book Shakespeare and Elizabethan Poetry (1951) invoked a loosely historical context when she observed that ‘Nothing less monstrous than the theatre’s prize bogeyman, linked in the popular mind with Machiavelli and the Devil in an infernal triumvirate would serve for the villain of romantic comedy.’ Cocking a snook at the possibility of a materialist reading of the play, and in particular a potentially fruitful association with the work of the socialist historian R. H. Tawney, Bradbrook dismisses a ‘human’ Shylock, or one who is ‘an embodiment of the Rise of Capitalism, Shakespeare’s protest against the new money economy’.73 Here, the dangerous curtailment of a ‘themes’ criticism is exposed as Shylock is reduced, recognition of his plight notwithstanding, to ‘a similitude, shadowing in a baser manner the theme of his play; which is very plainly set forth as Justice and Mercy’.74 As we shall see, these terms will be subjected to a radical revision within a critical vocabulary associated with Jacques Derrida. A little later, in her The Growth and Structure of Elizabethan Comedy (1955), Bradbrook felt able to make a generalization about mature Shakespearean comedy that modified the Bradleyan preoccupation with



‘character’: ‘While keeping to the old principle that comedy portrays characters, he [Shakespeare] profoundly modified it by deepening and strengthening each separate character, developing the relations between different characters, until the characters became the plot.’75 This curiously novelistic observation is enlisted in the support of a much wider historical argument that proposes a ‘synthetic’ model of comedy that Shakespeare embodied,76 in which he combined the ‘artificial’ and the ‘natural’ and an interaction of characters that was – the Coleridgean term is again resurrected – ‘organic’.77 Bradbrook’s preoccupation with the aesthetic history of comic form and her location of Shakespeare within it departs from the model proposed by L. C. Knights in his Drama and Society in the Age of Jonson (1937). Knights’s book was reissued in 1962 and enlisted the historical analysis in R. H. Tawney’s Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1922) as an important social context for the drama of the period, and for satiric comedy in particular. Knights observed that ‘the poet who is able to draw on a living tradition embodies it in a particular, comprehensible form; and for us to grasp that form is to work our way into those extra-personal conditions which combined with the writer’s genius to make his work’.78 It is not difficult to see that, in the years leading up to the Second World War and its aftermath, the formal or ‘folk’ features of a play like The Merchant of Venice could be seen as a means of protecting the cultural reputation of Shakespeare against accusations of anti-Semitism. With the gradual demise of Shylock as comic villain and an increase in the perception of his plight as potentially ‘tragic’, there emerged a type of criticism of comedy that emphasized the form’s ‘festive’ and cultural–anthropological elements. Initially, this approach came from North America and grew up in opposition to the formal method of New Criticism. In Shakespeare Studies, its main proponent was C. L. Barber, whose Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy (1959) sought to advance in a very particular way existing treatments of the issue of dramatic structure.



Barber’s ‘anthropological turn’ distinguished carefully between social ritual and theatrical performance, but he did not forsake a traditional aesthetics. In his chapter on The Merchant of Venice, ‘The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth’s Communion and an Intruder’, he described Shakespeare’s approach to comedy thus: Working with autonomous mastery, developing a style of comedy that makes a festive form for feeling and awareness out of all the theatrical elements, scene, speech, story, gesture, role, which his astonishing art brought into organic combination.79 Shakespeare’s comedy has what Barber calls ‘a festive emphasis’ and he argues that it is ‘not a theatrical adaptation of a social ritual’ but that ‘analogies to social occasions and rituals prove to be useful in understanding the symbolic action’.80 Barber notes the significance of Shylock whose name ‘has become a byword because of the superb way that he embodies the evil side of the power of money, its ridiculous and pernicious consequences in anxiety and destructiveness’.81 The play, Barber claims, complicates a general pattern that he detects throughout the comedies, ‘the movement through release to clarification’,82 just as it offers a dialectic account of the ‘relations of love and hate to wealth’.83 He draws attention to the ‘remarkable’ poetry of the interchange between Bassanio and Portia in 3.2, observing that the language in which Portia gives herself to Bassanio ‘makes explicit, by an elaborate metaphor of accounting, that what is happening sets the accounting principle aside’.84 Compared to the world of Belmont, Shylock ‘can be a drastic ironist, because he carries to extremes what is present, whether acknowledged or not, in their silken world’.85 However, that potentially corrosive irony is, according to Barber, ultimately contained since he concludes that ‘no other final scene is so completely without irony about the joys it celebrates’.86



Barber’s reading is not quite what Victor Turner would describe, in more general terms, as an ‘anthropology of performance’,87 and he is aware of the potentially subversive nature of comedy: ‘Comedy in one way or another, is always asking for amnesty, after showing the moral machinery of life getting in the way of life.’88 And yet this reading recuperates the action for a traditional aesthetics, in contrast to the kind of reading stimulated by the advent of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and His World (1973) that did much to identify the politics of the carnivalesque,89 and the anxiety attendant on the challenge that the ‘festive’ as a category of human expression posed to established morality and values. Barber’s approach contains the seeds of a more radical reading, but his preoccupation with the explicit mechanism of the play effectively recuperates Shakespeare for a conservative aesthetics. Barber’s Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy and John Russell Brown’s Shakespeare and His Comedies originally appeared within a year of each other and were reprinted at almost the same time. Barber’s account of The Merchant of Venice retained an element of ‘irony’ located in the figure of Shylock, but that was surmounted after the trial scene, while Russell Brown argued that the play ‘is the most completely informed by Shakespeare’s ideal of love’s wealth’.90 Alexander Leggatt’s Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love subsumes a number of these variations on a particular theme, although he is less sanguine about the certainties that emerge from the play’s dialectical movement. For Leggatt, ‘Belmont is a world of security, Venice is a world of need’.91 Belmont is ‘the centre of romantic love’, lending to the Venice-based Jessica–Lorenzo plot an element of ‘realism’.92 Where Russell Brown and Barber celebrate the play’s dominant ideology, Leggatt is more cautious, emphasizing the persistence of ‘anxiety’. While he suggests that what he calls ‘this mad trial’ is ‘not a final vision of human reality’,93 his account of ‘the comic finale’ is carefully qualified: I think the vision of harmony it offers is carefully and deliberately restricted. It is right that it should be so, for



the play as a whole has shown an uncomfortable world where hate breeds easily and where even love makes painful demands.94 These subtle variations of emphasis share and deploy a common critical vocabulary, and they all seek to rehabilitate Shakespearean comedy in relation to the dominant status given to tragedy. Specific elements of the play all received critical attention: Shylock and the threat he poses to the romantic plot, Venice’s attitude to Jews, the tension between ‘love’ and ‘money’, the themes of justice and mercy, the bond between Antonio and Shylock, the play’s usage of biblical motifs, the moral issues surrounding usury and the test of the three caskets. The aim of all these approaches was to provide an ‘interpretation’, to locate some stable but essential meaning in the face of a number of ‘problems’ that were thought to stand in the way of its assigned genre. Long before the appearance of Bullough’s Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud sought to explicate the ‘theme’ of ‘the three caskets’.95 Freud ‘stripped’ what he called ‘the astral garment’ from what he identified as the theme, to reveal ‘an idea from human life, a man’s choice between three women’.96 For Freud, Bassanio’s ‘choice’ represents a challenge to the inevitability of death: The man overcomes death, which in thought he has acknowledged. No greater triumph of wish-fulfilment is conceivable. Just where in reality he obeys compulsion, he exercises choice; and that which he chooses is not a thing of horror, but the fairest and most desirable thing in life.97 Freud’s early symptomatic reading, though he launched it in 1913, also said something about the ethos of comedy, especially its relation between the psychology of ‘character’ and its wider, myth-based social concerns. In her essay ‘Biblical Allusion and Allegory in The Merchant of Venice’ (1962), Barbara Lewalski reprised the varied



emphases on the play’s ‘deployment of certain myths implicit in the original sources’,98 investigating the play’s biblical allusions in conjunction with ‘Dante’s four levels of allegorical meaning’.99 Lewalski contends that Comprehension of the play’s allegorical meanings leads to a recognition of its fundamental unity, discrediting the common critical view that it is a hotchpotch which developed contrary to Shakespeare’s conscious intention.100 The object of Lewalski’s endeavour is one that has dogged traditional criticism of the play, and it falls into the category of historically based textual exegesis whose primary aim is to locate the play’s ‘organic’ unity. In readings of this kind, myths are historicized and then subsumed into a Christian moral and ethical framework (or, in the case of Freud, into a psychoanalytical framework) and ‘the moral contrast of Shylock and Antonio is more complex’ than Shylock’s response to Christian Venice, ‘with reference to that most difficult injunction of the Sermon on the Mount – forgiveness of injuries and love of enemies’.101 Also in 1962, the poet W. H. Auden recast some of these ideas into a constitutive opposition between ‘Brothers and Others’ in The Merchant of Venice. Auden was one of the first to realize that ‘Recent history has made it utterly impossible for the most unsophisticated and ignorant audience to ignore the historical reality of the Jews and think of them as fairy-story bogeys with huge noses and red wigs.’102 For Auden, The Merchant of Venice was a ‘problem play’ full of racial tension in which ‘Shylock and Antonio are at one in refusing to acknowledge common brotherhood’, while Shylock is ‘a professional usurer who, like a prostitute, has a social function but is an outcast of the community’.103 Auden was clearly sensitive to the play’s exclusionist aesthetics in that Antonio is left isolated at the end: If Antonio is not to fade away into a nonentity, then the married couples must enter the lighted house and leave



Antonio standing alone on the darkened stage, outside the Eden from which, not by the choice of others, but by his own nature, he is excluded.104 But his hinting at the play’s negotiating of gender issues builds on earlier approaches and, in the main, shares their common vocabulary. However, this critical perspective that derived its impetus from a combination of formalism that concentrated upon close textual analysis, supported by historical and ‘source’ study, was about to change in the face of the ‘linguistic turn’ that began to influence literary theory in the late 1970s, and that liberated new forms of reading and new ways of integrating ‘history’ into the study of theatrical texts. The advent of Saussurean linguistics, problematical though it became, served to emphasize the nature of, and the investments in, the business of representation. This was to transform the act of reading and to revitalize in revised form the concept of ideology as a force that shaped both representation itself and the act of critical perception. But even before the advent of the ‘linguistic turn’, there were scholars whose commitment to dialectical materialism led them to approach Shakespeare differently. For example, in his Introduction to a volume of essays entitled Shakespeare in a Changing World, the Marxist critic Arnold Kettle announced the following: Our starting point, then, is a common conviction that the best way to emphasise the value of Shakespeare in our changing world is to see him in his, recognising that the two worlds, though very different, are at the same time a unity. And there is, closely bound up with this conception, a further unifying factor in this book of separate essays. If change is one of the recurring words in these pages, man is another. It is a humanist Shakespeare that is being discussed.105 Although the volume contained no sustained analysis of The Merchant of Venice, one substantive comment on the



play is made by Raymond Southall in his essay on ‘Troilus and Cressida and the Spirit of Capitalism’ (1964). Southall is concerned to chart the shift from ‘feudal relations’ to ‘new forms of behaviour’ that ‘expressed a new ethic in which all human relationships, the most public (as that of prince and subjects), and the most private (as that of husband and wife) and even the most other-worldly (as that of worship), are mediated by a common bourgeois concern’,106 exemplified in the anxieties of ‘the Christian merchant Antonio’. A full-blown Marxist account of the play appeared in Eliot Krieger’s A Marxist Study of Shakespeare’s Comedies (1979) that proposes a dialectical opposition between the aristocratic world of Belmont and the bourgeois economic world of Venice. Krieger begins by asserting that ‘[t]he Belmont atmosphere emerges or gets articulated in part so as to contradict the Venetian materialism’.107 Shylock becomes the exemplar of a ‘system’ that assumes ‘that the extreme social divisions, the oppositions among classes of people, result from purchasing power, the process of acquisition; in this he, of course, directly opposes the aristocratic ideology, in which social degree reflects and makes manifest heavenly harmony and hierarchy’.108 Within this problematic, Portia’s ring becomes ‘an objective symbol for the social exchanges that occur in the play’, thereby ‘allowing us to measure and compare two opposed attitudes toward property and possession’.109 Antonio and Shylock share a ‘bourgeois sense of ownership [that] reduces all qualities to the common denominator of “value”’,110 while the play as a whole is constructed from two dialectically ‘opposite moralities’ that require us ‘to distinguish between the aristocratic fantasies of unlimited, organic wealth and the material base of wealth as correspondent to a specific and limited supply of capital’.111 The Venetian isolation of ‘mercy’ as ‘a separate ideal’ enacts, according to this argument, ‘a double attitude’ that allows Venice to be ‘vengeful, retributive, and threatening toward the alien Shylock’, thereby revealing ‘the bourgeois Christian community’ as a producer of ‘both the vicious sarcasm of Gratiano and the ethical idealism of



Portia’.112 Krieger dismisses an ironic reading of the play on the grounds that it may condemn ‘the aristocratic protagonists [sic] for not living up to their ideals, but it does not criticise the aristocratic ideals as such, for it fails to see that the ideals emerge from and express the needs of a particular social class’.113 Between Krieger’s predictable account and the early 1980s, a shift tantamount to a revolution took place that effectively released a radically revised notion of Marxism, along with new kinds of reading that depend upon novel notions of textuality, upon revisions of Freudian psychoanalysis and on much more subtle forms of engagement with Shakespearean texts. With the appearance of Terry Eagleton’s Criticism and Ideology (1976), and in particular its critical engagement with the French Marxist theory of Louis Althusser and Pierre Macherey,114 the influence of the work of Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan, and with the advent of the first volumes in Terence Hawkes’s New Accents series in 1977,115 the landscape of Literary Studies began to change and, with it, the study of Shakespeare. Even a radical reading of The Merchant of Venice provided by Leslie Fiedler in his book The Stranger in Shakespeare (1972),116 astute though its negotiation of the play’s deployment was, offers us a last vestige (as did Leggatt) of a traditional vocabulary that was to be supplanted by a new critical discourse exemplified in Rosalind Coward and John Ellis’s overview of literary theory in their book, Language and Materialism (1977). One of the first extended, theoretically informed accounts of a linguistically orientated Renaissance materialism occurs in Marc Shell’s Money, Language and Thought: Literary and Philosophic from the Medieval to the Modern Era (1982), which contains an extended analysis of The Merchant of Venice. Shell announces the parameters of his investigation in the following manner: Ideology, which would define the relationship between thought and matter, is necessarily concerned with this transformation from the absolute adequation between



intellectual inscription and real substance to the complete disassociation of them.117 Benefiting from a revised critical vocabulary, he goes on to suggest that ‘Whether or not a writer mentioned money or was aware of its potentially subversive role in his thinking, the new forms of metaphorization or exchanges of meaning that accompanied the new forms of economic symbolization and production were changing the meaning of meaning itself.’118 Shell goes on to argue that the play involves ‘the quest for material and spiritual riches – for money and love – [that] involves two related conceptual difficulties: the similarity between natural sexual generation and monetary generation, and the apparent commensurability (even identity) of men and money’.119 Shell lights on the various meanings attributed in the play to the word ‘use’ that supplement ‘the principal meaning of “use”’, and the resultant genealogy ‘defines divisions between Jewish and other peoples, and the generation of ewes serves to locate monetary generation in relation to animal generation’.120 This is more than simply an exercise on the play of words, rather, it reaches deeply into questions of subjectivity and its inscriptions in language that signal an important historical and cultural shift into the representational economies of an early modern ethos in which representation itself ceases to be aligned with the material objects it is ostensibly linked to. Money as a medium of exchange becomes enmeshed in a market of commodities and this raises serious moral and ethical questions that play across the language of The Merchant of Venice. Shell’s approach problematizes what had hitherto been regarded simply as an ambiguity to be interpreted by the critic seeking a unitary meaning. An even more detailed understanding of the extent to which The Merchant of Venice challenges appeals to the aesthetic principle of harmony occurs in Walter Cohen’s careful and precise evaluation in his article ‘The Merchant of Venice and the Possibilities of Historical Criticism’ (1982). Cohen sees the play as offering ‘an embarrassment of socio-economic



riches’ because of its concern with ‘merchants, and usurers, the nature of the law, and the interaction between country and city’.121 While respecting the efforts of ‘thematically minded’ critics such as Lawrence Danson, who had focused upon the ‘harmonies’ of the play,122 Cohen detects a resistance to what has hitherto been regarded as ‘the unambiguous triumph of good Christian over bad Jew; as the deliberately ambiguous triumph of the Christians; as the unintentionally ambiguous, and hence artistically flawed, triumph of the Christians; as the tragedy of Shylock, the bourgeois hero; and as a sweeping attack on Christians and Jews alike’. He sees the play as ‘partially flawed’ and that ‘it calls for an unusual set of critical questions’. Most importantly, he continues, ‘it requires us not so much to interpret as to discover the sources of our difficulty in interpreting, to view the play as a symptom of a problem in the life of late sixteenth-century England’.123 Cohen challenges a straightforward historical reading of the play as a reflection of Elizabethan economic life, just as he confronts the claim that Venice was an unproblematic allegory of England.124 He argues that ‘the form of the play results from an ideological reworking of reality’ and that ‘the duality we have observed, especially in Shylock, is absolutely necessary to this end’. He goes on: Briefly stated, in The Merchant of Venice English history evokes fears of capitalism, and Italian history allays those fears. One is the problem, the other the solution, the act of incorporation, of transcendence, toward which the play strives.125 Cohen situates the play ‘between two modes of production’, but it is also, in formal terms, nominally a ‘romantic comedy’ and it is performed ‘within a particular institution’.126 Located on the cusp of the ‘transition from feudalism to capitalism’, The Merchant of Venice is ‘an English play with an Italian setting’ that ‘attempts to come to terms with a stage in the process by which Western Europe was undergoing an internal



transformation that was soon to make it the dominant power on earth’.127 Cohen concludes by observing that Renaissance dramatic theory ‘was fundamentally incapable of grasping the nature or significance of Renaissance dramatic practice, at least in England’, and that the failure was largely ‘a consequence of an inability to theorize the social heterogeneity, and especially the popular elements that gave the drama its distinctive quality and that have always made it an attractive subject for a radical, activist-orientated criticism’.128 We need now to retrace our steps a little to sketch in the background to Cohen’s symptomatic reading of the play. In his ground-breaking book Criticism and Ideology (1976), Terry Eagleton had been concerned to show that ‘[i]f the text displays itself as “natural,” it manifests itself equally as constructed artifice; and it is in this duality that its relation to ideology can be discerned’.129 Some ten years later, in his book William Shakespeare (1986), he began his chapter on The Merchant of Venice with an extended critical statement on the nature of Saussurean linguistic theory: Language is always this or that utterance in this or that situation. The paradox, then, is that actual speech or writing subverts the very generality of the structure which brings it into being. What structural linguistics terms parole, the particular concrete utterance, in this sense transgresses the very langue (or general linguistic structure) which produces it. There is, in other words, something about language which always ‘goes beyond’: all discourse reveals a kind of selfsurpassing dynamic, as though it were part of its very nature to be and do more than the dictionary can formulate.130 He qualifies this by saying that ‘a literary text is in one sense constrained by the formal principles of langue, but at any moment it can also put these principles into question’. While this makes specific the locus in the text of a radical reading, for Eagleton this tension also inheres in the specific formal category of ‘Law’ as it operates in the play, where there is a



gap between its ‘general character’ and the ‘unique individual contexts’ that are ‘bridged by the law’s “application”’.131 Indeed, Eagleton goes on to suggest that ‘what is at stake in the courtroom, then, is less Shylock’s personal desire to carve up Antonio than the law of Venice itself: will it maintain its proper indifference to individuals, penalize one of its own wealthy adherents at the behest of an odious Jew?’ In order to avoid this problem, the law ‘must risk deconstructing itself, deploying exactly the kind of subjective paltering it exists to spurn’.132 This is, of course, a very different form of criticism from that which identifies the principles of ‘Law’ and ‘Equity’ that the trial scene has often been thought to represent. Indeed, Eagleton maintains that ‘one of the problems that the play faces … is how to distinguish this positive mutual involvement of language and the body from that tyranny of the letter which destroys the body’s substance’.133 Eagleton sees what he calls ‘the hermeneutical dilemma’ that the play poses as ‘a conflict between license and constraint’, where the text itself imposes a constraint and is, at the same time, ‘transgressive of it’. But he then asks, ‘how does one discriminate between a productive “going beyond” and a purely whimsical one?’134 For Eagleton, it is ‘Antonio himself who is the quantifying bourgeois’,135 thereby implying that Shylock comes out of the Elizabethan past and carries with him a plethora of anti-Semitic prejudices, rooted in religion, that the play activates.136 Shell, Cohen and Eagleton offer differently nuanced dialectical approaches to the play, but they are recast into a relatively new conceptual framework that is directed towards questions of the political interplay of language and dramatic forms, and that tease out the play’s contradictions. It is this pathway into a dialectical approach to the play that John Gillies articulates as a question of spatial difference in his book Shakespeare and the Geographies of Difference (1994), proposing a constitutive role for geographical space that simulates the operations of a post-Saussurean model of language dependent for the production of meaning upon the principle of difference.



Gillies’s statement that ‘Shylock’s usury coincides with his barbarism’137 is, in a way, anticipated by Stephen Greenblatt’s analysis of the figure of the Jew in his essay ‘Marlowe, Marx and Anti-Semitism’ (1990) that reads Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice through Marx’s essay ‘On the Jewish Question’.138 Elsewhere in this collection of essays, Greenblatt describes briefly the emergence of New Historicism as a mode of cultural criticism;139 but here he is concerned with the figure of the Jew as ‘a rhetorical device, a way of marshalling deep popular hatred and clarifying its object’, insisting that ‘The Jews themselves in their real historical situation are finally incidental to these works, Marx’s as well as Marlowe’s, except insofar as they excite the fear and loathing of a great mass of Christians.’140 It is worth mentioning in passing that Greenblatt’s observation has opened the door to the investigation of the extent to which Shakespeare’s Shylock is himself a ‘real’ Jew. For Greenblatt, Shakespeare’s rhetorical figure is to be distinguished from Marlowe’s and Marx’s representations. Marlowe’s Barabas ‘is brought into being by the Christian society around him’, whose ‘actions are always responses to the initiatives of others’.141 Indeed, what emerges in Greenblatt’s argument as a deep complicity between Jew and Christian in Marlowe’s play – to be distinguished from Marx’s Enlightenment account of ‘Judaism’ – is rendered questionable in Shakespeare’s play: ‘For if Shakespeare subtly suggests obscure links between Jew and Gentile, he compels the audience to transform its disturbing perception of sameness into a re-assuring perception of difference.’142 The difference is one of representation, and a number of modern productions of Shakespeare’s play have attempted to elide this difference, occasionally motivated by the disguised Portia’s question, ‘Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?’ (4.1.170). What Greenblatt has insisted was the ‘practice’ of New Historicism, rather than a full-blown theory, provided a stimulus for a general development of historicized readings of The Merchant of Venice, of which Cohen’s is a particularly



rigorous example, but none more subtle than Lorna Hutson’s account that concludes her book The Usurer’s Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in the Sixteenth Century (1994). Hutson’s emphasis is upon the process of textualization of social anxiety; she notes that The anti-Semitism lies in the success with which the play dissociates the qualities of prudent calculation, combined with the strategic problematisation of good faith, from the successful self-legitimation of Christian humanist rhetoric onto a figure who functions merely as agent of this rhetorical success: that is, the Jewish moneylender in Christian Europe.143 She identifies ‘a Christian humanist discourse of amicitia’ which is ‘the textualised friendship between men that forms the medium in which a successful plot is conceived and carried out’.144 Within this context, Shylock occupies ‘the tropical function of the housewife in the humanist discourse of good husbandry, who is defined by the stigma of thrifty anxiety even as Christian “husbandry” becomes, by her definition, an activity at once more fortunate and more magnanimous’.145 Hutson deploys the figure of Jessica, ‘a usurer’s daughter’ who elopes ‘secretly against her father’s will’, as ‘a victory for rhetoric which undermines no male friendship; there would’, she argues, ‘be no assurance in having her father’s friendship rather than his gold’.146 While Hutson has much of value to contribute to the play’s discourses of humanist economics, she appears, in the final analysis, to accept the play’s dominant aesthetics in its mobilising of the threat to harmony posed by Shylock. Her reading of the play teases out the anxieties generated by the shifts in the manner of economic transactions and the advent of the technologies of print, and concludes with a feeling of the incompleteness of her enquiry: ‘The wealth of the usurer’s daughter is not yet exhausted.’147 The emphasis that Hutson places on the female subject, and the issue of gender, serves as a corrective to the ostensibly more



masculinized discourse of New Historicism. However, her strategy is very different from that of early feminist accounts of The Merchant of Venice, where the emphasis is upon the textual representation of an empowered female subjectivity, even though it may occur within certain constraints. In her essay ‘As We Like It: How a Girl can be Smart and Still Popular’, Clara Claiborne Park praises Portia for the giving of herself to Bassanio as ‘brilliant Portia, confident Portia, who will soon be off to accomplish what no Venetian seems able to’.148 What this reveals about the fissures in masculine discourse remains partially implicit, and subsequent feminist approaches in this vein followed, some of which emphasized aspects of Portia’s ‘unruly’ behaviour, and, in the case of Karen Newman, exploring the trajectory of Portia’s ring in the play, its ‘figural as well as literal progress’, replete with its accumulation of ‘other meanings and associations’ that include ‘cuckoldry, female unruliness, female genitalia, woman’s changeable nature and so called animal temperament, her deceptiveness and potential subversion of the rules of possession and fidelity that ensure the male line’.149 However, W. H. Auden’s tantalizingly imprecise but careful observation, in his essay ‘Brothers and Others’, directs attention to Antonio as ‘a man whose emotional life, though his conduct may be chaste, is concentrated upon a member of his own sex’,150 and who by virtue of ‘his own nature’ is excluded from the play’s festive ending.151 Auden did not, as one might expect, tease this out, but Jonathan Goldberg, in a response to feminist readings of the alleged power of Portia, does. Some thirty years after Auden, and in response to Karen Newman’s emphasis upon ‘Portia’s success  … as woman on top’, Goldberg has this corrective comment to make of her analysis that: however much it denaturalises gender, also [it] is fuelled by the misogyny that shapes her as the dark lady, that her power as boy is directed against and serves to police Antonio and Bassanio and to separate them; that the boygirl figures a triumph for the patriarchy, that however much



it has been deformed by installing a woman in the father’s place it ensures that when s/he saves Antonio and defeats Shylock the two acts form a single gesture – unleashing energies that are racist and homophobic, that secure in his/ her transgressive body the acceptable limits of marriage and homosociality under regimes of alliance close to those of heterosexual privilege; at the end of the play, Portia is in the father’s place and the wife’s, but not the friend’s.152 Alan Sinfield’s radical re-reading of the play extends Goldberg’s observations considerably and, starting from W. H. Auden’s suggestions, develops a genuinely alternative perspective that foregrounds some of its faultlines.153 Reading from the perspective of ‘a gay man’, and in sympathy with a question posed by Kathleen McLuskie that ‘King Lear offers no point of entry to the ideas about women that a feminist criticism might want to develop’,154 Sinfield begins from the proposition that what he calls ‘the mercenary nature of Bassanio’s courtship’ that ‘troubles mainstream commentators who are looking for a “good” heterosexual relationship’ is, for Antonio, a ‘reassurance’ that ‘Bassanio will continue to value their love, and gives him a crucial role as banker of the enterprise’. Sinfield does not seek easy identifications in the play; indeed, he is clear that ‘whether Antonio’s love is what we call sexual is a question which … is hard to frame, let alone answer’.155 What he does do is to tease out from the text a range of tensions that the play’s dominant ideology fails to resolve satisfactorily, a serious challenge to those critics who seek ‘harmony’ in the text. Antonio’s ‘amatory sacrifice’, Sinfield suggests, ‘contributes to an air of homoerotic excess, especially in the idea of being bound and inviting physical violation’,156 and the issue is a kind of competition for the love of Bassanio. In this reading, Portia emerges as manipulative; also, with Antonio excluded ‘from the good life at the end of the Merchant, so the gay man is excluded from the play’s address’.157 Sinfield then proceeds to tease out what he calls



[a]n intricate network of enticements, obligations and interdictions – in terms of wealth, family, gender, patronage, and law – this culture sorts out who is in control of property and other human relations.158 However, he then observes that, unlike in modern society where ‘whether you are gay or not has become crucial’, in ‘early modern England same sex relations were not terribly important’;159 indeed, Shakespearean drama, as in early modern culture generally, was ‘obsessively concerned with dangers that derive from women’.160 Sinfield is careful to avoid the unsubstantiated claim that the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio ‘is informed by erotic passion’, but, on the other hand, he argues that this ‘does not mean that such passion was inconceivable, then’.161 What he does do is to identify certain tensions in early modern culture, that are ‘working across an ideological terrain, opening out unresolved faultlines inviting spectators to explore imaginatively the different possibilities’.162 He concludes by drawing attention to the possibility that Shakespeare was not ‘a sexual radical’, but that the early modern organisation of sex and gender boundaries was different from ours, and the ordinary currency of that culture is replete with erotic interactions that strike strange chords today. Shakespeare may speak with distinct force to gay men and lesbians, simply because he didn’t think he had to sort out sexuality in modern terms. For the same reasons, these plays may stimulate radical ideas about race, nation, gender and class.163 Sinfield’s account identifies tensions in the text of The Merchant of Venice by reading against the grain and by measuring the distance between an ‘historical’ Shakespeare and what the modern reader/spectator brings to the act of reading. If the play exposes issues of class and gender, then one further strand in the critical backstory of the play is the text’s



treatment of the figure of the Jew.164 James Shapiro has observed that some scholarship has ‘ignored the place of the Jew in the formation of early modern ideas about race and nation’.165 This appears to have acted as a stimulus to investigation of the extent to which Shakespeare’s representation of Shylock is that of a ‘real’ Jew. For example, Martin D. Yaffe begins his account of Shylock and the Jewish Question (1997) with the aim of challenging ‘the widespread presumption that Shakespeare is, in the last analysis, unfriendly to Jews’, while entertaining a ‘larger hope’ which is ‘to rescue the play as a helpful guide for the self-understanding of the modern Jew’.166 Yaffe proceeds to reprise the critical history of The Merchant of Venice and, in particular, comments on the 1753 Jew Bill that forms the centre of Shapiro’s analysis, that its ‘enlightened statesmanship’ managed to overcome ‘the derogatory images of Jews admittedly found in Shakespeare’s then popular play’. This leads him to return to Shakespeare’s play and to the question of ‘whether Shakespeare himself might have had enough statesmanlike insight to be able to anticipate and even encourage these same possibilities, however modestly, in his dramatic presentation of Shylock?’167 Yaffe’s agenda is interestingly tendentious in that he says he wishes ‘to preserve an openness to what [he takes] to be Shakespeare’s own openness to the theologicopolitical situation of the modern Jew, including his quest for tolerance’.168 This ‘quest for tolerance’ is determined in comparative terms by contrasting Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta with its Machiavellian commitment to ‘bare survival and political glory’ with Shakespeare’s own ‘superiority’ manifest in ‘his openness to … philosophical wisdom’.169 His gloss on the familiar thought that Antonio and Shylock share a deep similarity is augmented by the view that ‘Shakespeare by no means considers Shylock a model Jew’,170 believing that he ‘seems to take the Bible rather as a sourcebook for the creative businessman’. But then he adds another dimension to his argument with the claim that



[e]ven so, Shylock’s appeal to the Bible may also be either uninformed or hypocritical, for whereas outwardly he professes to have borne Antonio’s interference and invective patiently … he inveighs angrily against Antonio’s profitdamaging crusade.171 The extent to which the play as a whole focuses upon biblical allusion has long been an issue,172 and there is some difficulty in determining precisely how much Shakespeare actually knew about Judaism, or the extent to which he had personal experience of ‘real’ Jews in Elizabethan London. Furthermore, whether we can determine Shakespeare’s own ‘opinions’ from the play, as Yaffe seems to think we can, is questionable. However, he notes that Shylock ‘is no simple (or stereotypical) Jew’, and ‘nor is his Venice simply a Christian city’. Indeed, he continues perceptively: Both Shylock and Venice are altered by the city’s newly prominent, far-reaching commercial life. Modern commerce opens the city to strangers such as Shylock, and vice versa, it opens Jews such as Shylock to Venetian ways. Built into Shakespeare’s play, then, is the examination of what becomes of the old habits and expectations that have up till now made Venice Venice and Jews Jews.173 Unlike much of the criticism of the play that comments in passing on the distinctive style of Shylock’s language, his repetitions, his glosses on particular words that are open to more than one meaning, Yaffe is concerned to evaluate Shylock’s deeper relation with Judaism and the extent to which he upholds its values in the face of a Christian penchant for moralization. But more than that, he concludes that ‘the larger message of Shakespeare’s play is thus political moderation as grounded in, or bolstered by, religious repentance’.174 Even so, and this essentially liberal position is a questionable one, Yaffe castigates Shylock whose position, he claims, is ‘morally indefensible not because it is Jewish (for in Shakespeare’s eyes



it is not Jewish) but because it is inconsistent, both in its own terms and vis-à-vis Jewish law’.175 This sits uneasily with a later claim that for Shakespeare ‘biblical morality remains the chief and proper bond that links Jews as Jews to others in society’, and that ‘Shakespeare emerges as much the greater friend to Jews for his reminding Christians and Jews alike of their common moral bond’.176 Yaffe’s reading of the play conflates an historical and partisan argument with a liberal commitment to the principle of Shakespeare’s apparent even-handedness in dealing with controversial issues. Modern versions of parts of this thesis continue to appear, but the principle of ‘realism’ upon which it is based is questionable. The ‘uses’ to which The Merchant of Venice has been put suggests that it has the capacity to provide a mirror for the culture in which it appears. As critical tastes have shifted, as politics have developed, so theatre performances have sought to encapsulate what are taken to be the play’s major concerns. The issue of anti-Semitism remains deeply ingrained in Western culture and in world religions, and is rendered even more problematical by the links between religion and capitalism that have been forged across the last four centuries of Western history. In his tendentious coupling of Judaism with practical Christianity, Marx may have unintentionally insulted a vibrant philosophy, but what this has also done is to drive critical enquiry back to sorting out the ‘myths’ from the historical reality, which includes thinking of the epithet ‘Jew’ as a problematical signifier that cannot be reduced to a description of an ethnic ‘type’. It is this issue of ‘translatability’ that Jacques Derrida once addressed in a lecture, ‘What is a “relevant” translation?’, in which he argued that ‘everything in the play can be retranslated into the code of translation and as a problem of translation’.177 It is Derrida’s contention that the constitutive difference in the play is between a Christian ‘interiorizing, spiritualizing, idealizing what among Jews (it is often said, at least, that this is a very powerful stereotype) will remain physical, external, literal, devoted to a respect for the letter’, and the Pauline notion



of the ‘circumcision of the heart’ that is ‘ideal and interior’.178 Derrida then proceeds to translate the familiar terms ‘mercy’ and ‘justice’ in the play, and to deploy them in a dialectic in which what Portia calls ‘earthly power’ is elevated by the regal operation of ‘mercy’ to the status of divinity. This ‘power to pardon’ returns what is a ‘divine’ attribute to mankind in an ‘internalised’ form: ‘in human power, in royal power as human power [which] is what Portia calls divine’.179 But Shylock’s enforced conversion both guarantees ‘the survival of the body of the original’, while at the same time ‘losing the flesh during a process of conversion [change]’.180 In addition to offering us an insight into a central feature of the dramatic confrontation between Shylock and Antonio, Jew and Christian, Derrida also claims that the play’s dominant trajectory is precisely the movement from one meaning to another, that is precisely the process involved in the act of translation. A substantial number of the elements that form part of Derrida’s philosophically informed critical discourse reappear in much of the post-structuralist criticism of The Merchant of Venice. The discourse that reaches its apotheosis with Alexander Leggatt has, in Derrida, been supplanted by different models of reading that are attuned to the fissures in the text, to the manner in which its contradictions are resolved and to the ways in which its latent tensions are negotiated.

2 The Merchant of Venice in Performance Jay L. Halio

Over the years, The Merchant of Venice has been not only one of the most performed plays by Shakespeare, second only to Hamlet, it has also been one of his most controversial plays, certainly since the Second World War. The controversies have not always been of the same kind, however. Recent antiSemitism has revived discussion, but in earlier decades, the question of whether Shylock is a man more sinned against than sinning preoccupied directors and actors, most of whom had to decide whether the play is a comedy (and, if so, what kind), a tragedy or a history (as the title page of Q1 proclaims). Although Portia has the most lines in the play, more than Shylock (who appears in only five scenes), it is he upon whom many productions, mistakenly or not, focus. We have no reliable information to determine how Shakespeare meant the play to appear in his own time. Abounding in contradictions, the play does not lend itself to any simple interpretation. In the first place, what prompted Shakespeare to write the play? Did an earlier play by



Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta (1589), and/or the historical event of the trial and bloody execution of Dr Rodrigo Lopez (1594), accused of trying to assassinate Queen Elizabeth, spark Shakespeare’s interest? Though many argue that Shakespeare could not have known any practising Jews, who were expelled from England in 1290, a small number of Spanish and Portuguese Jews remained in London and Bristol, ostensibly accepting conversion to Christianity but still secretly maintaining their Judaism. Some scholars have even identified the ‘Dark Lady’ of the Sonnets as part of the Venetian Bassano family, Jewish Italian musicians who immigrated to England at Henry VIII’s invitation. The family surname may have suggested the name Bassanio in Merchant, but we cannot prove Shakespeare’s Dark Lady was Emily Bassano.1 In the first productions of Shakespeare’s play, what did Shylock look like, and how was he dressed? We have no direct evidence for his appearance, though stage tradition up to Edmund Kean’s early nineteenth-century performance colours Shylock’s hair and beard red. In the text, Shylock refers to his ‘Jewish gaberdine’ (1.3.108), whatever that meant.2 Whether he wore a fake hooked nose is unknown, though many modern performances tend to follow Kean, who wore a black wig, loose cloak and Venetian slippers to make Shylock appear more human,3 since before then actors portrayed him as a comic or vicious villain.

From 1596 to 1900 The first record of The Merchant of Venice before 1600 is the entry into the Stationers’ Register on 22 July 1598 by James Roberts. The play was printed two years later, with the following on the title page: ‘The most excellent / Historie of the Merchant / of Venice. / VVith the extreame crueltie of Shylock the Iew / towards the sayd Merchant, in cutting a iust pound / of his flesh: and the obtaining of Portia by the choyse of



three / chests. / As it hath beene diuers times acted by the Lord / Chamberlaine his Servants. / Written by William Shakespeare.’ The Shylock plot is placed before the one involving Portia – an emphasis, perhaps a hint, of what might have been Shylock’s prominence from the outset. Although we have no information on how or when these early productions were performed – most likely at The Theatre in Shoreditch or the Rose – we know that it was performed before King James and his court on Shrove Sunday, 10 February 1605, and again two days later. We may infer from this information that the play may have been popular, though it was not reprinted until 1619 among the Pavier quartos and again in the first Folio (1623). Lacking information on the original cast for Merchant, Toby Lelyveld says it is a matter of guesswork who played Shylock – Richard Burbage or Will Kempe. But since Kempe was a known comedian, it is more likely that he played Launcelot Gobbo. Boys, of course, played the roles of the women – Portia, Nerissa and Jessica.4 We know nothing of the casting of the other roles, but doubling of parts was usual in Shakespeare’s company and in others. For Merchant, one analyst asserts that twelve men and four boys were all that were needed.5 Since the rebuilding of the Globe in the 1990s, we have become more familiar with the kind of stage on which Shakespeare’s plays were enacted and the kind of acting that it accommodated. Modelled originally on the improvised stages that public houses and taverns provided for early Elizabethan acting companies, the basic features of the Globe were a thrust stage open to the weather and surrounded by spectators, with seats available in three or four covered galleries. Actually, the few who could afford it were seated on the stage, or above it in the ‘Lords’ Rooms’. Musicians also found places above the stage. All of this made for an intimate relationship between actors and audience, resulting often in actors’ direct address, especially in soliloquies. Clowns such as Kempe doubtless took advantage to address the audience with their comic turns, possibly occasioning Hamlet’s advice to the players in 3.1 not to speak more than is set down for them.6



With the new Globe, we are familiar with Shakespeare’s bare stage, raised about four feet, and the ‘heavens’ supported by two mighty pillars. Necessary props, such as the three caskets in Merchant, were supplied, but not much else. Scene changes, as from Venice to Belmont, required scarcely any props, since the dialogue was usually sufficient to let audiences know where the action took place. Entrances and exits were effected by two doors, one on each side of the back wall flanking a set of hangings over the recessed ‘discovery’ space. This space was a small area that could be sealed off with a curtain to hide a bed or provide for some kind of surprise.7 There were no intervals, and actors entered and exited swiftly by one of the rear doors, allowing for a smooth sequence of scenes. Following the performances at court in 1605, no record exists of any other productions of Merchant, especially during 1642–60, when all theatres were closed. Meanwhile, some plays were performed in provincial venues, such as great houses of the aristocracy, but it was not until the Restoration of 1660 that theatres were rebuilt and new acting companies formed. The rights to perform extant plays, like Shakespeare’s, were divided between Thomas Killigrew and William Davenant. The Merchant of Venice was assigned to Killigrew along with fifteen other Shakespeare plays, and the rest went to Davenant.8 But we know nothing of any performance of The Merchant of Venice by Killigrew’s company, or if the play was dropped from the repertoire in favour of those more suited to the ‘refined’ tastes of Restoration audiences. A number of Shakespeare’s plays, like Nahum Tate’s King Lear, were rewritten to suit those tastes. In 1701, Merchant experienced a similar fate, transformed by George Granville into The Jew of Venice. This version preserves some of Shakespeare’s lines (while adding others), omits characters, transposes scenes and introduces a whole new one – an elaborate banquet at the end of the heavily modified Act 2. Missing from Granville’s version are the Gobbos, Morocco and Arragon, the ‘Sallies’ and minor characters like Tubal and Stefano. The play was



thus heavily condensed partly to conform to neo-classical concepts of dramatic unity.9 The Jew of Venice was the only version of Merchant for the next forty years; apparently it was not a very popular play.10 Thomas Betterton played Bassanio and Anne Bracegirdle, Portia. The comedian Thomas Doggett played Shylock as a comic villain, originating – or possibly continuing – a tradition that lasted many years. Things began to change at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1741, when Charles Macklin restored much of Shakespeare’s original text. Macklin played Shylock, not as a comic villain, but as a terrifying one. He restored to the dramatis personae both Morocco and Arragon as well as Launcelot Gobbo and his father. The production was so successful that, unlike Granville’s version, it ran for twenty-seven performances in its first year alone and was staged in contemporary dress (except for Shylock) almost every year till the end of the century.11 Macklin’s popular Merchant was enlivened after the first performances by Arne’s song for Kitty Clive’s Portia; later, further ditties were incorporated for Lorenzo, Jessica and Nerissa. For the rest of the century, Macklin continued to revise Shakespeare’s play, but unlike his added diversions at the end of Act 3, he kept the trial scene almost intact along with all of Act 5.12 Although other notable actors assayed the role of Shylock in rival productions of Merchant, Macklin reigned supreme. Shortly after the turn of the century, things started to change, beginning with Edmund Kean’s Shylock in 1814. Kean abandoned the tradition of Shylock as some kind of fiend; instead he emphasized Shylock as ‘a man more sinned against than sinning’.13 He further abandoned tradition when he appeared with a black wig instead of a red wig and beard, though this innovation may have been partly accidental.14 In any case, Kean’s determination to reveal Shylock’s humanity and to evoke sympathy for him was hardly accidental. He differed significantly from the Shylocks of John Philip Kemble and especially George Frederick Cooke, two of the leading



actors of the day.15 In the decades to follow, William Charles Macready, Samuel Phelps and Robert Campbell Maywood all performed as Shylock, but only Edwin Forrest’s Shylock in America came close to Kean’s.16 Charles Kean, Edmund’s son, also played Shylock, but is better known for his staging. The nineteenth century had awakened to a greater sense of historical settings, and the younger Kean’s sets were the most remarkable. Nevertheless, despite a spectacular setting like Kean’s for his The Merchant of Venice, with real gondolas, canals and palaces, Henry Irving’s production of the play became outstanding rather for his representation of Shylock. Opening at the Lyceum Theatre in November 1879, his production ran for seven straight months (over 250 performances) and was revived almost yearly until Irving’s death.17 Playing opposite Ellen Terry as Portia, Irving based his conception of Shylock on his acquaintance with a Jew he met in Morocco. Hence, his Shylock became a Levantine Jew, dressed accordingly. Irving also represented him as ‘the only gentleman in the play and the most ill-used’.18 About 25 per cent of Shakespeare’s text was cut (presumably to allow for scene shifting), but Irving added one scene absent from Shakespeare’s script. The addition was clearly designed to arouse as much sympathy as possible for the ill-used Jew. When in Act 2 Shylock returns from the feast at Bassanio’s house after his daughter Jessica has eloped with Lorenzo, he walks through a darkened street and knocks twice on his door, but no one answers, as the curtain slowly descends.19

Twentieth-century Productions Up To the Second World War Successful as many earlier productions of The Merchant of Venice were, they nevertheless stimulated reactions by the end of the nineteenth century, as in William Poel’s attempt to



recreate the plays as performed in Shakespeare’s lifetime.20 Poel rejected the idea of Shylock as a tragic figure and revived Shylock as a comic villain with a sinister streak. He regarded Shylock’s Jewishness as secondary and emphasized instead his profession as a usurer and his insistence on legalism. When Poel cast himself as Shylock, he played him not as one who elicits compassion, but as one who elicits rejoicing that ‘avarice and cruelty met their due reward’ by the end of Act 4.21 A graceful Eleanor Calhoun as Portia and the rest of the cast prevented Poel’s Shylock from stealing the show; thus a proper balance was achieved, as Shakespeare probably intended.22 Poel’s many other ambitious stagings of Shakespeare’s plays, however, gained few followers. Audiences then, as now, demanded ‘a good show’, not an exercise in restoring antiquity, and many producers and directors were willing to oblige.23 The early twentieth-century productions of The Merchant of Venice – those by Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Richard Mansfield, Robert B. Mantell and Walter Hampden, for example – presented varying interpretations of Shylock and varying kinds of staging. David Belasco in 1922–3 set the play lavishly, but audiences were unimpressed. He took excessive liberties with Shakespeare’s text as with Shylock’s first scene, which opened with a cantor chanting Hebrew prayers with the assistance of a choir and a number of Jews in their prayer shawls on their way to a synagogue.24 His Shylock, played by David Warfield, was utterly insignificant and unattractive, mainly interested in money – a version that Patrick Stewart’s Shylock many years later at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) also portrayed. By contrast, in 1928, George Arliss was a ‘majestic’ Shylock, a well-tailored Oriental Jew that commanded respect. His Jewishness and other aspects of Hebrew tradition were severely underplayed in what was essentially a ‘cerebral’ The Merchant of Venice.25 By the 1930s, the Victorian tradition, epitomized by Irving’s productions and continued by others such as those by the itinerant Frank Benson, came to an end. Benson’s last performance as Shylock at the Shakespeare Memorial



Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1932 had ‘a symbolic as well as emotional significance’.26 The production, with the Old Bensonians – Lilian Braithwaite, Cedric Hardwicke, Robert Donat and Nigel Playfair – retained much of the traditional Victorian stage practices, unaware that profound changes were about to occur.27 The changes began when William Bridges-Adams took over as manager of the Memorial Theatre and brought in Russianborn Theodore Komisarjevsky to direct The Merchant of Venice, which opened on 25 July 1932. Komisarjevsky was determined to overturn the tradition of ‘pictorial realism’ coupled with details of history, sentimentalism, heavily cut or transformed texts and other ‘improvements’ that had characterized stage performances of Shakespeare’s plays for over half a century. To begin with, Komisarjevsky kept all but fourteen lines of Shakespeare’s text. He restored the roles of Arragon, Morocco, both Gobbos and much of the festive comedy that Irving had suppressed. Above all, he dispensed with the ‘tragic’ Shylock. Coming from the Soviet Union, he understandably emphasized ensemble acting, but more important was his conception of Shylock as the embodiment of bourgeois greed, not merely racial injustice. He insisted that ‘sets, costumes and acting alike should imaginatively express the emotional and rhythmic movement of the play’. And ‘for all its engagement with race and class … The Merchant remained fundamentally a fantastic comedy’ that was basically different from the ‘realism’ of nineteenth-century bourgeois comedy.28 Consequently, the sets of Komisarjevsky’s Merchant were indeed imaginative. Buildings veered off at odd angles; the Bridge of Sighs was split in two; the Cathedral of St Mark slid one way, the Rialto Bridge the other; and the lighting also underscored Venice as a dream world. The extravagant costumes that Komisarjevsky himself designed were commensurate with this fairy-tale version of Shakespeare’s play that opened with a masque of Pierrots led by Launcelot Gobbo as Harlequin played by Bruno Barnabe. Dressed in



brilliant colours, Antonio became ‘a depraved exquisite’ whose melancholy was the result of exaggerated self-love. Into this extravaganza, Randle Ayrton’s traditional Shylock was out of place, resisting Komisarjevsky’s attempt to reduce him to a comic villain.29 Most professional reviewers welcomed the staging of this Merchant as an antidote to tradition, but some were quite hostile.30 Fabia Drake’s Portia was not the traditionally romantic virgin but a lively young woman who seemed not entirely restrained by her father’s will. In fact, as Bassanio in the casket scene seemed about to choose the golden casket, she signalled to Nerissa to stress the syllables that rhymed with ‘lead’ in the song ‘Tell me where is fancy bred’ (3.2.63ff). She thus directed Bassanio to the right casket. Unabashedly in love, she was determined to have him, bright, vibrant young woman that she was. In the trial scene she appeared in wig and ‘owlish’ spectacles, which of course startled the more conservative critics but not those who welcomed the vivacity of the performance and recognized its change from the more stodgy productions formerly produced at the Memorial Theatre.31 Komisarjevsky’s Merchant in many ways signalled the end of the actor-manager tradition of staging Shakespeare’s plays. Many managers, like Irving and Benson, exercised complete control of staging, from establishing a revised text to playing the starring role. In The Merchant of Venice, this meant the role of Shylock, who dominated productions.32 Directors’ theatre and ensemble acting replaced the former role of actormanager, and the proscenium stage began to give way to acting in the round on a modified thrust stage. As a result, scenery became much more simplified, allowing audiences to enjoy a more intimate relation with actor and action.33 Although other productions during this period followed traditional conceptions, John Gielgud’s first Shakespearean production in London – The Merchant of Venice at the Old Vic (1932–4) – reflected much of the new modernization. The designer, Motley, mounted the production with a single set in unpainted hessian with fluted columns, curtains and



rope balcony. As Gielgud wrote in the programme notes, ‘The costumes are inspired by many periods, but actually of no known historical fashion.’34 The young Peggy Ashcroft played Portia as suggesting ‘an enchanted princess’.35 The entire pictorial and musical side of the production was frankly ‘decorative and unrealistic’, preserving the fantasy of the Portia story and contrasting with the character of Shylock. In other respects also, the year 1933 was ‘one of the great dividing lines of history. For no one was this more obviously and tragically the case than for the Jews of Europe.’36 Despite reports of the brutal persecution of Jews in Germany and soon Austria, productions of The Merchant of Venice in London and America apparently took little notice of what was happening abroad. John Gielgud’s 1938 production, which opened only a few weeks after the Anschluss occurred, and in which Gielgud himself played Shylock,37 was still ‘light and lyrical’, emphasizing the romantic aspects of the play. But there was little romanticism in Nazi productions in Germany. Anti-Semitism was not new there,38 but Hitler and his Nazis took it to extremes. The Merchant of Venice, frequently performed before the advent of National Socialism, became a ‘seminal tool’ of Nazi propaganda. The text was often adapted to emphasize at the end of Act 4 the destruction of Shylock, portrayed as a comic villain or lout, while the poetry and events of Act 5 showed the beauty and harmony that resulted or would result after his departure. The best-known production of Merchant after Max Reinhardt’s in 1905 (often revived up to 1930; see below),39 was performed in 1943 at the Burgtheater of Vienna. Directed by Lothar Müthel, with Werner Krauss as Shylock,40 it retained most of Shakespeare’s text, but ‘seemingly unobtrusive shifts in articulation and accentuation were probably sufficient to make an Elizabethan comedy sanction a totalitarian politics of deportation and murder’.41 Somewhat surprisingly, frequent productions of Merchant up to this time in Germany had diminished,42 possibly because ‘as a figuration of difference [Shylock] simultaneously unsettled and ratified the fantasies of



the Nazis’.43 Dr Rainer Schlösser (head of the theatre department of the Propaganda Ministry) argued in a memorandum to Goebbels that, since it was now assumed Jessica was not actually Shylock’s natural daughter but rather his foster child, there was no need any longer to prevent ‘skilful performances [of The Merchant of Venice], which would actually be able to support our fight against the Jews’.44

Productions after the Second World War After the Second World War, The Merchant of Venice continued its popularity on both sides of the Atlantic with almost as many performances as Hamlet. Shylock was performed by Robert Helpmann, Emlyn Williams, John Carradine, Luther Adler, Clarence Derwent and others, all choosing a variety of ways to emphasize one or another aspect of the character. Among the most notable were the Czech actor Frederick Valk in Tyrone Guthrie’s production in Stratford, Ontario, and Morris Carnovsky in Stratford, Connecticut. Both actors emphasized in different ways Shylock’s dignity, particularly in Act 4.45 Earlier, a new Shakespeare festival began in Ashland, Oregon, where the entire community participates to make the plays a success. Plays are performed in an open-air theatre with a stage resembling that of Shakespeare’s Globe. Costumes, sewn by townspeople, look Elizabethan, and plays proceed without intervals. The only concession to modernization is the use of electric lighting for night performances, and women – not boys – play women’s roles. One of the most successful productions, beginning in the 1930s, was The Merchant of Venice with Angus Bowmer, a founder of the festival, in the role of Shylock.46 Sporting red hair and a red beard, he presented the usurer much as he was probably played in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century as a comic villain. James Sandoe says in the programme notes to this Merchant



that ‘The question is not at all whether one sympathizes with the Jews, but whether one respects the intention of the comedy.’ Brought up to understand Shylock as a tragic figure, I was astonished to see Bowmer – in the first Merchant I had ever seen performed – play Shylock in a way diametrically opposed to Irving’s interpretation. I was even more astonished to see that this interpretation worked very well dramatically. But to return to mainstream productions. In the years following the Second World War, revelations of the Jewish Holocaust began to emerge. In 1947, over two million Jews lived in New York, which saw three different versions of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice staged, each designed for a particular audience.47 The first one starred the British actor-manager Donald Wolfit as Shylock, who had performed the role almost yearly in Manchester, England, during the 1940s. But despite the growing worldwide knowledge of the Holocaust, Wolfit’s production took little account of it, and for many other reasons most critics were unimpressed by Wolfit.48 Not so as regards Maurice Schwartz’s Shylock and His Daughter, adapted as a counter-text to Shakespeare’s play. Schwartz had toured several of the displaced persons camps in Europe, and he and his wife had adopted two surviving siblingchildren of the Holocaust, raising them as their own children. The Yiddish Art Theater opened Shylock and His Daughter on 30 September 1947, at the Public Theater in Lower Manhattan. It was a resounding success, playing for the entire season, and was kept in the company’s repertory until 1950.49 Striving for ‘Jewish grandeur’, Schwartz conceived Shylock as ‘a dignified banker, a highly respected Jew, and a loving, doting father’.50 But he becomes outraged at Jessica’s elopement with Lorenzo, assisted by Antonio, and thus insists on revenge, on collecting his pound of flesh from Antonio. Shylock’s powerful final speech as he gets ready to cut into Antonio’s breast attempts to justify his revenge by alluding directly not only to the Holocaust, but to the Inquisition and all the other ways in which the honour of Israel had been abused.51 At the end, however, he cannot go through with killing Antonio and says, ‘I cannot spill blood. I



am a Jew’. Immediately afterwards he learns that Jessica has drowned in her vain attempt to return to Judaism.52 The Merchant of Venice disappeared from the New York stage for the next six years, until it was revived in 1953 with Luther Adler as Shylock. It was the first domestic, Englishlanguage version in New York since the early 1930s, but was not a success, closing after sixteen performances.53 A few other productions followed; one of the most notable was the production directed by Sir Peter Hall’s company in 1989–90, with the movie star Dustin Hoffman as Shylock. It was Hoffman’s first and only Shakespearean role, and was adequate but hardly outstanding. His Shylock was neither a monster nor a tragic hero; he provided ‘a neutral characterization’ that aroused ‘no strong feelings, whether of compassion or pity or anger’.54 Or, as Louis Auchincloss remarked, Hoffman’s Shylock was rather ‘an attractive, successful merchant of early middle age’ who showed ‘wit, humor, and manliness in his dealing with the Christians whom he despises only because they despise him’.55 Geraldine James, on the other hand, was excellent as Portia and played the part not as an ingénue but as a strong, mature woman, the true centre of the play. This was as it should be, since she has the most lines – and the hero’s role in saving Antonio’s life – but most importantly she is a lover who maintains the play as a romantic comedy. Peter Hall’s production originated in London before transferring to New York. Twenty years earlier, in 1970, Jonathan Miller as director teamed up with Sir Laurence Olivier as Shylock in a quite original version of Merchant. Staged at the National Theatre (NT) in London, Miller set the play in the late nineteenth century where Olivier’s Shylock closely resembled the Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. A city banker, he dressed appropriately in swallowtail coat and striped trousers. He even affected a lisp to seem much like any other Englishman of stature at that time. This was in keeping with Miller’s agenda – to show the roots of modern anti-Semitism in economics, and in the competition for power in politics and capitalism.56 Olivier’s Shylock was



clearly an assimilationist Jew trying to join the ‘gentleman’s club’ that Antonio represented, as the dialogue at 1.3.133ff indicates. To make Shylock more sympathetic, Miller heavily cut the text, eliminating for example Shylock’s aside at 1.3.38–48 (‘I hate him for he is a Christian’, etc.). He also cut much of Launcelot Gobbo’s low comedy. Further, he made Jessica appear troubled later by her desertion of her father and her religion. What ignited Shylock’s lust for revenge against Antonio was his daughter’s abandonment, emphasized by the taunts he receives from Salerino and Salanio in 3.1, who also reveal Antonio’s losses at sea.57 If, for Shylock, Antonio represents the hostile Christian community that so clearly abused him, Shylock in Miller’s production does not represent a typical Jew. Unlike some other productions that people the trial scene with many of Shylock’s co-religionists, Miller follows Shakespeare’s stage direction and has Shylock enter alone. He is only saved by Portia from violating one of the most important of the Ten Commandments in killing Antonio. Like no truly observant Jew, he also chooses conversion rather than death.58 Nevertheless, Olivier’s offstage cry of pain later suggested the tragic aspect of the play. To this, Miller adds Jessica’s hesitation to join the others at the end of Act 5, and includes a voice over Kaddish, the Jewish memorial chant for the dead. Overall, Miller subverted the romantic values of the wooing scene, reshaped the drama of Shylock’s revenge to make it seem more human, and altered the usual harmonies of the closing scene to make it more discordant.59 A decade later, Miller again produced The Merchant of Venice, this time for the BBC, which was presenting all of Shakespeare’s plays for television. However, the BBC limited the settings of plays to a period closer to Shakespeare’s time. Miller’s Merchant now was much more traditional. Jack Gold directed, and Warren Mitchell, a Jewish actor, played Shylock. By then, Miller had radically altered his approach, this time making Shylock as morally culpable as the Christians, for in general he tried to be truer to what he believed were Shakespeare’s original intentions.60 But he still took some liberties. In casting



Mitchell as Shylock, he had him use an Eastern European, or Yiddish, accent, and surrounded him with tall Christians like Salerio and Solanio, whose taunts in 3.1 evoked much laughter. But the scene suddenly turned sombre after Shylock introduced his motive for revenge. Throughout, Miller and Gold showed how anti-Semitism pervaded Venetian (English?) culture. In so doing, they both preserved and subverted the stereotype of the villain Jew, resulting in ‘a tension between caricature and credible humanity’. For example, in the trial scene Shylock’s unswerving murderousness was balanced by the brutality of the Christians’ ‘mercy’.61

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Merchants Meanwhile, at Stratford-upon-Avon, the RSC – the premiere Shakespeare company in the world – mounted several productions of The Merchant of Venice that stand out after Komisarjevsky’s in 1932, many of which I personally witnessed. John Barton directed two quite different productions in 1978 and 1981. In the first, performed in the Quonset hut called ‘The Other Place’ and set in the nineteenth century, Patrick Stewart played Shylock as a rather shabby, miserly moneylender who contrasted with his smartly dressed co-religionist Tubal.62 Unlike traditional productions, this one was stripped down to its essentials – no Rialto Bridge, no gondolas, etc. ‘The real strength of the production lay’, according to Roger Warren, ‘in Mr Barton’s masterly exploitation of the intimacy of The Other Place to present the play in the round, and thereby to concentrate maximum attention to crucial events taking place dead centre, especially Bassanio’s choice, the trial, and the finale.’63 For Stewart, as for Barton, Shylock was a bad man and a bad Jew. His chief interest was money. Hence, he lightly accepted his forced conversion to Christianity with a slight



ingratiating giggle. The implication was that as long as he had at least half his fortune, he would be able to continue as a hardhearted usurer. Far from a loving father to Jessica, as other recent Shylocks have portrayed him, he appeared stern and parsimonious, and at one point (2.5.52) he startled audiences by giving Jessica a firm slap across the face. The viciousness of this gesture was apparently designed to justify Jessica’s comment ‘Our house is hell’ (2.3.2), or to elicit sympathy for her elopement with Lorenzo.64 Overall, Stewart’s Shylock was ‘a virtuoso performance encompassing all the variety of the part, now quietly colloquial, now impassioned. Genial in public … he was sober in private … [catching] all the changes [of character] in the Tubal scene’ (3.1.72–118).65 Barton was determined, however, that Shylock should not dominate the play; instead, he wanted to restore the proper balance between Shylock, Portia and Bassanio.66 To a large extent he was successful. As Stewart brought out the complexities of Shylock’s character – especially as an outsider more than a Jew – Marjorie Bland brought out the various aspects of Portia. She revealed Portia’s anxieties and ecstasies in the casket scene but refused ‘to soften her unsentimental hardness and sententiousness later on’.67 John Nettles as Bassanio was almost as striking as he grew into a more deserving suitor to Portia. Music and formality in the final scene engendered harmony, broken briefly by the matter of the rings, but restored by the strength of feeling in Portia and Bassanio.68 Shortly after the production in The Other Place, Barton directed The Merchant of Venice on the main stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. David Suchet, like Warren Mitchell, himself Jewish, played Shylock against Sinéad Cusack’s Portia. Surprisingly, despite the fact that Barton directed both productions, they differed considerably from each other, although Stewart and Suchet never saw each other’s performance. If, for Stewart, Shylock was an outsider who happens to be a Jew, for Suchet, Shylock’s Jewishness was very much to the point.69 Both of them agreed with Barton that the



play contains a good deal of anti-Semitism, as in the remarks of Antonio and Graziano, but the play itself is not anti-Semitic. If it were, they would not have performed it.70 Barton put two ‘crucial’ questions to each actor in these two productions: ‘What does Shylock look like?’ and ‘How does he talk?’ In keeping with his argument that the actor should not emphasize Shylock’s Jewishness, and in keeping with the late nineteenth-century setting for the production, Stewart rejected anything resembling the make-up and dress of traditional Shylocks. Moreover, Shylock’s miserliness suggested that his appearance was unimportant. As for his voice, since Shylock was living in an alien culture, to survive, let alone flourish, there, he needed to assimilate. Therefore, Stewart rejected an identifiable Jewish accent, adopting instead an (English) accent that was more refined and more native than the natives. Suchet chose everything in opposition to Stewart’s arguments. He gave Shylock a slight but indeterminate accent that was in keeping with his foreignness, and his dress reflected that of a prosperous and well-dressed businessman prone to smoking expensive cigars.71 Somewhat following the older tradition of humorous Shylocks, Suchet was ‘a loud, coarse joker who could still make the menace beneath the “merry bond” unmistakable’.72 As they rehearsed, Barton found these opposing views totally acceptable, given the ambiguities and contradictions in the text, which allow for a variety of approaches. Furthermore, both approaches worked in performance.73 Although Shylock appears in only five scenes, Suchet was eager to know what Stewart found that motivated Shylock. Again, Stewart maintained that, despite all inconsistencies, the one dominant motivation that lay behind Shylock’s words and actions was money.74 Each actor found one scene in particular crucial – the one mainly between Shylock and Jessica (2.5). For Stewart this scene was at the heart of the play – an opportunity to show ‘the true man. … A man deeply unhappy and embittered, a man from whose life love had been removed’ with dire consequences for his daughter. For Suchet it always remained



the most difficult scene in the play, during which he had to give Jessica reasons for eloping with Lorenzo. Hence, he tried to make her feel ‘smothered and claustrophobic’ because of Shylock’s possessiveness, but Suchet thought he had to ‘bend’ the lines to realize this aim.75 It was in the Belmont scenes of the 1981 production that Barton best developed his interpretation of the play.76 Fortunately, Sinéad Cusack, who played Portia, was able to reconcile ‘the girl at home in Belmont early in the play’ with ‘the one who plays a Daniel come to judgement in the Venetian court’.77 This Portia was devoted to the terms of her father’s will but torn by the restrictions they imposed. After Bassanio chooses the right casket, she feels freed from her shackles and appears in ‘simple, radiant happiness’, both witty and tender at the same time.78 Portia ‘has come of age and is ready now to move in a larger world’. In fact, both Portia and Bassanio grow ‘wiser and more mature in the course of the play, and particularly in the casket trial’.79 That explains why Cusack’s Portia in the courtroom scene enters not to save Antonio  – that is easy – but to save Shylock, to ‘redeem’ him. She proposes mercy and charity, but he insists on the law. Thus, when he proves relentless, ‘she offers him more justice than he desires’.80 Cusack’s ‘full emotional range, the simplicity, gaiety, and passion, and the ability to communicate these by speaking verse beautifully’ not only identifies her as an excellent Shakespearean actress, but among the best to assume the central role of Portia and, what is more, to establish the harmony in The Merchant of Venice.81 In 1984, John Caird directed The Merchant of Venice with sets by Ultz. Ian McDiarmid played Shylock and Frances Tomelty, Portia. Hepburn Graham and Martin Jacobs played the Prince of Morocco and the Prince of Arragon respectively, which in productions where they were retained provided much of the comedy, as in Jonathan Miller’s 1970 Merchant. The point of introducing these suitors in Act 2, besides allowing for comic interludes, is of course to prepare the way for Bassanio’s entrance as a much more acceptable suitor, one whom Portia



remembers fondly from his earlier visit accompanying the Marquis of Montferrat.82 McDiarmid studied the role of Shylock from every possible angle. He even went to Venice to see the Ghetto Nuovo and to Jerusalem where he toured Mea Shearim, the enclave of very orthodox Jews. Most of all he studied Shakespeare’s text. There, he saw that Shylock’s daughter and wealth represented his ‘internal life’, and when they were stolen by the Christians, ‘it was as if his identity and his heart had been removed at one stroke, his flesh torn away, his inside ripped out’.83 To assuage his agony lay a means of short-term relief: revenge. McDiarmid appeared like an Orthodox Jew, a Chassid, complete with side curls and beard, and wore a long black frock coat to suggest his ‘Jewish gaberdine’.84 Nevertheless, Caird’s production was disappointing and never transferred to London. McDiarmid’s performance and others’ in the cast were acceptable, but Ultz’s set design was a near disaster. The caskets, for example, were large Chinese jars each mounted on high platforms that were raised and lowered as needed. The caskets, however, wobbled threateningly (certainly for the audience in the front stalls) as they went up or down. In addition, swathes of red tapestry and carpet gave the impression we were about to watch The Merchant of Hong Kong: ‘a text-book demonstration of the fact that a set can be expensive, carefully pointed, and at the same time wholly inappropriate’.85 In 1987–8, Bill Alexander directed a much more successful RSC The Merchant of Venice, with Anthony Sher as Shylock. Instead of making Shylock appear as either comic villain or tragic, Alexander intensified the problematic nature of the text: ‘he goaded audiences with stereotypes only to probe the nature of their own prejudices; he confronted them with alienation in different disguises in order to reveal the motives for scapegoatism’.86 Shylock’s grotesquerie was the result of the Venetians’ need to blame someone else for their own alienation. Sher deliberately made Shylock offensive, ‘exotically unassimilated – a lip-smacking, liquid-eyed



Levantine bargain hunter’,87 costumed and made up accordingly against a dark, hostile background. Venice in Kit Surrey’s set design offered no sense of a Belmont as a world elsewhere. The stage setting of a landing dock, with poles for gondolas on each side, and a Bridge of Sighs spanning the entire proscenium suggested a lonely rather than an inviting Venice.88 Against the dark back wall was chalked a Star of David counterbalanced by an icon of a golden Madonna which, when illuminated and accompanied by appropriate stage properties, signified that the action was now no longer in Venice but in Belmont.89 Much was made of the carnival atmosphere, heightened by children in costumes who pursued Shylock in 3.1, crying ‘Jew, Jew, Jew’, and who occasionally threw stones at him. Nor did Alexander avoid the implications of the frustrated homosexual desire that Antonio feels for Bassanio. From the very opening lines of the play, this was the source of Antonio’s melancholy.90 In Belmont, Deborah Findlay’s Portia was lavishly dressed; the caskets were tidy little houses, and she greeted her suitors in bright light.91 The image of Belmont was marred nonetheless by the constant presence of the back wall with its two contrasting icons that prevented Portia’s home from appearing as a true place of peace, and not as Deborah Findlay imagined it should be.92 Findlay’s conception of Merchant as a whole, discovered while playing Portia, concedes that racism is an element in the play, but not the main one: ‘It is encompassed by the broader debate about mercy and justice, about commitment and loyalty, about the nature of choice and its consequences, and most broadly about how we should treat each other.’93 Seeing the play from these points of view, the role of Portia became clearer, she says, and that is why the play does not end with Act 4, since there is much more to resolve than the court case. Peter Holland maintains that he always believed that The Merchant of Venice is not anti-Semitic, and that David Thacker’s 1993 RSC production ‘was the most coherent and convincing demonstration that the play need not be’.94 The key was the way Thacker used Tubal to contrast with



Shylock, played by David Calder, and to reject his murderous pursuit of revenge against Antonio. The production was quite different in other ways as well. By the late twentieth century, the new computer technology had become widespread; hence, it became a major part of the modern set design, at least as regards Shylock’s place of business. His office was in a modern brokerage complete with walls of computer screens, which got a loud laugh when Launcelot Gobbo touched a wrong key and they all went blank. According to Christopher Luscombe, who played Launcelot, this Merchant ‘was clearly set in a world obsessed by money, where racism plausibly festered with a superficially polite, glamourous society’.95 Launcelot defies parody with his obscure references and archaic vocabulary; he nonetheless fits into the society he describes, transformed from the usual ‘domestic drudge’ to ‘office tea boy’ ill at ease with modern technology. Though many of his lines were cut – mostly by Luscombe himself – he retained much of Gobbo’s humour; but his part was more than simply comic relief. In 2.2, for example, his opening soliloquy was ‘a dramatization of the moral confusion at the heart of the play’.96 Arragon and Morocco also appeared in the play, though they had other dramatic functions. Calder’s approach to Shylock was quite clear and logical. He began ‘as a man desperate for assimilation – no skullcap for him – his voice cultured and anglicized except when he mocked the stereotyped jew [sic] his visitors expected’ in 1.3.97 Here he outdid Laurence Olivier’s Shylock; although set at a later time, the play de-emphasized religion to the extent that Shylock’s forced conversion at the end had less impact than usual on modern audiences. Only after the traumatic shock of Jessica’s elopement with Lorenzo did this Shylock assume any semblance of a religious Jew, but then mainly to demonstrate the abuse of religion and race, appearing now as the anti-Semite himself.98 As for the other characters, Clifford Rose captured ‘Antonio’s unhappy homosexuality with great dignity’, and Penny Downie’s Portia combined ‘intelligence with love-struck warmth’.99



The RSC continues to mount various productions of The Merchant of Venice in Stratford-upon-Avon with more or less success and more or fewer innovations, such as that directed by Gregory Doran in 1997. But one disastrous production requires notice to show how offbeat and unsuccessful some innovations can be. Rupert Goold’s Merchant in 2011 was set in Las Vegas, ‘complete with scantily-clad showgirls, an Elvis impersonator, and a real-estate developer Shylock’.100 Although some critics, like Kelly O’Connor, found that despite a few anomalies this setting worked well, I found it utterly tasteless and a complete travesty of Shakespeare’s play. To mention only one serious distortion, in this ‘raucous’ world, a too-obviously gay Antonio seemed more of an outsider than Patrick Stewart’s Shylock.101

Other Recent Productions in the UK London’s Royal NT, too, has had a number of The Merchant of Venice productions. In 1999, Trevor Nunn’s Merchant with another Jewish actor, Henry Goodman, as Shylock, was performed in the NT’s Cottesloe Theatre in traverse mode, which made for an intimate audience experience. Hildegard Bechtler’s design placed the Venetian scenes in the middle of the traverse in ‘a Cabaret world of thirties dance music, elegant café tables on a black and white chequered floor’, with noisy, well-dressed young Christians engaged in much champagne drinking.102 At one end of the traverse was Belmont, ‘opulent, fashionable (and slightly sexy)’;103 at the opposite end was Shylock’s house, complete with Leah’s framed picture, candles and Jessica shouted at in Yiddish by her father for her poor housekeeping chores. The play opened with David Bamber’s Antonio at the piano playing a melancholy tune. His comparatively drab suit contrasted strikingly with the elegance of Bassanio, performed by Alexander Hanson. Their conversation quickly revealed Antonio’s ‘forlorn sexual yearnings’ for Bassanio.104 When the



scene shifted to Belmont, Derbhle Crotty’s Portia emerged as a cool, well-dressed young woman quite capable of dealing with her unacceptable suitors. Her scenes with Bassanio were another story; when she appeared in the courtroom scene, she clearly had more than one battle to win. In his first scene (1.3), Shylock appeared wearing a straggly beard, yarmulke under his black hat, and a dark baggy suit. He showed warmth and humour but also shrewdness and wit. Underneath his apparently sincere attempts at friendliness, however, lay disguised grievances, as he offered his ‘merry’ bond to Antonio for 3,000 ducats. His essential loneliness became apparent in his scenes with Jessica, whom he clearly loved despite his otherwise rude attempts to discipline her. When they sang a Yiddish song together, the tenderness he felt for his daughter was manifest. In this, and other ways, Goodman convincingly demonstrated the Jew’s complexity. Ben Brantley noted that ‘for all his faults, this Shylock ha[d] vastly more moral and spiritual weight than the flighty, frivolous Christians and, with it, a rare capacity for feeling. Mr Goodman never lets you forget that a deep, deep pain fundamentally motivates his revenge; but, equally, he does not disguise the fact that even justifiable rage can make men ugly’.105 To emphasize that Shylock is by no means a typical Jew, Tubal walked out during the court scene when he realized how determined Shylock was in carrying out his act of vengeance. Brantley attributes much of the success of this production to Trevor Nunn’s care and balance in directing it, which was later filmed and shown on television. Not to be outdone by the RSC and NT, Sam Wanamaker’s reconstructed Globe on the Thames Bankside also mounted several productions of The Merchant of Venice. Although not all productions adhered to advertised Elizabethan/Jacobean practices, many attempted to present an authentic sixteenth- or seventeenth-century version of the play, as in the 1998 Merchant directed by Richard Olivier. Many performances were staged without intervals, and doubling was used, with Ralph Watson playing both Old Gobbo and Tubal. An all-male cast was not



always adopted, however; women played the parts of Portia, Nerissa and Jessica. But modern innovations were usually avoided since, for scholars as well as actors, this Globe was an experimental attempt to discover what Shakespearean acting and staging had been four centuries earlier. At first, audible – even loud – audience reactions were encouraged, but after the opening season they were found too disruptive and, while still permitted, they were no longer vigorously encouraged. Mark Rylance, the Globe’s first artistic director in 1998, oversaw the staging. A German actor, Norbert Kentrup, played Shylock to varying audience reactions.106 Perhaps the production was most notable for the acting (and shenanigans) of the clown, Marcello Magni, co-founder of Théâtre de Complicité, whom Rylance had invited to join the company. Magni sought to add a flavour of the Venetian carnival, interacting with the audience during intervals and using his ‘chaotic’ energy while playing Launcelot Gobbo. He also devised an extended pre-show of choral singers on the stage competing for audience attention with a band of commedia dell’arte performers in carnival masks singing and drumming among the ‘groundlings’ standing in the yard – all to set the tone of what was to follow.107 Indeed, the play was finally more about laughs and money making than anything else. The ‘quality of mercy’ (4.1.180– 220) speech was underplayed, and other serious themes were scarcely emphasized. Mark Rylance’s Bassanio was a ‘perfect romantic lead’, and Kathryn Pogson’s Portia was ‘a perfect blonde English rose’. Kentrup’s Shylock, by contrast, was a ‘gentle giant’ towering over the others, who accepted the court’s final judgement with resignation.108 All in all, a delightful rather than a moving The Merchant of Venice that elicited cheers for the lovers’ final success. The Globe continues to stage The Merchant of Venice in various ways, with greater success usually. In 2015, Jonathan Munby directed, with Jonathan Pryce as Shylock. The performance was ‘clear-headed’, treading ‘a fine line between solid and sparkling’ in a ‘Globish’ production that played up



at times to the groundlings in the yard.109 Rachel Pickup was a very ‘in-control Portia’ against Pryce’s beleaguered Shylock in an anti-Semitic society. But, to his credit, Munby knew how to balance comedy and tragedy, as his direction of Acts 4 and 5 showed. This production toured extensively in Britain, North America, Italy and China.

Worldwide Productions Since Shakespeare’s popularity has become universal, his plays are often staged elsewhere than in Britain and North America. Moreover, with the advent of motion pictures, many of Shakespeare’s plays have been filmed, going back to 1910, even before talkies were available, and after the Second World War they were also developed for television. What follows is a mere selection to show the breadth and variety of productions of The Merchant of Venice in the new media and in various venues, including some in non-Anglophone countries.110 To begin with, Germany, where Shakespeare has so long been a favourite that Germans have referred to him as ‘unser Shakespeare’ (‘our Shakespeare’).111 Between 1900 and 1914, an average of twenty-four plays were staged by 200 companies in 1,100–1,600 performances, and The Merchant of Venice was among the five plays most frequently favoured.112 Max Reinhardt’s Merchant in 1905, with Rudolf Schildkraut as Shylock, was clearly the most outstanding, often revived until the 1930s. His Venice ‘was set humming with a life of its own, full of colour and music, dance, masquerade and laughter … even Shylock humming a tune’ on his return from the dinner at Bassanio’s until he realizes Jessica is gone.113 The history of Merchant after the Nazi period (see above) reflects ‘both the guilt and shame – and the compensatory psychological mechanisms – that can also be found in Germany’s political treatment of her past’.114 The first post-war production occurred in 1946–7 in Frankfurt, but was forcibly



closed and the director fired. But in the 1950s and early 1960s, the play was revived and a noble Shylock, like Lessing’s Nathan the Wise, predominated. The most successful version was Ernst Deutsch’s, which combined Shylock’s nobility and control with his Old Testament sternness demanding revenge.115 Only much later could Jewish directors and actors break the hold of these one-sided Shylocks influenced by memories of the Holocaust. Fritz Kortner in 1968 presented the first post-war Shylock with definite racial traits and gestures as well as Yiddish intonations.116 Succeeding productions continued to explore the complexity of the character, most notably in Peter Zadek’s presentations in 1972, 1979 and 1988. By contrast, the stage history of The Merchant of Venice in France is much thinner. Although hack performances began in 1830, it was not until 1917 that a better production – a severely shortened version called Shylock by Alfred de Vigny – appeared. Unfortunately, Vigny’s French translation used traditional rhyming couplets instead of the more effective verse and prose of Shakespeare’s original. Although many anti-Semitic characters appeared in other French plays and novels, The Merchant of Venice was rarely performed until after the Second World War, when over a dozen major productions were staged.117 Perhaps the most notable Continental staging of The Merchant of Venice occurred in the Ghetto of Venice on 27 July 1916, partly to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The culmination of two years’ academic work, it was directed by Karin Coonrod, with a multinational cast of actors, members of the Italian/American Compagnia de’ Colombari. The company refused to sanitize the play, allowing tropes of Jew-hatred to ‘pulse like shock waves’ through the performance.118 Elena Pellone as Nerissa felt that the characters’ anti-Semitic taunts were bouncing off the Ghetto walls back at the actors. A remarkable innovation, five different Shylocks, one for each scene in which he appears, were included, dressed in the medieval clothes Jews were required to wear, such as a yellow badge or headgear. ‘We are all potential Shylocks’, Coonrod seemed to be saying, ‘and all



potential anti-Semites, too’.119 After its premiere in the Ghetto, the production toured Europe and America. The Merchant of Venice had numerous other performances in European countries, including Russia. Notably, Bulgaria staged several remarkable productions of Merchant such as Hrisan Tsankov’s in 1938 in which Shylock was rejected as a stock villain in favour of his representation as a persecuted, tragic human being. This development continued afterwards even during the Second World War, when Bulgaria became an ally of Nazi Germany but was extraordinary in refusing to allow its Jews to be deported, as Hitler demanded.120 Following the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism in Middle and Eastern European countries, performances of Shakespeare plays flourished. In Poland, Professor Jerzy Limon of the University of Gdańsk founded a two-week International Shakespeare Festival. Many of Shakespeare’s plays and those of his contemporaries were staged by companies invited from all over the world to perform in Gdańsk’s various theatres. The Propeller Theatre Company, whose parent company is the Windmill Theatre in Australia, performed The Merchant of Venice in 2009. The set design, comprising two tiers of jail cells, with some movable cells for different locales, such as Belmont, suggested that all the world’s a prison. Directed by Richard Hall, the cast (except the Duke and Launcelot Gobbo, who dressed as a sullen guard) wore prison clothes. Shylock, played by Richard Clothier, wore a knit cap, a prison version of a yarmulke. At the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it also played, he was the best thing in the production, with ‘a knowing and ironic smile’ projecting a sense of his own worth, though also aware of his vulnerability. Too many anomalies, however, and other problems having to do with the setting and an all-male cast discouraged a positive evaluation of the whole production.121 The Gdańsk festival also included a very different, heavily cut The Merchant of Venice performed by four actors of the Bremer Group from Bremen, Germany. In both this version and the Propeller’s, the religious element in the play was downplayed.122



The Merchant of Venice has been performed not infrequently and usually in Hebrew translation in what is now Israel, beginning in 1936.123 Many Israelis do not regard the play itself as anti-Semitic, despite the amount of anti-Semitism in it. Representations of Shylock have varied from a heroic figure to a villainous one, a fact reflecting Jewish ambivalence towards the character. An adaptation by Avraham Oz appeared in 2019, in which the main theme is money lust, and Tubal exposes the true nature of the Christians’ justice. Contemporary relevance is added to modern dress by showing at the start and end of the play Shylock, Tubal and Jessica as part of a caravan of refugees, wearily carrying their luggage. For several centuries, Shakespeare’s plays have been studied, translated and performed in India; and The Merchant of Venice has been the most popular of all performed in Indian languages.124 In February 1997, Ananda Lal directed the play in English in Calcutta’s Jadavpur University with an all-female cast. Sohini Sengupta Halder played Shylock despite some concern about a woman in the part, but she gave Shakespeare’s words ‘a vivid, profoundly sympathetic, original life’.125 Since in India the conflict between Jews and Christians made little sense, Lal changed it to Hindu versus Moslem. Sohini Sengupta Halder ‘maintained a fine balance between tragic and comic strands … until the end of the fourth act, when the strongest of emotions broke the dykes, and she appeared to run away with the play … tip[ping] the balance entirely in Shylock’s favor. The fifth act became almost dispensable after [her] final exit’.126 In India, as in many countries around the world, especially in the United States, Shakespeare festivals abound. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has grown considerably, functioning year round with two indoor theatres. The Merchant of Venice had not been staged since 1991, when it was directed by Libby Appel and aroused a storm of controversy, when Michael Donald Edwards directed a revival in 2002. It was set in the late nineteenth century, with Tony DeBruno as Shylock and Robin Goodrin Nordli as Portia. Edwards emphasized the



prevalent anti-Semitism in Venice by a number of gratuitous acts, such as the waiter refusing to serve Shylock as he sat at a sidewalk café. But rather than sentimentalize Shylock, Edwards made it clear that he was not a representative Jew, partly by inserting a silent Tubal in a number of scenes as a true example of the Jewish community. By the time of Jessica’s elopement, however, the play began to take on a darker aspect by including among the masquers, for example, a red-haired person dressed in a white sheet with dollar signs scribbled on it along with the word ‘Jew’. Antonio’s homoerotic interest in Bassanio was lightly indicated, though at the end he was left alone looking up at the stars as the couples happily enter Portia’s house.127 Not all festivals enjoy the resources of the Ashland, Oregon festival, however. A very fine, multi-ethnic production by the small Delaware Shakespeare Company toured the state in a variety of venues including prisons in 2018. As an example of colour-blind casting, an African-American actor played Bassanio with a white actress as Portia, who emerged as the strong centre of the play. Shylock, played by another African-American, Kirk Wendell Brown, followed the tradition of the Jew as a victim of prejudice, an outsider ‘driven to despair, to anguished rage, and finally, to a plot for vengeance’. For director David Stradley this was a story of ‘universal significance’.128 As indeed it is. As Lanier writes later in this volume, Shakespeare’s plays have attracted filmmakers since the very beginning of the industry. Several successful stage productions have been adapted for the screen, large or small, such as Jonathan Miller’s with Laurence Olivier. In 2004, a production of The Merchant of Venice directed by Michael Radford with Al Pacino as Shylock was adapted for the movies. In the busy first scenes of the film, Venice appears in 1596, complete with Rialto Bridge, canals and gondolas, and crowds of merchants. Venetian anti-Semitism is also vividly demonstrated, not only by Antonio (played by a very depressed Jeremy Irons), but in many ways by other Venetians. Pacino underplayed Shylock until 3.3 and during the court scene, where his demand for



‘justice’ – Antonio’s forfeiture – is insistently made. At the end, however, after his reluctant conversion, he appears shut out of the ghetto, alone and utterly crushed, restoring whatever sympathy he had aroused earlier as victim and outsider. Other cast members, such as Ralph Fiennes (Bassanio) and Lynn Collins (Portia) did creditable jobs, although the severely shortened text – as in most Shakespearean films to allow for camera shots – robbed them of various possibilities. For example, the final scene began and ended with only the quarrel about the lovers’ rings, and Launcelot Gobbo’s comic turns had little prominence.129 The film was succeeded in 2010 by a quite different stage version at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park and then at the Public Theatre and Broadway, directed by Daniel Sullivan with Al Pacino again as Shylock.130 As this survey indicates, The Merchant of Venice is a perennial favourite of actors, directors and audiences the world over. It was one of the first, if not the first, Shakespeare play performed by professional actors in what was yet to become the United States of America, when Lewis Hallam brought a company to Williamsburg, Virginia on 15 September 1752.131 For the last two centuries, its popularity has even rivalled Hamlet. To what can we attribute this great popularity? It is, of course, an intriguing play of enormous complexity, challenging both directors and actors, to say nothing of the amount of ink spilled by academics and other critics attempting to probe or resolve its ambiguities and contradictions. We must note also its outstanding language in verse and prose, especially its lyrical passages, such as Portia’s speech on mercy or, in the last act, Lorenzo’s lines to Jessica on the power of ‘sweet music’. While Shylock may dominate some productions, the roles not only of Portia – long a favourite among leading actresses – but also Bassanio, Graziano and Launcelot Gobbo have attracted many other actors. Surely the theme of anti-Semitism remains perennially controversial, itself among the most challenging aspects of the play for producers. But all remain scarcely daunted, as the play succeeds in production after production to attract growing audiences.

3 The Merchant of Venice: State of the Art Shaul Bassi

He hath an argosy bound to Tripoli, another to the Indies; I understand moreover upon the Rialto, he hath a third at Mexico, a fourth for England, and other ventures he hath squandered abroad. (MV, 1.3.16–20)

Like Antonio’s ships, twenty-first-century critical interventions into The Merchant of Venice navigate multiple transcontinental routes. Loaded with a rich cultural cargo, they are many, far-flung and not easy to chart. Early millennium critics are frequently sailing from port to port, less likely to remain harboured in specific theoretical havens than to trace the vast interdisciplinary network of recent Shakespeare studies. The cartography is bound to be partial and arbitrary, and only a few selected directions can be offered here. They should at least suffice to demonstrate that this comedy is one of the most ‘contemporary’ of Shakespeare’s plays: ‘Now, more than



ever’, writes Stephen Greenblatt, ‘The Merchant of Venice has a weird, uneasy relevance, a sense at once fascinating and disagreeable that it is playing with fire’.1 One possible contextual explanation lies in the epochmaking events that have been used to demarcate recent history from a Western perspective, starting with the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2001. Refuting the argument of the ‘end of history’ popularized after the fall of the Berlin wall, the real and symbolic violence embodied in that terrorist attack foregrounded the enduring entanglements between religion, geopolitics and capitalism. Some cultural turns that were provoked, accelerated or magnified by 9/11 and the ensuing conflicts unleashed in the Middle East pivoted on discourses and tropes that are uncannily connected to the world of Merchant. The almost instantaneous rumour that the Jews were evacuated from the towers before the attack updated an old tradition of grotesque and paranoid conspiracy theories about eerily powerful Jews as internal enemy aliens. When the new clarion call became the alleged ‘clash of civilizations’ between the West and Islam, an apparently more benign trope emerged pitting a Judaeo-Christian identity of the West against the violent, unassimilable Muslim other. This new public polarity conveniently glossed over the unpalatable fact that up until the Holocaust the Jews were more likely to be a persecuted (and considered unassimilable) minority of the Christian and secular West rather than a recognized part of it. These arguments have gained further popularity with the exacerbation of the Israel/Palestine question, the financial crisis of 2008 and the rise of populist forces in many continents. Today, the public debate in the main world democracies often centres on anti-migrant and anti-minority discourses, frequently fraught with anti-Semitic overtones (even in more progressive camps) or openly Fascist propaganda. The Merchant of Venice is a play that helps explore the persistence, pervasiveness and plasticity of what Zygmunt Bauman has defined as ‘allosemitism’, the tendency to represent the Jew invariably as an Other to address a variety of political and



social issues, even in the absence of real Jews.2 As John Drakakis remarks in this volume, The Merchant of Venice ‘has the capacity to provide a mirror for the culture in which it appears’. Since 2000, the growing topicality of Merchant has coincided with the publication of major new or updated critical editions of the play,3 valuable sourcebooks and companions4 and critical anthologies.5 Trying to map different critical approaches, one finds it less and less possible to separate, say, economic criticism from feminist or new historicist criticism: the best writing is likely to adopt an eclectic critical toolbox to address common thematic concerns rather than to express specific theoretical positions. Here I propose four itineraries, often overlapping and intersecting, which we define as Jewish question(s), economic tropes, forms of community and global reimaginings. This also involves passing over other possible directions, such as legal perspectives6 or comprehensive studies of Shakespeare’s Venice.7 These itineraries mark a departure from some assumptions that had dominated earlier criticism. A good guide is Lisa Freinkel’s critique of deeply ingrained dichotomies that structured twentieth-century Merchant criticism: first and foremost, the traditional justice/mercy, letter/spirit, Old/New Testament that had allegorized the Jewish/Christian conflict in the play, but also the more recent separation between religion and race, older form of Christian anti-Judaism from nineteenthcentury racial theories on the Jews.8 Her more complex genealogy shows how the racist fixation on the Jewish body had antecedents in the Christian theological preoccupation for the flesh: ‘Cast into (and as) the past, the flesh is that which may be discarded in the name of the spirit and yet nonetheless preserved in the present as figure’.9 Using Paul and Luther to explore the hermeneutics of and in the text, she shows how Merchant is a play about knowing, and how theology is indispensable to examine its epistemological underpinnings. If religion and politics had been mostly kept apart by materialist criticism, the new millennium has witnessed a religious (or more precisely Pauline) turn in Shakespeare studies, in the



intersectional consideration of gender and religion10 and in a renewed formulation of political theology, seen as more than the necessary contextual study of how early modern religious ideas and intra-Christian debates shape the plot of Merchant (with excellent examples such as Heschel’s 2006 study).11 As Graham Hammill and Julia Lupton explain, ‘What is at stake for political theology is not the truth of religion but the status of theology as operative fiction, whether conceived as an instrument of civil religion, a thesaurus of absolute metaphors, or the part played by myth, fantasy, and affect in the founding and sustaining of collectives.’12 Crucially, thanks to new studies that engage Carl Schmitt’s view of the political as reducible to the distinction between friend and enemy,13 political theology in Shakespeare is no longer associated exclusively with the representation of kings and monarchies in his tragedies and history plays, and becomes topical in examining religiously plural, republican communities (such as Venice) using all the generic resources of comedy.14 Two monographs stand out in the first decade of the twenty-first century as the most sustained engagements with the play: their similarities and differences illuminate the key critical issues and debates in Merchant criticism. In Shylock is Shakespeare, Kenneth Gross raises the question ‘Who is Shylock?’, and answers with temerity: ‘Shylock is Shakespeare and Shakespeare is Shylock’.15 Original and idiosyncratic both in content and style, Gross offers a daring thought experiment when he explains his equation by ventriloquizing Shakespeare himself: ‘Shylock is my singularity, what cannot be named or measured or converted.’16 Measure and conversion are hardly casual terms: they respectively reference the economic and religious domains of the play. While most critics have traditionally endeavoured to ‘measure’ and ‘convert’ the play and its intractable character into discrete categories and meanings in order to contain him, Gross sees The Merchant of Venice as a play exploring the dramaturgy and aesthetics of ‘repugnancy’,17 a word that means both ‘disgust’ and ‘something contradictory or inconsistent’. Accordingly, the



book does not follow a single critical trajectory: it engages with performance and critical history, literary adaptations and biblical hermeneutics, textual analysis and philosophical musing, pedagogical practices and artistic reimaginings, existing adaptations and even potential ones. ‘Shylock is a form of knowledge as well as a lie, not just shorthand for moneylender or Jew, but a name for a way of being, a certain relation to the past.’18 ‘Imagine’ is one of Gross’s most frequently used verbs, in a compelling invitation to explore the potentialities of a play in the company of Spinoza, Montaigne, Kafka and Proust. The critic also alerts us to the peculiar relationship between performance and audience, challenging the modern consensus on the ‘Shylock who is vulnerable and who makes us vulnerable, one whose call for justice touches us’.19 He admits he has never seen ‘an actor capable of bearing fully the bitter humor of the part, ready to show himself at once wounded and elated by Shylock’s rage, lifted up by his grotesque histrionics’.20 Recognizing the importance of Paul for Shakespeare, he rejects the tradition that makes Pauline allegory versus Jewish literalism the central interpretative fulcrum of the comedy, underscoring the importance of the patriarchal history in Genesis ‘as a counterweight to any strictly allegorical reading of the play’.21 Gross also situates Shylock in the history of Jewish modernity, highlighting the role of Marranism, ‘its heterodox, ironic, and often tragic relation to Jewish tradition, its haunting sense of the double life, of the burdens and pleasures of secrecy, as well as its openness to more conflicted currents of religious interpretation’.22 Suggesting that ‘Shylock’s refusal to evade his own repugnancy forces others to reveal themselves or hide themselves more deeply’,23 Gross connects these insights into individuality and interiority up to the larger theme of citizenship. He links Shylock – via Hannah Arendt – to the Greek figure of the idiotes, ‘the singular or peculiar person rather than the citizen’ who ‘is sensed as a permanent threat to the public sphere and so becomes the object of its resentment. … As idiotes, Shylock is a frightening kind of thing.’24



In Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice (2008), Janet Adelman focuses on the margins of the play to consider the central notion of religious conversion. Revisiting the canon of Elizabethan Jewish-themed plays, she argues that Merchant dramatizes less a religious or economic prejudice than a ‘proto-racialized’ thinking provoked by the phenomenon of Jewish converts from the Iberian peninsula: ‘The conversos were Jews who had become Catholics who had become Protestants who were – maybe – still Jews after all; their own history of conversion disquietingly echoed the vexed and imperfect recent history of conversion in England.’25 Like Freinkel, Adelman examines the nexus between flesh and spirit, concentrating, however, on ‘a covert anxiety that the superior fleshly lineage of the Jews may still have the power to trump the more remote claim of the younger “nations” to the inheritance of the Lord’.26 Where postcolonial criticism had introduced innovative readings of race in the play primarily in reference to blackness,27 Adelman locates biological issues more broadly, defining ‘blood relations’ as an ‘entire complex of anxieties and defenses’ dramatized and circulating in the play around three main topics: ‘the Jewish paternity of Christianity and therefore the legitimacy of Christianity’s claim to father Abraham and the promise; the universalizing mandate of conversion, with its necessity for incorporating the abject body of the Jew into Christianity; and the Pauline promise … that the uncircumcised Christian could, like the converso, be a Jew within’.28 These anxieties manifest themselves at moments of conversion, such as the meeting of Lancelot and Gobbo, a small comic scene shot through with rich theo-psychological implications.29 A son who meets his father while scheming to leave the house of his Jewish employer becomes an echo chamber of biblical allusions, which, crucially, do not lend themselves to a univocal interpretation. Lancelot is intertextually aligned both with the New Testament prodigal son who returns to Christianity and with the Old Testament Jacob, the younger brother who has displaced Esau as the legitimate heir to Isaac, worrying the question whether Christianity has deceitfully obtained the



blessing reserved for the older Judaic brother. With Shylock dominating recent Merchant criticism à la Gross, Adelman embodies a new tendency to foreground Jessica, whom she sees as the irreducibly alien other. Even after her conversion, the Christian characters remain deeply suspicious of her outsider status, continuing to designate her as ‘infidel’ (3.2.217) and ‘stranger’ (3.2.236). In response, Jessica ‘fantasizes a radical separation from her father’s blood and nation as the price of inclusion in the social club to which her husband belongs, and as the only way to cast off her status as a Jew’.30 Adelman’s view is challenged by M. Lindsay Kaplan, who depicts Jessica as the perfect convert, fully assimilated into a reconstituted Christian identity. Reading the character through Medieval theories of body and gender, she argues that, in light of a combination of the Aristotelian model of sexual reproduction and of Christian theology, ‘[w]hile male Jews may possess an immutable racial identity, their daughters’ status, as imperfect versions of their father and impressionable material for a Christian husband’s formative seed, makes them ideal vehicles for effecting a successful conversion of Jews’.31 In other words, the inferiority of women and their role as a vessel of the male seed make them more susceptible to a successful assimilation: ‘Jessica serves to solve the “problem” of converting racially Jewish men as represented by Shylock.’32 The stimulating debate between Adelman and Kaplan is a good example of the growing prominence of Jessica33 and of the application of critical race studies and their intersection with gender.34

Jewish Question(s) The debate could also be easily framed within the context of the several Jewish questions that have played a major role in recent criticism and that we offer as a first thematic itinerary. In 1996, James Shapiro’s seminal study Shakespeare and the Jews (republished in 2016 with a new preface) revitalized the theme



by investigating the presence of actual Jewish communities and individuals in Elizabethan England.35 A few years later (2003), Stephen Orgel cautioned against reading Shylock in realistic terms, starting from the fact that his name is quintessentially English.36 Emma Smith’s essay ‘Was Shylock Jewish?’ (2013) goes even further, with a provocative title that sets the tone for a thorough revision of widely accepted narratives about the play. She demonstrates how many of the supposed aspects of early modern Jewishness located in the play (and often reiterated ‘in the editorial apparatus of standard editions of the play’)37 are in fact ‘symptoms of Victorian “racial” science’.38 Focusing on Henry Irving’s milestone production, which turned Shylock from villain into sympathetic character, Smith shows how Victorian scholars responded by creating a critical consensus that Irving’s ‘philosemitic’ interpretation was a counterpoint to the Elizabethan anti-Judaism evidenced inside the theatres by a caricatural representation of stage Jews and outside theatres by the persecution and execution of Dr Roderigo Lopez, Queen Elizabeth’s physician of Portuguese Jewish descent. Smith concludes that Lopez’s Jewishness was far less consequential than his Iberian and Catholic associations, that ‘Jewish characters in drama before The Merchant of Venice are rare and sufficiently diverse to compromise any claim that they constitute an available stereotype’39 and calls the caricatural Shylock ‘an invented tradition’.40 Her even more controversial move is to connect ‘the play’s depiction of otherness not primarily with contemporary attitudes to and representations of Jewishness but with attitudes to European economic and religious migrants in Elizabethan London’.41 The main question of the age was the integration of Huguenot refugees from France and the Low Countries into the English social fabric and, in this context, Jews are to be rather considered as ‘significant and resonant rhetorical players in the discourse of early modern English xenophobia’.42 In short, Smith suggests that while our modern sensibility urges us to read anti-Jewish rhetoric as targeting Jews, we should rather consider it as an archive of tropes that can be used against other minorities,



especially immigrants. Her boldest suggestion is that even the ‘Jew’ in ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ speech (3.1.53ff) ‘might be an adjective rather than a noun – an attribute of a person which does not always or only denote religion or race – … common in early modern English’.43 The historian David Nirenberg offers an illuminating complementary reading in his groundbreaking history of antiJudaism. Also taking to task a ‘venerable school of criticism … that emphasizes the importance of excavating “real Jews” as the context of the Merchant’ (including Shapiro), he points out that ‘their insistence that Christian anxieties about Judaism depend on the existence of “real Jews” ignores the ability of Christian thought to generate Judaism “out of its own entrails”’.44 Shakespeare, in another use of Paul, insists that ‘the threat of “Judaizing” attends every Christian act of communication, interaction, and exchange’.45 ‘The play is a drama of chronic conversion whose every participant – including playwright and viewer – moves suspended like a compass needle trembling between Judaism and Christianity.’46 ‘It is the lingering fantasy of relief based on an irreducible difference from “the Jew” that … we can begin to call antiSemitism.’47 In an important qualification to Smith’s argument, Nirenberg reminds us that even when an anti-Jewish discourse is not primarily aimed at Jews, it cannot avoid involving them. Anti-Semitism is particularly venomous because it does not necessitate real Jews as targets, it functions as an expedient explanation and provides an arsenal of tropes in a variety of political or religious contexts (including many intra-Christian polemics); however, real Jews are never immune to any deployment of anti-Semitism, even when the actual objective is to hit other persecuted groups. In her important effort to historicize the ‘paroxysm’ of Jewishness, Smith produces a new variation on an older rhetorical strategy, that of making Jewishness and anti-Jewishness either real or allegorical, essential or accidental, while maybe one should conclude that these two aspects are always, with different gradations, mutually implicated and impossible to disentangle.



The oscillation between past and present in the treatment of anti-Semitism finds a powerful articulation in Stephen Greenblatt’s ‘The Limits of Hatred’ (2010). He begins with a powerful monologue on the internal enemy that leaves the readers wondering if they are reading about the early modern Jew or the twenty-first-century Muslim. But having subtly highlighted the structural analogies between old and new rhetorics of enmity and intolerance, Greenblatt also disarms the impulse to make of Shylock an unmarked, universal Other whose religious identity is accidental and interchangeable vis-à-vis a more essential relationship between insider and outsider: ‘Shylock’s villainy is … his own, but it is also deeply implicated in his Jewishness, a Jewishness that serves as a collective principle of negation.’48 Shakespeare shows that the hostility to the Jews is a structural component of Christian society (‘Shylock seems to embody the limitless, unreasonable, inexplicable hatred that for Christians marked the essential affiliation of the Jews with the father of all evil’)49 but he also allows for the recuperation of Jewish ethical agency. The courtroom scene that is supposed to highlight this satanic nature ends ‘with the startling disclosure that Shylock’s hatred has its limits’,50 limits that Greenblatt, in another ingenious move, compares to Iago’s boundless will to destruction and to modern-day suicide bombers who annihilate themselves in the act of destroying others. Altogether, Adelman, Greenblatt, Smith and Nirenberg, as well as Ackermann and Schülting,51 remind us of the importance of historicizing anti-Semitism, not only as an account of wrongs done to the Jews but as a complex allosemitic discourse deployed for a variety of purposes, often with fatal consequences for the Jews. Merchant is a unique record of this discourse and Jewish intellectuals and artists have hardly been passive observers or recipients of it in the public arena. Janet Adelman recalls how, as a young American scholar in the late 1960s, she was told by a senior scholar ‘that Jews shouldn’t be allowed to teach Renaissance literature because Renaissance literature



was Christian literature’.52 Turning on its head a bluntly antiStratfordian book that accuses Jewish scholars of having infiltrated and monopolized Shakespeare studies, she wonders whether Jewish scholars of her generation were attracted to Shakespeare because he represented ‘an access to the cultural center otherwise only marginally available to us’ or because ‘his works so richly reward the kind of textual study traditionally practiced on religious texts’, functioning as ‘a legitimized Torah for secularized Jews’.53 This new explicit approach can be usefully compared to David Hillman’s compelling case study of Sigmund Freud’s glossing over of Shylock in his writing on Merchant. Shylock probably represented extreme versions of topics and personality traits that preoccupied the founder of psychoanalysis, ‘too possessive a father, too unrestrained an anal-erotic character, too bloody-minded in his defiance of anti-Semitism …. Freud wanted reined-in versions that bring out the positive aspects of each of these’.54 At a deeper level, Shylock also represented a version of ‘the position of the internal alien’,55 epitomizing Freud’s notion of our divided interiority and subjectivity. The impressively broad historical and geographical range of Jewish responses to the play has been recently presented by Edna Nahshon and Michael Shapiro’s collection Wrestling with Shylock (2017). As Nahshon puts it, Shylock ‘has been a flashpoint that activates the sensitivities, fears, memories, and hopes encompassed in the Jewish experience as a minority group within a larger, primarily Christian society’.56 The basic polarity is described in Abigail Gillman’s comparison between Heinrich Graetz’s attack on Shakespeare for the anti-Semitism of Merchant in 1853 and Hermann Sinsheimer’s praise of him in 1937 for forging a sympathetic Jewish character: ‘Shylock served both writers largely as a screen upon which they could project their own experiences of degradation, as they struggled to understand why [in Sinsheimer’s definition]: “The Jews … are still looked upon as Shylocks, or rather, Shylock still stands for the Jews.”’57 The contrast illuminates the larger paradox of Merchant, used both to capitalize upon or foment hostility



against the Jews and also to create sympathy for the Jews and understand their culture and predicament. Nahshon’s analysis of the use of the Shylock trope in the American press and the literary responses by early Jewish–American writers is an excellent example of the uncanny ability of the play to operate well beyond the boundaries of the theatre. The Holocaust is predictably a watershed moment, changing forever the perception of Shylock, as especially demonstrated by the differences between Weimar and post-war Merchants in Germany. In general, particularly in the Yiddish and Englishspeaking worlds, a large number of Jewish playwrights, directors and actors have grappled with Shylock and Jessica, adapting and rewriting the play. Self-consciously writing from the perspective of a Jewish Canadian woman, Sara Coodin remarks that Shakespeare’s age was more hostile to Jews than our own, but also more familiar with Jewish textual and hermeneutical preoccupations. Her guiding question is ‘What new meanings might be made available if we considered Shylock and Jessica as Jewish characters in a way that sourced Jewishness not only through interpolated ethnic stereotypes, but via distinctively Jewish traditions and practices?’58 Coodin persuasively reframes the characters not as ethnographic objects but as ethical subjects: ‘I consider the moral agency of Shylock and his daughter Jessica by inquiring into the habits of mind evidenced by their words and actions in the play, some of which, I argue, reflect recognisably Jewish patterns.’59 In one of the most compelling sections, Coodin investigates the Biblical figures of Dina and Rachel as possible textual matrices for Jessica.

Economic Tropes A multidisciplinary examination of economic matters in the play offers a second possible critical route. Conjoining new historicism with gender studies, Natasha Korda addresses



this issue from the point of view of Portia, who, like Jessica, has been reassessed in new contexts. The lady of Belmont, traditionally portrayed as a passive female subject paralyzed in her golden cage by her dead father’s will until the trial scene, is here associated with the growing role of early modern women as moneylenders, conversant with new economic models and very specific protocols and modalities of credit. Portia’s eagerness to learn (3.2.160–2) ‘is linked not only to the New Law of the spirit and of equity, but to the new math of abstract ciphering, new techniques of accounting, and an ethic of Christian exactitude that would slowly come to define early modern England’s culture of credit’.60 The relationship between economic paradigms and changing notions of identity, subjectivity and personhood is also explored by Amanda Bailey, who contends that Merchant should be read ‘as a debt play, rather than as a usury play’.61 Shakespeare dramatizes new conceptions of ownership in a new economy marked by more credit and more debtors and explores the conditions that may make a creditor possess or not possess his debtor and almost turn him into a slave. Analysing the historical semantic shifts in key terms such as ‘forfeit’ and ‘interest’, Bailey concludes that the play ‘insistently stages its ongoing interest in the relation between person and property as a problem aggravated by debt’62 and culminating in forfeiture as the occasion in which theological, social and economic notions of owing and owning test ‘the emerging premises of possessive individualism’.63 Other compelling readings of the economic tropes interpret Merchant through the lens of modern philosophers. Focusing on the Nietzschean hypothesis that the origin of guilt (and its specific Pauline articulation) lies in the relation between a creditor and debtor, Simon Critchley and Tom McCarthy read the play as ‘one large economic system’ where the central drama stages the conflict between two rival conceptions of economy, an Antonian ‘natural economy’ (Aristotle’s oikonomia, limited by the actual needs of the household) and a Shylockean ‘art of money-making’ (Aristotle’s techne chremastike, aimed at the unlimited exchangeability of goods and multiplication of



money). Much as Shylock is the epitome of the chrematistic logic, he is also the one who violates it twice: the first time when he offers the bond in merry sport and not for interest, and the second time when he refuses lucrative monetary compensation in lieu of the pound of flesh: ‘he desires the pleasure of torturing Antonio’s body’.64 Shakespeare anticipates Nietzsche in recognizing that ‘the origin of moral concepts like guilt, conscience, and duty is soaked in blood and reared in cruelty … The materiality of the creditor–debtor relation becomes the spirituality of bad conscience’.65 A complementary argument is found in David Schalkwyk’s comparative analysis of tropes of usury in the sonnets and Merchant. His working dichotomy, also informed by Pauline theology, is that between the free gift of mercy, love and grace bestowed by God unconditionally and the logic of equivalence and exchange, ‘the debilitating calculation of a tit-for-tat’.66 Following Derrida’s reading of the gift as an element that exceeds any form of exchange and any expectation of gratitude, the critic wonders if Antonio and Bassanio’s friendship is ‘structured by the economy of giftgiving’.67 In the purely commercial relation between Bassanio and Shylock that his loan enables, Antonio hides the gift of his heart, which can operate as a gift precisely because it is not perceived by Bassanio as such. Unbeknownst to him, Bassanio will receive a second secret pledge of love in the form of Portia’s ring, whose aim is to annul the rival gift of Antonio’s heart. Eventually, Antonio will have to vouch his life again to guarantee that Bassanio will not give up his ring once more. The sad conclusion is that the gift remains ‘an incorrigible form of exchange and rivalry’,68 epitomizing a community where love does not create value as much as circulates it. The only character who paradoxically evades this logic is Shylock, whose ideal refusal to give away his dead wife’s ring for ‘a wilderness of monkeys’ (3.1.111) allows us to picture a world ‘in which human love is beyond measure or the calculus of exchange’.69 Richard Halpern views The Merchant of Venice as a comedy that ‘explores the moral and psychological implications of an



increasingly fugitive risk’.70 His reading is based on Ulrich Beck’s analysis of modern risk as one that is not assumed by the early modern merchant and entrepreneur on himself, but redistributed unevenly and displaced onto others.71 The financial crisis of 2008 was the culmination of this phenomenon, with the extreme financial risk of the few provoking catastrophic consequences for the many, especially the most vulnerable ones. Halpern suggests that the fundamental logic of this process is already exposed in Merchant, where ‘the bailout of a highly leveraged Bassanio by Antonio, and the bailout of an even more heavily leveraged Antonio by Portia, aided by the Venetian state as the agency of risk redistribution, ends up looking oddly prescient’. Portia’s actions encapsulate ‘a secular form of comic providence which, under closer inspection, manipulates, displaces, and redistributes risk for the benefit of a social coterie’.72

Forms of Community Our third proposed itinerary follows diverse studies whose common ambit is the configuration of community. In A Fury in the Words (2013), Harry Berger Jr. argues that ‘The Merchant of Venice is a comedy of embarrassment, and Othello is a tragedy of embarrassment’.73 Remarking that etymologically ‘[t]o embarrass is literally to embar: to put a barrier or to deny access’,74 he investigates the multiple ways in which characters in both plays ‘devote their energies to embarrassing each other’75 through the intralocutory action of language, ‘the level at which language suggests the motives, desires, and anxieties speakers hide from others, those they try to hide from themselves, and also those that hide from them’.76 Berger describes the society depicted in Merchant as one where the classic critical dichotomy between a (Judaic) system of justice and a (Christian) system of sacrifice is blurred insofar as ‘both legitimize the pursuit of avarice and revenge in ways that



embarrassed the agents of pursuit no less than their victims’.77 The mercy shown by Portia towards the defeated Shylock (but also to Antonio and Bassanio) is re-signified as ‘negative usury’, a moral debt that ‘the victims of donation’ can neither repay nor even forget.78 Berger also takes less beaten tracks, as when he follows the many reverberations of the myth of Jason and Medea, or when he dissects the relationship between Portia and Bassanio: ‘Part of what makes The Merchant of Venice a richly embarrassing play is that one of Shakespeare’s most accomplished heroines engages herself to one of his sleaziest protagonists.’79 Articulating the notion of Shylock and Shakespeare as Jewish readers in a distinct direction, Julia Reinhard Lupton points to ‘Shylock’s simultaneous habitation in a community apart, defined by its own hermeneutic patterns and forms of social communication’.80 In various contributions written since the early 2000s within the political theology framework, Lupton has been interested in reading Jewish and other minority characters in Shakespeare less as a vindication of specific marginalized cultures than as ways to explore early modern and later models of citizenship and community, with their rich politico-theological underpinnings.81 She frames Shakespeare’s Venice as a set of intersecting ‘circles of citizenship’ that dramatize and foreshadow the conditions of a cosmopolitan republic. ‘In creating a normative Jew living as a tolerated exception in a Christian state, Shakespeare draws on the historical resources of Pauline typology’82 – for Lupton, Venice is neither simply a Christian polity nor simply a commercial state (the political organization respectively theorized or implied by traditional religious and materialist critics), but a complex configuration where secular laws and norms that seem to guarantee equality are always shot through with economic, social and theological exceptions. Act 4 and the trial scene demonstrate that ‘Portia’s gambit has brought forward the legal boundary between citizen and noncitizen that defines every politeia – every constitutional regime of citizenship – and pushes it into the domain of the scandal, triggering a moment



of violence in the law that exceeds the law’,83 and Shylock, ‘with his mixed feelings and multiple memberships … emerges as the strongest forerunner of modern citizenship’.84 An alternative but complementary perspective is provided by Gilberto Sacerdoti, who focuses on Jessica’s strange allusion to Biblical characters when she reports Shylock’s furious reaction to her elopement. By naming Tubal and Cush her father’s ‘countrymen’ (3.2.284), she picks the sons of Shem’s two brothers, Japhet and Ham, the ancestors of the Gentiles and the Hamites: ‘in the Bible the sons of the three brothers are not only all cousins and grandsons of Noah, but, in the Semite Jessica’s words, all “countrymen” of one country which happens to be the world itself’.85 Calling this a ‘cosmopolitan dream, or lapsus, of the apostate daughter of a Jew’,86 Sacerdoti inscribes Shakespeare in an intellectual genealogy that, from Maimonides and Al-Farabi to Machiavelli, Bodin, Bruno and Spinoza, is already capable of separating theology from politics and of imagining a world where religious and political fault-lines are less important than a shared common humanity. Community, Arthur L. Little Jr. observes, is based on heteronormativity, a cultural fantasy manifested in comedy that weaves together marriage, (re)production, capitalism and homophobia and recast same-sex intimate friendship as a threat. He argues that Merchant is situated at a juncture where this heterofantasy is particularly powerful, associating usury and sodomy as unnatural acts and, through the illusion that procreation can defeat death (epitomized by Portia’s father’s will and posthumous control over his daughter’s lineage), barring mourning from the scene. Little reads Antonio’s opening speech, his famously unexplained sadness, as an instance of queer mourning, caused by the realization that ‘the institution of heterosexual marriage [is] working not only to displace but to replace same-sex communing’.87 The merchant’s reaction is to offer, as an alternative to the growing formality and public staging of heterosexual unions, a concrete ‘queer marriage’ where, unlike the infinitely disposable dowry made available by Portia, he literally offers his own body.



‘Antonio competes with this socially and religiously sanctioned speech act [marriage] when he effectively offers his flesh as a testament, not so much conjoining his flesh to Bassanio but giving it to and for him.’88 Drew Daniel cautions against any definitive explanations for Antonio’s sadness, suggesting that his melancholy ‘proves equally susceptible to … a proliferation of multiple, antithetical identifications, in which capitalist equals melancholic, homosexual equals melancholic, masochist equals melancholic, and so on’.89 Observing the waning of psychoanalysis in Merchant criticism but arguing for its continuing relevance, Daniel reads Antonio’s masochism not as an old-fashioned diagnosis of an individual character but as participating in a logic whereby ‘The extraction of the pound of flesh is not Antonio’s masochistic fantasy alone, but the political and ethical fantasy of subjection at the heart of the playtext that surrounds him’.90 Some recent interventions extend the boundary of community even further by situating Merchant in the theoretical horizon of the posthuman, especially in the direction of animal studies. Paul Yachnin sees a far less clear separation between human and animal in the early modern period: ‘Shakespeare’s conception of Shylock is essentially canine’91 and ‘what connects all people as equals is not their common humanity, as something categorically different from animality, but rather their shared rootedness in nature and their shared and disguised animality’.92 However, if Shylock’s ‘dog-words mark him as less than human’, they also have the power to elicit an emotional and critical force in performance capable of winning the audience ‘to reconsider the human/animal threshold in relation to the characters’93 and potentially leading to a general ‘reformation of kind’ enabled by Shakespeare’s public animals.94 Counting over forty mentions of animals, Keith Botelho advocates for their de-metaphorization, even arguing for the use of an actual animal such as Jessica’s monkey onstage, as a reminder of the economic reality of exchange, the weight of Shylock’s absence, and as an agent that ‘refuses to fall comfortably into a human/ animal continuum’.95



Global Reimaginings Our fourth and last itinerary can only synecdochically represent the striking global dissemination of Merchant criticism. Even limiting ourselves to English-language studies, we may learn about the role of the play in Greek political history;96 consider how passages that may sound bland and neutral today alarmed the Austrian imperial censorship in Hungary;97 see Shylock become a symbol of resistance for Romanian spectators in the nineteenth century98 or in Nazi-occupied Sweden;99 find transcultural appropriations in Mexico,100 Japan,101 and India;102 appreciate its symbolic relevance at the Second Vatican Council to establish new inter-faith relations,103 in the Ghetto of Venice in the year of its quincentennial,104 or in a US maximum security prison.105 Merchant speaks to other minorities and is read to explain Islamophobia in Europe,106 the US culture wars107 or the presence of Shylock in the African American imagination.108 Contemporary productions reflect on the new neoliberal framework in Postcommunist Czech Republic109 or on the new rise of anti-Semitism in France using a supermarket as setting.110 A special vantage point is that of Hebrew and Arabic productions in Palestine and Israel.111 Adaptations into different genres and media include opera, the visual arts,112 fiction,113 drama114 and film, with special emphasis on Michael Radford’s version115 and Don Selwyn’s Maori Merchant, which has invited various postcolonial critiques.116 All these case studies should not be seen as mere tesserae of a vast geographic and historical mosaic. They also articulate new meanings and readings of the play that mainstream criticism from the Anglosphere may not have thematized. An excellent example is Ackermann and Schülting’s survey of the reception of Merchant in twentieth- and- twenty-first-century Germany, the most painful historical context for the play. Conceptualizing Shylock less as a psychologically coherent character than as a ‘palimpsestic textual construct’ whose complexity can be best grasped (via Erich Auerbach) through



the concept of figuration, they point to ‘Shylock’s ultimate dysfunctionality as both a figure of identification and a figure of remembrance’.117 Every production or interpretation is then not seen as simply representative of a certain Zeitgeist but as accumulating different but connected temporal layers that are uneasily juxtaposed; figuration explores the tension between role and the corporeality of the actors, the relational aspect of the character vis-à-vis the other parts, and the entanglements of Christian and Judaic cultures even in more secularized societies. When the Globe Theatre took their own Merchant on a very successful world tour in 2016, the director Jonathan Munby confessed (in a private communication) that his most disturbing experience was in China, where the audience laughed uproariously at Shylock. Outside of a Christian matrix and in a place not haunted by the memory of the Holocaust, the spectators reacted to a different play than the one the company thought they had brought with them. This eccentric episode points to a preliminary conclusion: the wealth of the Shakespeare industry is such that it is almost impossible to keep up with all the essays written on a topical play such as Merchant, but we probably need to look both at the centre and at the margins. Only in this way can we make proper sense of the paradox of a play that continues to travel in time and space, functioning simultaneously as a historical document of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, and functioning as a gateway to the complexities of Jewish culture and to ever changing notions of cultural pluralism, community and (post)humanity.

4 New Directions: ‘Affections Dark as Erebus’ – Religion, Gender and the Passions in The Merchant of Venice Sabine Schülting

Therefore the poet Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods, Since naught so stockish, hard and full of rage But music for the time doth change his nature. The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. (MV, 5.1.79–88)

Lorenzo’s speech on music in the last act of The Merchant of Venice has been discussed as a reference to the concept of musica universalis, the ‘music of the spheres’ and ‘the



commonplace analogy between the harmony of music and inner personal harmony’, as John Drakakis explains in his notes to the passage.1 Lorenzo evokes this ideal in response to Jessica’s sombre remark, provoked by the arrival of the musicians at Belmont, that she is never ‘merry when [she] hear[s] sweet music’ (5.1.69). But his lines explore less ‘the harmony of music’ than ‘inner personal harmony’. Virtue and sociability, Lorenzo suggests, are indicated by an individual’s sensitivity, their openness to being affected by music. Lorenzo’s story comes from the tenth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses where Orpheus’s song imploring the rulers of the Underworld to return his wife Eurydice from the dead moves all living things and even inanimate nature. A human being who remains unmoved by such sweet music, Lorenzo argues, does not seem to fully belong to this world. They cannot be trusted, Lorenzo insists, and their dark feelings link them to Erebus, the place of darkness between earth and Hades, and also the name of the primordial deity born from Chaos. Not to be affected by the beauty of music means not to be fully human. Lorenzo’s remark offers an important conclusion to the play’s strong concern with emotions, including love and hate, joy and melancholy, pity and Schadenfreude. Rather than merely differentiating between good and bad or beneficial and harmful emotions, he insists on the relevance of emotional susceptibility and its social implications. If responsiveness to stimuli marks Lorenzo’s characterological ideal, he also warns against those people whose minds are not attentive to, and who remain unmoved by, ‘sweet music’. As I will argue, Lorenzo’s speech summarizes the ideology of the play in which the ability to feel and to be affected is key to social stability, based on strategies of inclusion and exclusion along the lines of racial, gender and religious differences. His dialogue with Jessica sets the scene for the happy reunion of the lovers and, by implication, another commonplace analogy – namely that between personal and social harmony. This chapter is inspired by the recent interest in the theory and history of emotions, an interdisciplinary field



of scholarship that has gained prominence in the last two decades. In Shakespeare and early modern studies, scholars have highlighted the relevance of the emotions for a full understanding of early modern culture, philosophy and literature.2 Deviating from – or explicitly rejecting – the Linguistic Turn, theorists and historians of emotions have argued that the exclusive focus on text and discourse offers at best a partial understanding of culture since it ignores the embodied nature of human life and interaction. Emotions have to be reassessed as ‘an inseparable part of the social process’, as historian Barbara Rosenwein claims.3 In this view, emotions not merely complement, complicate or disturb cognition; instead, they are fundamental to how humans respond to other bodies, be they human, animal, organic or non-organic. Many approaches to theorizing emotions are not merely, or not even primarily, concerned with social emotions such as love, hate or happiness but, much more generally, with spontaneous bodily reactions. This is particularly true of the foundational work of Brian Massumi, who differentiates between ‘affect’ and ‘emotion’ and concentrates on the former as a pre-personal concept, a stimulus or an ‘intensity’,4 which is registered only somatically and precedes cognition, if only by a split second. An emotion, in contrast, has a semantic content and a conventionalized form.5 Massumi’s work is indebted to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, who follow Baruch Spinoza’s understanding of affect as ‘the ability to affect and be affected’.6 While the insistence on the bodily aspects of affects has made an important contribution to the study of emotions, Massumi has also been criticized for his almost complete elimination of the discursive and for ‘sever[ing] any link between affect and meaning-making’.7 Indeed, his approach inadvertently reiterates the mind/body dualism it seeks to leave behind, even if it reverses the traditional hierarchy.8 Scholars like Margaret Wetherell, Ruth Leys and Sara Ahmed all stress that the boundary line between a bodily sensation on the one hand and its recognition, interpretation or linguistic representation on the other is less clear-cut than Massumi would have it. Ahmed



notes that emotions cannot be separated from sensations (and vice versa) because the ‘analytic distinction between sensation or affect and emotion risks cutting emotions off from the lived experience of being and having a body’.9 ‘Emotions are boundary phenomena’, Steven Mullaney concurs,10 in-between somatic and cognitive responses, nature and culture. Even if they are fundamental to human existence, they are also always constructed, revised and shaped by culture. In my analysis of The Merchant of Venice, I will use the terms ‘affect’ and ‘emotion’ neither as synonyms nor as (binary) opposites. Instead, ‘emotion’ will be my general term for various forms of affective responses,11 whereas ‘affect’ will indicate primarily somatic sensations. Both nouns already existed in the early modern age, but with different meanings. ‘Affect’ referred to an inner disposition, a feeling towards someone or something, a desire, or an abnormal state of the body.12 The first record for ‘affect’ as ‘an unreflective response’ is Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals (1799), but it was only in the late nineteenth century that its contemporary signification of ‘a feeling or subjective experience … occurring in response to a stimulus’ emerged.13 ‘Emotion’, in turn, originally meant civil unrest; a public commotion or uprising; movement, disturbance, perturbation, or migration. The understanding of emotion as an ‘agitation of the mind’ only first emerged in the early seventeenth century,14 but it took another two centuries before this meaning was widely used.15 In the early modern age, the most common term for what we would call an ‘emotion’ was ‘passion’, connoting a response caused by external stimuli.16 This concept was of central importance in humoral medicine, which assumed a dynamic and reciprocal interconnection between the human mind, the body and the world.17 The passions in this model were not dispositions generated in the individual’s psyche or soul. Instead, they were understood to be the effects of humoral fluctuations in the body, which were in turn influenced by the outside world. Humoralism was, however, merely one among many more conceptual frameworks for thinking about the emotions in



the early modern age. More recently, scholars have argued that the importance of humoral medicine may indeed have been overestimated in earlier studies, at the expense of other discourses.18 In addition, philosophy, religion, politics and rhetoric also contributed to an exploration of the workings of the passions, their causes, their positive and negative effects, as well as the ways in which they could and should be channelled and controlled. The topic also featured strongly in the heated controversies on the theatre. Whereas anti-theatricalists warned against the inordinate stirring of the passions and the ‘affective contagion’ by stage performances,19 writers like Thomas Heywood highlighted the potentially didactic function of theatrical affects: the representation of crimes would terrify the spectators, who – ‘finding themselues toucht’ by what they have seen – would abstain from the very misdeeds and vices represented on stage.20 But disregarding of whether the pamphleteers emphasized theatre’s didactic functions or warned against the dangerous contagion it instigated, they all agreed on the strong affective potential of the stage. They also all shared the same ideal of an emotional equilibrium brought about by the endorsement of positive or sociable, and the control of negative or destructive, passions.21 Read against the backdrop of these debates about the passions, The Merchant of Venice appears as a play that attributes central importance to the negotiation of the emotions. The various social and economic connotations of the verb ‘to negotiate’22 are important for my argument because emotions do indeed circulate in the play; they establish social connections and intersect with economic relations and transactions. The characters cash in on the emotions and convert them into money and possession. Emotions can trigger or prevent communication, interaction and relationships. It therefore seems less productive to study emotions only with regard to individual characters and their psychological dispositions. Instead, my discussion will rather be concerned with the ways in which the play – through the negotiation of emotions – establishes dynamic and shifting social constellations. This will include the question as to how



the characters affect each other and are affected, but also how emotions are activated to cross the boundary between the stage and the theatre and reach into the audience. With Sianne Ngai, I understand emotions to be ‘unusually knotted or condensed “interpretations of predicaments” – that is, signs that not only render visible different registers of problem (formal, ideological, sociohistorical) but conjoin these problems in a distinctive manner’.23 I argue that the emotions in Merchant can be read as such a ‘knotted’ interpretation of, or response to, a particular historical moment at the end of the sixteenth century, when the expansion of international trade and the subsequent encounter with other cultures and creeds provoked the urge to reconfirm and/or redefine the conditions of social cohesion. Merchant constructs ‘emotional communities’, that is, ‘groups in which people adhere to the same norms of emotional expression and value – or devalue – the same or related emotions’.24 In these communities, which are organized along the lines of religious and ethnic differences, the ability to feel and to be affected by others is key to being included or excluded. Such a negotiation of emotions is not confined to the fictional world on the stage but invites the audience to participate in the affective communities that are performatively enacted on stage. In this respect, the early modern stage can indeed be understood as an ‘affective technology’, as Steven Mullaney25 has suggested, which through prompting and catalysing the emotional reactions of the audience contributed to an imaginary community of bodies that can be loved.

Emotional Susceptibility and Affective Communities ‘In sooth I know not why I am so sad. / It wearies me’ (1.1.1–2) – the first lines of Merchant embed the play deeply in early modern debates about the passions. Antonio’s sadness is echoed, almost verbatim, at the beginning of the second scene,



by Portia’s sigh: ‘By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of this great world’ (1.2.1–2). It has repeatedly been argued that their sadness functions as a structural hinge, interconnecting the two settings as well as the plot around the pound of flesh and the love plot. Sadness establishes parallels and, simultaneously, gendered differences between the two characters.26 Both Antonio and Portia toy with the idea of withdrawing from the community of others and/or the world, but whereas Portia suffers from her role as a daughter whose future is determined ‘by the will of a dead father’ (1.2.24), the root of Antonio’s sadness is more difficult to fathom and comes close to how Robert Burton, two and a half decades later, would describe melancholia in his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621): ‘a kinde of dotage without any feaver, hauing for its ordinary companions feare, and sadnesse, without any apparent occasion’.27 Both Antonio and Portia are reproached for their dispositions: Gratiano remarks that Antonio appears to assume the role of the stereotypical melancholic who remains silent in order to appear wise and profound when, in effect, he is nothing but a fool. ‘Fish not with this melancholy bait’ (1.1.101), Gratiano admonishes him. Nerissa reminds Portia that, given the ‘abundance’ of her ‘good fortunes’ (1.2.4), she has no reason to be unhappy. Only a few lines later, Portia has already been cured of her sadness and echoes Gratiano’s critique of the melancholic poser. Asked by Nerissa how she likes the County Palatine, one of her unhappy suitors, she describes him as a stereotypical melancholic: He doth nothing but frown, as who should say, ‘An you will not have me, choose.’ He hears merry tales and smiles not; I fear he will prove the weeping philosopher when he grows old, being so full of unmannerly sadness in his youth. (1.2.44–8) Portia compares him to the proverbial ‘weeping philosopher’ Heraclitus, who – according to the account of his classical biographer Diogenes Laertius – was not merely a melancholic



but also a misanthrope: ‘Finally, he became a hater of his kind and wandered on the mountains, and there he continued to live, making his diet of grass and herbs.’28 Compared to this melancholy philosopher, Portia’s suitor is in fact ridiculous; he is anything but a philosopher and his emotional disposition – or pose – is both conceited and anti-social. Whereas the County Palatine thus appears as a pathetic imitation of Heraclitus, Antonio’s sadness comes closer to true philosophical or religious melancholia. He professes, ‘I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, / A stage, where every man must play a part, / And mine a sad one’ (1.1.77–9). Antonio’s sadness, it seems, results from a deep insight into the dreariness of human existence. Rather than psychoanalysing the characters in a futile endeavour to identify the causes of their sadness, I want to highlight the dramatic function of melancholy in the play. In other words, I will not pursue the reading, first suggested by W. H. Auden, that Antonio’s melancholia is brought about by his unfulfilled homoerotic desire for Bassanio.29 The reference to melancholy, I want to propose, first and foremost establishes parallels and differences between the characters: Antonio, Portia, Jessica and the County Palatine. It would also have triggered the interest of an early modern audience because, by the end of the sixteenth century, melancholy had become such a widespread disposition that it was considered by Burton to be an ‘Epidemicall disease’.30 Whereas the remark on the shallow County Palatine invites laughter, Antonio’s sadness does indeed work as a ‘melancholy bait’31 for the (early modern) audience who, fascinated with the fashionable disease and its symbolic capital, is invited to participate in a collective examination of the melancholic. The County Palatine is quickly forgotten and dismissed from the play, in which he has never been allowed to enter. But Antonio is also not fully included in the happy ending of the comedy. Although he is present when the lovers are reunited in Belmont, he remains in the background. On being informed that his ships are safe, he expresses his gratitude to Portia, ‘Sweet lady, you have given me life and living’ (5.1.286). But in



the dramatic text, nobody responds to or even acknowledges his lines, and he remains the odd one out among the three couples. His position on the margins underscores the happiness of the others.32 Fashionable as it may have been in the early modern age, melancholy is anti-social and thus turns out to be eventually incompatible with the emotional community of The Merchant of Venice. But if – as is suggested in the Induction to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew – the ‘mirth and merriment’ (Induction 2.131)33 offered by the theatre can indeed alleviate melancholy,34 then Antonio’s sadness will be cured by the very comedy in which he plays the titular role. Contemporary productions often show Jessica as another outsider in the final act, thus highlighting the ambivalent social role of the female convert. Early examples of this interpretation of the role were Jonathan Miller’s production for the National Theatre in 1970 and John Sichel’s screen adaptation of this Merchant.35 However, in the Shakespearean drama, Jessica’s unhappiness at the beginning of Act 5 is very different from Antonio’s melancholy. Her statement that ‘sweet music’ never makes her happy is diagnosed by Lorenzo as a sign that her ‘spirits are attentive’ (5.1.70). In stark contrast to melancholic stupor, therefore, she shows an openness to let herself be affected. Her initial barter with Lorenzo at the beginning of the scene may anticipate future betrayal and unhappiness, but it also echoes the affective friction between the other two couples. Emotions, including love, can never be safely possessed in The Merchant of Venice and, even at the end, the play does not reach a final moment of affective stasis. Instead, emotions are continuously in motion; they circulate not unlike Portia’s and Nerissa’s rings. They are performatively brought about, in a continuous process of being challenged and professed, masked and openly displayed. In Merchant, this circulation of emotions interconnects the characters; it ‘holds or binds the social body together’.36 In the course, the individual is offered their position in the community: ‘What moves us, what makes us feel, is also that which holds us in place, or gives us a dwelling place’,37 Ahmed writes. The



melancholic, unable (or stubbornly refusing) to participate in this emotional exchange, is denied (or deliberately rejects) such a ‘dwelling place’. Not unlike Antonio, and thus structurally connected to him, Shylock also excludes himself from the exchange of positive affects when he demands that Jessica close the doors and windows of his house against the music and the merrymaking of the carnival in the streets of Venice: What, are there masques? Hear you me, Jessica, Lock up my doors, and when you hear the drum And the vile squealing of the wry-necked fife, Clamber not you up to the casements then, Nor thrust your head into the public street To gaze on Christian fools with varnished faces; But stop my house’s ears – I mean my casements – Let not the sound of shallow foppery enter My sober house. By Jacob’s staff, I swear, I have no mind of feasting forth tonight. (2.5.27–36) In the (anti-Jewish) logic of the play, Shylock is not expelled by the Christian majority society, but, in contrast, he excludes himself and his house from the circulation of joy and happiness right from the very beginning. Aware of the affective power of music, he seeks to secure for himself and his daughter an emotional space apart, walled off, literally and psychologically, from the external stimuli offered by the music and the merrymaking in the streets. In contrast to Antonio, whose bad mood remains unexplained, Shylock’s resistance to participating in the social exchange of positive emotions is causally related to his Jewishness. He declines Bassanio’s invitation to dinner on the grounds of his religion and its dietary restrictions, and then – in an aside – admits that he ‘hate[s] him [Antonio] for he is a Christian’ (1.3.38) and that he intends to ‘feed fat the ancient grudge [he] bear[s] him’ (1.3.43). From the very beginning, thus, Merchant establishes two emotional communities, one



Christian and the other Jewish, with two different emotional scripts: sociable merriment versus solitary soberness. The members of these two communities are attached to each other through their mutual hate. But the relation between them is not one of equality; rather, the play presents the Christian community as more attractive in comparison with the Jewish. This is underlined by Jessica, who insists that even though she is the daughter to Shylock’s ‘blood’, she is ‘not to his manners’ (2.3.18–19). Jessica’s plight iterates Elizabethan conventions of comedy that ‘pit[ted] rebellious children against miserly fathers’ and loving daughters against ‘repressive fathers’.38 Just as in Christopher Marlowe’s Jew of Malta, the daughter’s rebellion against a father who denies her the right to marry the man she loves results in her passionate rejection of Judaism and her conversion to Christianity. In contrast, Portia’s romantic affection miraculously coincides with – or perhaps is channelled by – the will of her dead father, hence with Christian patriarchy.39 The play thus reproduces a conventional narrative of conversion, in which the Jewish daughter becomes Christian because she is in love with a Christian youth. The Aristotelian concept of femininity as the passive matrix of masculine inscription lies at the basis of the early modern belief that nonChristian women, particularly when they are in love with a Christian man, are more susceptible to conversion than ‘the obdurate men of their “race”’.40 In Merchant, this intersection of religious and sexual differences is explored through the construct of two conflicting emotional regimes. Jessica is open to be affected and, compared to Shylock’s ‘dark affections’, hers are indeed ‘gentle’, as Gratiano quips. His pun on ‘gentle’ – ‘by my hood, a gent[i]le, and no Jew’ (2.6.52) – associates her with all the connotations of the adjective ‘gentle’ which are, by implication, causally linked: well-born and noble; not Jewish; and generous, kind or mild in disposition or behaviour. Her emotional disposition thus simultaneously appears as the condition and the effect of her conversion. She is a ‘“gentle” Jew’, i.e. a Jew ‘who is willing to convert, to accept the superiority of Christianity and become “kind”’.41 Hers is the



very gentleness that the Duke demands and Shylock refuses to show during the trial in Act 4.

Love and Hate In early modern plays like The Merchant of Venice and The Jew of Malta, Judaism is invariably masculine. The Jew’s ‘gentle’ daughter underscores her father’s cultural difference that is indicated and proven by his emotional deviance, an otherness that in the logic of the play cannot be erased. Indeed, from the beginning, Shylock figures as the ‘unfeeling man’ (4.1.62) as Bassanio sees him in the trial scene. When Lorenzo comments on the power of music in Act 5, his lines retrospectively imply a warning against Shylock as the epitome of a ‘man that hath no music in himself’ (5.1.83). Shylock’s unrelenting cruelty in the preceding trial scene has corroborated Lorenzo’s conclusion that such a man is indeed ‘fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils’ (5.1.85), as if he were guided by the dark powers. Jessica evokes the same association of an unfeeling Shylock with the underworld when she complains that their ‘house is hell’, its ‘tediousness’ being attenuated only slightly by the ‘merry devil’ Lancelot (2.3.2–3). This view of Shylock’s character has changed thoroughly since the early modern age. In Shakespeare’s Maidens and Women (1839), Heinrich Heine famously commented on Edmund Kean’s interpretation of Shylock at Drury Lane Theatre. Heine quotes an anonymous female spectator who, in tears, allegedly exclaimed that the ‘poor man is wronged’.42 Since the end of the Second World War, Shylock’s murderous revenge has often been interpreted as a passionate reaction to Antonio’s anti-Semitic attacks and his deep despair after Jessica’s elopement and conversion.43 As understandable as this psychological rendering of the figure on the contemporary stage may be, the Shakespearean drama offers less evidence for such an exoneration of the figure of the Jewish moneylender.



One reason for this is structural: even before Antonio ever talks to him, Shylock expresses his hatred for him, because he is a Christian and interferes with Shylock’s business. As an aside that will have been spoken in front of a predominantly Christian audience, this remark would have elicited contradictory emotional effects. By convention, asides are not heard by the other characters on stage and therefore turn the spectators into accomplices of the speaker. But instead of winning them as supporters, Shylock’s confession turns them against him. A brief excursus on Sara Ahmed’s analysis of the workings of hate may be helpful for an understanding of this passage. The antagonistic feeling of hate is an ‘intense emotion’.44 The hated other onto whom the subject may ‘project’ everything that they consider ‘undesirable’45 is constructed as a threat to the self. In this way, hate (re-)establishes the difference between the self and the other while, simultaneously, revealing the boundary to be unstable and precarious. However, hate is less the opposite of love than ‘a negative attachment to others’,46 an emotion that incessantly redraws the dividing line between the self and the other. These processes usually imply the affiliation of the self with a real or an imaginary collective: ‘an “I” that declares itself as hating an other … comes into existence by also declaring its love for that which is threatened by this imagined other’.47 It is thus through the connected expression of love and hate that binary oppositions are performatively established between individuals and collectives. In this course, individuals are divided into ‘bodies that can be loved and hated’ because they are identified as ‘like me, or not like me’.48 This dynamic of positive and negative attachments, of affiliation and distancing, is set off in the first encounter between Shylock and Antonio in 1.3. On seeing Antonio, Shylock is the first to mark the difference between them by identifying the merchant as the object of his hatred. As a Christian and as someone who lends money for free, Antonio is different, not ‘like me’, Shylock’s aside implies. His speech act constructs Antonio as his other, and yet, he describes him as someone whom many spectators would have recognized to be ‘like’ them.



The passage thus inevitably raises the question as to who is the self and who the other, and it invites the audience to position themselves in this conflict. In his aside, particularly if it is spoken to the audience, Shylock seems to invite the spectators to align themselves with him against Antonio. But, unintentionally, his speech act may just as well backfire if the audience prefers to align with Antonio. This would presumably have been the case in England, whence Jews had been evicted in 1290. Antonio returns the hatred, but when he admits that he will repeat his anti-Jewish attacks on Shylock, ‘[t]o spit on [him] again, to spurn [him] too’ (1.3.126), his confession comes as a response to Shylock’s hate, which he professed about one hundred lines earlier. Shylock’s subsequent assertion of friendly feelings for Antonio and his claim that he ‘would be friends with [Antonio] and have [his] love’ (1.3.134), thus appear at best questionable. And, indeed, the conditions of the bond show what ‘kindness’ (1.3.139) towards Antonio he has in mind. Shylock’s behaviour thus retrospectively justifies Antonio’s attacks because Shylock soon turns out to embody the very threat to the Christian community that Antonio’s hatred has projected onto him: he appears as the bloodthirsty Jew of medieval legends and the cruel usurer of the anti-usury pamphlets, who, like a predatory animal, kills his victims and sucks their blood. His passions are ‘confused’, ‘strange, outrageous and … variable’ (2.8.12–13), as Salanio remarks. These anti-social affects are extensively discussed in the trial scene, where the Duke describes him as ‘A stony adversary, an inhumane wretch, / Uncapable of pity, void and empty / From any dram of mercy’ (4.1.3–5). In this scene, Shylock repeats his proclamation of hate when he admits that he cannot rationalize his antipathy for Antonio, for the simple reason that ‘it is [his] humour’ (4.1.42) to which he is passively subjected: ‘So can I give no reason, nor I will not, / More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing / I bear Antonio’ (4.1.58–60). But without giving any reasons, one will have difficulties convincing others. Shylock’s hate for Antonio has turned into disgust, which according to Sianne Ngai is ‘the ugliest of “ugly feelings”’,49



i.e. the most negative form of affect towards others. The speech act of disgust transforms its object into one that offends, that has to be abjected, and from which one must recoil. Like hate, the expression of disgust is never made in private. In order to be effective, it always requires witnesses who share and confirm the speaker’s verbal rejection of the object in question. In this way, disgust establishes ‘a community of those who are bound together through the shared condemnation of a disgusting object or event’.50 Again, Shylock’s speech act is not successful and his emotions are not shared by others. Shylock names examples of objects that are considered offensive by some men: ‘a gaping pig’, ‘a cat’ or a ‘bagpipe’ (4.1.46–8). In the sequence of his examples, his loathing of Antonio appears just as irrational as recoiling from a cat or a bagpipe does. More importantly, though, his reference to the ‘gaping pig’, that is a ‘roasted pig with its mouth propped open’, as Katharine Eisaman Maus explains in her comment on the line (4.1.46n) in the Norton Shakespeare,51 once again lends an ethnic inflection to his affections: as a Jew, he will recoil from roasted pork in the same way as he recoils from the Christian merchant. The iteration of his loathing will very likely turn against the speaker and come to stick to himself. And, indeed, in the course of this scene it is Shylock who will be turned into the object of disgust that has to be expelled. To the extent to which Shylock, because of his ‘Jewish heart’ (4.1.79), is excluded from the emotional community of Christian Venice, Antonio is included – despite his contentious melancholia. More than once he is identified in the lines of other characters as someone who loves and who can be loved. Salarino says about him, ‘A kinder gentleman treads not the earth’ (2.8.35) and describes how ‘with affection wondrous sensible, / He wrung Bassanio’s hand’ (2.8.48–9). When, in the trial scene, he expresses his unconditional love for Bassanio: ‘Say how I loved you’ (4.1.271), his friend reciprocates the profession of love: ‘life itself, my wife and all the world / Are not with me esteemed above thy life. / I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all / Here to this devil, to deliver you’ (4.1.280–3). In the



emotional script of the Christian community, positive emotions are inextricably connected to an economic logic of sacrifice and expenditure, in stark contrast to Shylock’s greed. Ironically, it is this profession of emotional and economic expenditure that will eventually pay off for both Antonio and Bassanio. Whereas Antonio is thus rhetorically invited into this community or network of love, Shylock remains alone, except for one brief encounter with Tubal. Shylock is an outsider who fails to align affectively (and effectively) with any collective. Even if in his important monologue in 3.1 he insists on the bodily similarity between Jews and Christians – ‘Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?’ (3.1.53–4) – his conclusion is not the one that is evoked in modern productions of the play, namely that Christians and Jews should recognize each other as bodies that can be mutually loved. Admittedly, Shylock’s monologue can have a strong affective force, despite the speaker’s negative feelings, and it serves as a good example of the complexity and ambiguity of emotional effects on the early modern stage highlighted by Mullaney.52 Shylock’s speech may indeed prompt spectators to reconsider their emotional alignment with Antonio and the other Venetians. And yet, Shylock iterates the violent hatred between the two groups and projects himself as the solitary avenger of an imaginary Jewish collective that the play never shows. It seems as if Shylock cannot be loved by anyone, and the same applies to Portia’s other suitors, in particular the Princes of Morocco and Arragon, whose material desire reveals their emotional inaptitude. Having chosen wrongly in the casket test, they are punished with permanent exclusion from any love relationship: ‘swear’, Portia demands from her suitors who are about to undergo the test, ‘before you choose, if you choose wrong / Never to speak to lady afterward / In way of marriage’ (2.1.40–2). Like Shylock, Morocco and Arragon figure as the sole representatives of deficient emotional regimes that are closely connected with their ethnic and religious backgrounds. They are rejected and abjected, sent back to their home countries and forgotten in the later scenes of the play.



Jessica, in contrast, represents a body that can be loved. She is assimilated into the Christian community and made ‘like’ the self.53 Her conversion allegorically re-enacts the Christian narrative of supersession, i.e. the triumphant replacement of the Old with the New Covenant, of the reign of Law with the reign of Grace, evoked by Portia in the trial scene and anticipated by Jessica’s gentleness.54 Merchant thus offers less a representation than a performative construction of the affective community of the Venetians. Both Jessica’s inclusion and Shylock’s exclusion are crucial for the establishment of this community in the first place. Jessica’s conversion shows the affective power of the community, its literal attraction, but this social ‘ideal is presented as all the more ideal through the failure of other others to approximate that ideal’.55 This is also Shylock’s failure. Consequently, his conversion to the affective community of the Christians can never take place within the confines of the play. Its pronouncement at the end of the trial is presented as a punishment, probably eliciting the same Schadenfreude among the theatre audience that Gratiano shows. But it is a punishment that is never carried out. For a spectator, it is of course possible to resist this circulation of affect, and it is also possible to reveal in a performance that anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic violence is the very foundation of this affective community. And yet, on the basis of the Shakespearean text, it is difficult to argue for a playwright who endorsed the plight of the religious outsider.

Negotiating Emotions on the Early Modern Stage Emotions in The Merchant of Venice are never static; instead, they are ambiguous, contradictory and always in circulation. Throughout the play, there is a continuous negotiation of the dividing lines between bodies that can be loved and those that cannot be loved – and this applies to the relationships between



Jessica and Lorenzo, Portia and her various suitors, Portia and Bassanio, Nerissa and Gratiano, Antonio and Bassanio, and Antonio and Shylock. Repeatedly, the questions are posed whether the respective characters are susceptible to being affected, whether they show any feelings at all and whether they show the right feelings for the right bodies. Investments in emotional networks – professions of love, participation in merrymaking and joyous celebration, feeling for and with others – lead to the accumulation of positive emotions towards the end of the play, which is paralleled by the accumulation of monetary wealth by Bassanio, Antonio, Lorenzo and Jessica. As has been argued by Walter Cohen56 and others, Antonio’s investment in seaborne trade turns out to be more profitable than Shylock’s ‘unnatural’ breeding of money through usury. The same logic applies to emotional investments. For both the affective and the monetary economies, then, circulation is the precondition of eventual success, and it is a circulation from which men from other cultures and creeds are almost categorically excluded. As much as the spectators let themselves be affected by the circulation of love and joy, they are invited to either participate in this happy community or, like Antonio, remain on its margins. The theatre thus functions as an institution that does not merely reflect on social binding and unbinding, and on the affective relationships between the self and a collective; it also performatively (re-)enacts the constitution of emotional communities, both on the stage and beyond. As an institution that self-reflexively assesses its own capacity to stir the emotions, the early modern theatre provides an ‘affective technology’, as Steven Mullaney has proposed.57 It emerges at a particular moment in history, towards the end of the sixteenth century, which witnessed major social changes: the consolidation of the Reformation, the beginning of modern capitalism, the organization of the modern state with a centralized bureaucracy, the expansion of international trade and early colonialism and, simultaneously, the emergence of new nationalisms.58 Mullaney argues that these social, political



and economic upheavals were paralleled – in a relatively brief period of time – by a considerable transformation of social emotions, leading to a veritable ‘affective reformation’.59 In this context, the theatres fulfilled major social functions; Mullaney describes them as ‘laborator[ies] of human affect’.60 This was paralleled by a fundamental shift in the conceptualization of dramatic character, from the static personification of virtues and vices in the morality plays to the ‘discursive and theatrical embodiment of affective characters’.61 In this way, the early modern theatre also contributed to establishing new forms of relations between the world on the stage and its audience, as well as new forms of cultural identification.62 The fates of Shylock, Morocco and Arragon on the one hand and of Jessica on the other show that more is at stake in Shakespeare’s play than a mere iteration of medieval antiJewish lore combined with the celebration of heterosexual romance. Through the affective exclusion of male cultural others, the play reveals a deep concern with negotiating the changes brought about by what has been described as the ‘Global Renaissance’63 or the first phase of globalization.64 Merchant’s Venetian setting is indicative of such a concern; indeed, around 1600, and not least due to the expansion of the English Levant Company, the Eastern Mediterranean had become an arena of international trade and commerce for various actors of Christian (Protestant and Catholic), Jewish and Muslim creed. Shakespeare’s play thus serves as an example of the complex ways in which English theatre and drama contributed to and reflected on what may have been experienced as an expanding world and a threat to traditional social bonds. In Merchant, the multicultural space of early modern Venice serves as the fictional playground for a drama about social cohesion through the negotiation of emotions. Here, the construction of the social body is played through, as an exchange of positive, or ‘sociable’, emotions together with the simultaneous rejection of ‘ugly feelings’. It is emotional susceptibility and the willingness to let oneself be affected



by (‘lovable’) others that make the characters ‘stick’ together. What Sianne Ngai remarks about the twentieth century, namely that ‘dysphoric affects often seem to be the psychic fuel on which capitalist society runs’,65 is not the case in the late sixteenth century – or, at least, not in this late sixteenthcentury comedy. In The Merchant of Venice, it is rather love, the most ‘euphoric’ emotion of all, that functions as the motor of economic exchange. Those who remain unmoved or who show deviant emotions cannot be loved and are ruthlessly excluded from the happy world of the Venetian Christian community and its capitalist creed.

5 New Directions: ‘The Moon Shines Bright’: Re-viewing the Belmont Mythological Tapestry in Act 5 of The Merchant of Venice Janice Valls-Russell

It may seem something of a paradox, in a chapter that claims to invite new directions, to begin by recalling a tradition of scholarship reaching back to the 1930s and 1940s. It may seem even more of a paradox to circumvent the figure of Shylock. Yet those are the directions I propose to take in this chapter, inviting readers, in the wake of C. S. Lewis, to ‘remove the veil of familiarity’ and view the play from other perspectives.1 In his introduction to his edition of The Merchant of Venice, John Drakakis reminds us of the play’s ‘rich tapestry of



collective fantasies’.2 It is this tapestry that I propose to look at here, the visible patterns as well as the sub tela knots and the connections between the woof of folklore and the warp of classical mythology. Retracing the patterns, identifying the way Shakespeare mingles, cuts and repositions the threads, casts a new light, as I hope to demonstrate, on the overall design of the play and foregrounds off-centre characters, more especially Jessica. I shall argue that this shift in perspective opens out, in a trans-Holocaust world grappling with issues of identity, onto threshold-crossing potentialities that are inherent to the (open-ended) structure of the play. More than any other Shakespearean comedy, perhaps, this play’s ending questions the convention that ‘characters of comedy live happily ever after, as do those of the fairy tale and romance’.3 In his 1942 address to the British Academy, Lewis invited his audience to reconnect with ‘the Märchen level’ and to ‘approach the play with our senses and imaginations’:4 When the hero marries the princess, we are not expected to ask whether her wealth, her beauty, or her rank was the determining factor. They are all blended together in the simple man’s conception of the Princess. Of course great ladies are beautiful: of course they are rich. Bassanio compares Portia to the Golden Fleece. That strikes the proper note. A few years earlier, John Middleton Murry had described the play as ‘a true folk story, made drama’, while Harley GranvilleBarker opened his preface to the play with a peremptory statement: ‘The Merchant of Venice is a fairy tale’, Bassanio, like Portia, being ‘bound in the fetters of a fairy tale’.5 Unlike Granville-Barker, who considered it ‘futile to discuss Jessica’s excuses for gilding herself with ducats’, Murry anticipated Lewis’s reading of Portia in his own description of Jessica. He penned this in reaction to Arthur Quiller-Couch’s and John Dover Wilson’s dismissal of her as ‘bad and disloyal, unfilial, a thief; frivolous, greedy, without any more conscience than


a cat, and even without a cat’s redeeming love of home’ – an indictment Murry sums up as ‘break[ing] a butterfly on a wheel’:6 Jessica, taken out of the play, and exposed to the cold light of moral analysis, may be a wicked little thing; but in the play, wherein alone she has her being, she is nothing of the kind – she is charming. She runs away from her father because she is white and he is black; she is much rather a princess held captive by an ogre than the unfilial daughter of a persecuted Jew. … The relations between the wicked father and the lovely daughter are governed by laws nearly as old as the hills.7 Picking up the ‘wicked ogre of a Jew’ thread – ‘At one time [Shylock] is the ogre of medieval romance, at another the devil of a morality play’ – M. M. Mahood also points in the direction of ‘the Pantaloon of the commedia dell’ arte, who was an avaricious Venetian householder with a large knife at his side, plagued by a greedy servant and an errant daughter’.8 And she relates the play’s staging of ‘[t]he triumph of love and friendship over malice and cruelty’ to the traditions of medieval romance and Italian novelle.9 Shakespeare’s possible sources – direct and indirect – have been amply discussed. Briefly, medieval collections such as Gesta Romanorum juxtaposed and recycled folklore, biblical stories and classical material in combinations that invited further reworkings.10 Recurring patterns and motifs include choosing between two or three chests, caskets or baked ‘pasties’, which variously contain: jewellery and soil; money, bones and soil; lead, gold and silver.11 The offering of three gifts (such as a ring, a necklace and cloth) in some tales is organized around a pattern of ‘archetypal tripling’ that Shakespeare enriches, as Lawrence Danson notes, with the ‘three different trials, that of the casket, that in the Venetian courtroom, and the final one of the rings’, ‘the three thousand ducats loaned for three months’ and the three couples.12 Biblical parables rub shoulders with



mythological lore, as in The Merchant of Venice, where Jacob cheating his father-in-law out of his flock and Jason conquering the Golden Fleece are not incompatible – indeed, as Atsuhiko Hirota has shown, there is a form of kinship between them, and, through them, between the ogre-like, acquisitive father and the young Venetian posing as ‘the fairy prince’.13 Similarly, the princess-like daughter submitting to the fairy-tale test of caskets is not that unlike the casket-stealing daughter turning to classical riddles to try and make sense of her own story. As with the borrowed plots of Romeo and Juliet or Othello, Shakespeare textures the narrative structures as he turns them into drama with mythological material he injects into the dialogues: far from being ornamental, this transformative process, from tale to drama through myth, writes questionings, uncertainties and aspirations into what purports to be a comedy drawing on the conventions of folklore, inviting multilayered responses. Building on discussions of the mythological material in the play, essentially the Ovidian myths, and more especially the Golden Fleece, Jason and Medea, which have been variously analysed by a number of scholars, I shall focus on the way tropes and rhetoric function in modes of reversibility, create a sense of instability and probe divided selves.14 The combination of fairy-tale elements and myths in The Merchant of Venice, I shall argue, plays on a spectator’s or reader’s sense of familiarity with recognizable patterns, while destabilizing them by upturning representations and stories, or de- and re-contextualizing them. Myths, it emerges, are not always in the right place, not really doing what might be expected of them. Belying the illusion of analogy, they also subvert the trials a wooer must submit to, whether an elopement scene, lovers’ duets or references to music. They thereby contribute to the generic irresolution of Act 5 and its open-endedness. Myths and imagery ricochet across the play, transforming themselves in the process. The way the play explores, through Shylock and the trial, ‘the theme of the dangerous binding word [that] is widespread, especially in popular forms of


literature’,15 as Danson recalls, is just one instance of poetic strategies that undermine the ingredients of the fairy tale. Subversion of the mythological context is equally traceable in the gold motif that runs through the textual fabric and materializes on stage as a casket, gold ducats and Portia’s hair. Viewed from Venice, her ‘sunny locks’, Bassanio tells Antonio, ‘[h]ang on her temples like a golden fleece’, luring ‘from every coast / Renowned lovers’ (1.1.168–70), a familiar topos of courtly and encomiastic poetry that was used, for instance, to describe Queen Elizabeth’s eligibility.16 The ‘lady richly left’ (1.1.161) is imagined as a distant, enticing vision, her golden hair beckoning over the seas rather like a siren’s. As the action moves forward, Bassanio revisits his initial impression. Inspection of the portrait he discovers in the lead casket ‘turns the “counterfeit” Portia into a Circe-like figure, a belle dame sans merci whose feeding famishes those who hunger for her most’.17 The cruelty of the mythological or fairy figure is suggested by her ‘crisped snaky golden locks’, of the kind one associates with Medusa’s ophidian coiffure and stone-freezing gaze (3.2.88–101, 92). Such hair is dangerous, Bassanio reflects, as if remembering Petrarch: ‘The painter plays the spider and hath woven / A golden mesh t’entrap the hearts of men / Faster than gnats in cobwebs’ (3.2.121–3).18 Far from suggesting a creative adaptability that might contrast with, and undo, the hardening effects of the mineral, fluidity, to Bassanio, is as dangerous and unreliable as its opposite, the solid materiality of the gold casket, the ‘gaudy gold, / Hard food for Midas’ (3.2.101–2). The poetry invites the speaker, spectator and reader to question Portia’s self-fashioned persona as an acquiescing daughter who seems to accept the constraints of folklore; and it casts uncertainty over the identity of the golden-haired Portia in Act 5, whose ring ensures her hold over Bassanio the way her father sought to control her with the caskets. Golden locks tell us as little about Portia as a beard tells us about Hercules, whose myth undergoes a similar reversal, also in three stages, the final one reconnecting with Portia’s



hair. The Prince of Morocco associates his own prowess with Hercules, while simultaneously distancing himself from the Greek hero, in an anticlimactic stance that betrays his anxiety: alas the while, If Hercules and Lichas play at dice Which is the better man, the greater throw  May turn by fortune from the weaker hand. So is Alcides beaten by his rage,  And so may I, blind Fortune leading me,  Miss that which one unworthier may attain,  And die with grieving. (2.1.31–8) As he faces the caskets, Morocco is very much aware that his choice depends on the whims of ‘blind Fortune’. The dialectics between loss and gain runs through The Merchant of Venice from the outset. The image of an anti-heroic Hercules playing at dice belongs to the play’s exploration of balancing and counterbalancing shifts in Fortune and engagement with the sifting of right from wrong. This is dramatized through the casket scenes, the uncertainties inherent to maritime trade and the unfolding of the trial, as if actors and audience were on the deck of one of Antonio’s argosies, striving to maintain an equilibrium. The reference to Lichas also taps the more familiar vein of Hercules’ philandering and anticipates Bassanio’s possible faithlessness: as told by Sophocles, Ovid and Seneca, Lichas brought Hercules a shirt poisoned with the blood of the centaur Nessus: enraged by the pain, Hercules killed Lichas.19 The sender was Deianira, who hoped to recover his love after learning that he preferred Iole. The imagery seems to suggest that Portia might be walking into a trap when she too seeks a role model in Hercules, in what F. S. Boas calls her ‘curiously exotic comparison of him in his deliverance of Hesione to Bassanio when he makes his choice of the caskets’.20 In so doing, she casts herself as the unnamed Hesione, daughter of


the king of Troy, ‘when [young Alcides] did redeem / The virgin tribute paid by howling Troy / To the sea-monster. I stand for sacrifice’ (3.2.53–62). Portia needs to believe in a heroic lover who will release her from her father’s control. Yet, here again, the overwrought imagery contains its own ironic reversibility, aligning her father with the ‘sea monster’, a variation on the ogre-father. And of course it is Portia, not Bassanio, who ultimately has to redeem the tribute: this mock-heroic poetry, then, says more about Portia than about Bassanio – or does it? The story stops at the exploit, but Portia hints at its aftermath, acknowledging that Hercules may be less heroic when it comes to love: ‘Now he goes / With no less presence, but with much more love / Than young Alcides’ (3.2.53–5). Hercules was in fact more interested in the king’s horses than in Hesione, whom he gave away to his friend Ajax, in an anti-epic gesture that connects with Bassanio’s metonymically renouncing his love by giving away Portia’s ring, thereby confirming her fears that he is ‘liberal in offers’ (4.1.434). The reversibility of the myth is further complicated by Portia’s own dual perspective. Besides tracing a kinship with the hapless Hesione, she casts herself as one of the Dardanian wives who ‘view the fight’ from afar, bound to the ultimate decision in much the same way as Hesione is to the rocks. The effect is that of a classical scene depicted in a tapestry, where she is simultaneously, and passively, positioned in two places, the heroine in the centre, awaiting her fate, and one in a crowd of distraught female viewers, whose fates are tied to this dramatic moment: by saving Hesione only to give her away to Ajax, Hercules lays the precedent for Paris’ retaliatory ravishment of Helen that launches the ‘thousand ships’ and the war against Troy. Bassanio further undermines the powerful tableau later in the same scene, thereby contributing to Hercules’ unflattering early modern reputation that Charlotte Coffin and Richard Rowland have investigated.21 Hercules’ valour, Bassanio suggests, belongs to the world of semblance, of cowards or



actors, who ‘wear yet upon their chin / The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars’ yet have ‘livers white as milk’ (3.2.84–6). And what is a beard but a mere prop, an ‘excrement’ (3.2.87) as unreliable as Portia’s golden hair, itself a wig, possibly recycled from a corpse, such as those used in the theatre? So are those crisped snaky golden locks, Which maketh such wanton gambols with the wind Upon supposed fairness, often known To be the dowry of a second head, The skull that bred them in the sepulchre. (3.2.92–6) Portia may be the desirable maiden of myths and tales, she is also the cross-gendered, wig-wearing boy actor, divesting herself of her female persona, or superimposing onto that a masculine role, when she disguises herself as Balthazar. Unlike Portia, Jessica challenges her father head-on. In her flight from her home and faith, which is facilitated by the additional transgression of cross-dressing, she embraces form changing and fluidity as opportunities rather than threats. Her escape is via one of the casements mentioned by Shylock (2.5.30, 33), below which there is no solitary lover aspiring to climb a rope ladder – and indeed, Lorenzo arrives late, to his friends’ surprise: ‘it is marvel he outdwells his hour, / For lovers ever run before the clock’ (2.6.4–5). The unromantic Lorenzo and his friends, far from offering Jessica an aubade, are masquers and revellers not unlike Thurio’s companions in Two Gentlemen of Verona, with ‘instruments  / [That] [t]une a deploring dump [in] [t]he night’s dead silence’ (TGV, 3.2.83–4); and they anticipate, to some extent, Cloten’s grotesquely obscene wooing of Innogen below her window in Cymbeline: I am advised to give her music o’ mornings; they say it will penetrate. Enter musicians [with stringed instruments].


Come on, tune. If you can penetrate her with your fingering, so; we’ll try with tongue, too. (2.3.11–15) As a lover, Lorenzo is rhetorically terse. Abstaining from any attempt at encomium, he is content to wait below while Jessica climbs down: ‘Descend’ (2.6.41).22 Once she is down, even as he hints at his sexual desire (‘you must be my torch-bearer’, 2.6.41), his immediate concern is to join the revelling: ‘But come at once, / For the close night doth play the runaway, / And we are stayed for at Bassanio’s feast’ (2.6.47–9); ‘What, art thou come? On, gentleman, away, / Our masquing mates by this time for us stay’ (2.6.59–60). Unlike Romeo, he does not wish to hide away from his friends to be alone with his love. When, later, in Portia’s home (3.5.58–83), Jessica seeks to have him to herself for a moment with a playful question, he replies ‘first let us go in to dinner … let it serve for table talk’ (3.5.79, 81). As if to compensate for this lack of effusiveness, and to give the audience a tardy lovers’ scene, Jessica and Lorenzo attempt a duet in the gardens of Belmont, a more propitious setting, admittedly, than a street in Venice. This is about the only moment in the play when the audience see them alone together, excepting that very brief moment in Portia’s home in 3.5. In that setting, a moonlit garden, the locus amoenus of love in medieval romance, which conveys an idea of safety and self-enclosed shelter from the world, an erotic retreat, Jessica and Lorenzo compose the missing love duet of the play, that has never seen any of its pairs of lovers alone on stage. Unlike Arragon, who is blinded by self-love, Lorenzo, through his wooing of Jessica, seems to show an aptitude to ‘embrace, interpretively, sexual or personal difference, Otherness’, which is, as Robert McMahon recalls, a prerequisite to marital harmony.23 By Act 5, this aptitude has shown signs of strain. Their duet lacks the symbiotic dynamics of the sonnet Romeo and Juliet famously compose together on their first meeting, perhaps because it reveals mutual anxiety



and uncertainty behind a seemingly conventional listing of mythological lovers that may be traced back to influential catalogues such as Hyginus’ compilation in his Fabulae. This duet would fit under the entry heading ‘those who were unhappy in love’, another common denominator being the moonlit night: Troilus and Cressida, Thisbe (and Pyramus, unnamed), Dido (and Aeneas, unnamed), Medea (and Jason, unnamed) – and, perhaps, Jessica and Lorenzo? lorenzo The moon shines bright. In such a night as this, When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees, And they did make no noise, in such a night Troilus, methinks, mounted the Trojan walls And sighed his soul toward the Grecian tents Where Cressid lay that night. jessica   In such a night Did Thisbe fearfully o’ertrip the dew, And saw the lion’s shadow ere himself, And ran dismayed away. lorenzo    In such a night Stood Dido with a willow in her hand Upon the wild sea banks and waft her love To come again to Carthage. jessica In such a night Medea gathered the enchanted herbs That did renew old Aeson. (5.1.1–14) Lorenzo begins with Troilus separated, in such a sweet windkissing night, from Cressida, whom he recollects through Chaucer: ‘And every nyght, as was his wone to doone, / He stood the brighte moone to byholde / … / Upon the walles faste ek wolde he walke’ (Troilus and Criseyde, 5.647–8, 666).24 His next reference is to Dido. ‘A broken-hearted woman about to commit suicide is not exactly an auspicious augury’25 – still less so when she embraces the figure of another


abandoned woman, the unnamed Ariadne. Onto the Ovidian Dido’s Carthage (Heroides 7), from which Aeneas steals away, is mapped the island (‘wild sea banks’) on which Chaucer’s Ariadne (‘Ariadne’, The Legend of Good Women, 2187–2203) is left stranded by Theseus – a depiction of betrayal that simultaneously presents the men, in absentia, as deceivers.26 Jessica chooses to remember Thisbe, who ran away from parental opposition and her home, the lion representing the dangers associated with such a choice. Dewy moonlight invites recollection of another daughter flying from her father and home for love, Medea, who provides the dark flipside to Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, with her dismembering of her brother Absyrtus and the tossing of his limbs into the sea to delay her father’s pursuit.27 Far from inscribing Lorenzo and Jessica’s romance in a ‘happy-ending’ tradition, the stories they recall highlight deception, treachery, death – the kind of cautionary tales one might expect from a disillusioned nurse or parent, or even, perhaps, from anxious lovers like Hermia and Lysander contemplating flight. Coming as it does at the end of the play, this catalogue seems to look back on a sense of failure and disappointment rather than anticipate a course that will prove those fears wrong. The weariness, or jarring effect, of the duet, according to the way actors choose to perform it, is emphasized by the fact that it comes long after their first encounter. In ‘such a night’, one expects the harmony of mutual love; yet Belmont lacks the necessary magic to fix things between Lorenzo and Jessica; turning to mythological role models – and their literary trajectory – only seems to make things worse. The sense of displacement is reinforced by the shift in perspective: the sky over their heads – which Jessica could not see from her home enclosed within the high walls of Venice – is no star-spangled canopy: it is a ‘floor’ (5.1.58), or a table, decked with patens – ceremonial dishes – of gold, rather like the inlaid top of a casket one contemplates from above. The gold motif is back, the tensions associated with gold are still there, and the quest for the Golden Fleece, for all its avoidance of a gold casket, is parodied



in Jessica’s gilding herself, and ultimately trivialized to ‘a hoop of gold, a paltry ring’ (5.1.147). And the moment of potential magic is interrupted by the arrival of Portia and Nerissa: ‘such a night’ proves to be no more than ‘a day / Such as the day is when the sun is hid’ (5.1.125–6), no dawn ushering in hope.28 Through her flight, cross-dressing and probing of accepted versions of classical myth, Jessica bears varying degrees of kinship with her Shakespearean ‘sisters’, Hermia, Juliet, Rosalind or Viola; a kinship that is simultaneously there and deceptive, as in the analogies with mythological lovers. In her disillusionment and wariness of ‘brave oaths’ (AYL, 3.4.37), trapped in an unresolved conflict between two camps, she rather resembles Cressida, the victim of a long war and of a tradition of cultural refashioning, a medieval construction incorporated into classical mythology and reworked into a composite figure by Shakespeare. Jessica knows that Troy is not the kindest place in the world for women. In pointing to her possible analogy with Cressida, Lorenzo exposes himself to be viewed as another Troilus, as Jessica points out: ‘Stealing her soul with many words of faith, / And ne’er a true one’ (5.1.19–20). Jessica’s playfulness is tinged with angst, and Lorenzo’s with condescension, as in his reply: In such a night Did pretty Jessica, like a little shrew, Slander her love, and he forgave it her – (5.1.20–2) Just as Troilus and Cressida deconstructs Chaucer’s poem, turning Troilus into an anti-courtly lover, the mythological references undermine the ideals of love. In spite of Jessica’s attempt to see the positive side of Medea as a healer, romance comes crashing on the rocks of the violence inherent in the story. Jessica invites a viewing of the final moonlit scene in Belmont as a critique of love rhetoric and the codes of romance through the slippery unreliability of the mythological stories which she and Troilus review.


True, there is the music coming from within the house, with its erotic lure, its rich, sensual eloquence which inspires Lorenzo. The picture of apparent harmony that he, then Portia, attempt to weave through references to music reduces Jessica to silence: ‘I am never merry when I hear sweet music’ (5.1.69). This, the last line she speaks, echoes back to the very first line in the play, Antonio’s ‘In sooth I know not why I am so sad’ (1.1.1). As Murry writes, Antonio ‘provides, for the beginning of the play, what the lyrical antiphony of Lorenzo and Jessica supplies for the end of it – a kind of musical overtone which sets the spiritual proportions of the drama’.29 What Lorenzo is telling her and the audience, in a setting that is conducive to poetic, even spiritual, elevation, is that her spirits are attentive; and this, like her silence, suggests that she is fine-tuned for her new life. For all that, he glosses his own speech, somewhat sententiously: lorenzo Therefore the poet Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods, Since naught so stockish, hard and full of rage But music for the time doth change his nature. (5.1.79–82) Shakespeare follows Ovid closely here, in the Latin, but also through Arthur Golding: ‘The Thracian poet with this song delights the minds / Of savage beasts and draws both stones and trees’ (Metamorphoses, 11.1–2); ‘The rivers also with their tears (men say) increased were’ (11.50).30 There may even be an echo of Jasper Heywood’s translation of Seneca’s Troas, ‘Whose songs the woods had drawn and rivers held’ (2.Cho.17–20).31 The reference to Orpheus pushes sub tela the death of the Thracian poet, whose divine music proved unable to avert his own fate after he failed to bring Eurydice back from the dead. The ‘rugged stones [that] did mourn for him’ (11.47) were used to kill him. Orpheus’ body is dismembered the way Medea dismembers Absyrtus, an analogy that leads Seneca to embed Orpheus’ story in his Medea (625–33). Portia’s earlier unease



with music (3.2.43–53) resurfaces in 5.1: music ‘sounds much sweeter than by day’ (5.1.100); ‘The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark’ (5.1.102); ‘The nightingale, if she should sing by day, / When every goose is cackling, would be thought / No better a musician than the wren’ (5.1.104–6). As Boika Sokolova notes, this ‘language of relativity undermines the vision of the night’s transcendental moon-lit harmonies by bringing in a more pessimistic vision’.32 The irruption of a cackling goose in the gardens of Belmont is a reminder that the magic harmony of Orpheus’ harp was ultimately drowned by pipes, drums, howling and clapping. The moment of romance that seeks to restore harmony after the trial scene shifts into disharmonious tempos, which puncture fairy-tale assumptions by anticipating possible frictions in the three couples’ relationships. The door, however, remains ajar: even after Orpheus was beheaded, his head continued to sing. ‘How sweet the moonlight’ (5.1.54), and the music coming after the duet, may be seen as bookending the discord among the lovers and structuring the scene around the different possibilities offered by day and night. Those moments suggest a sense of peace, an attempt to offer a sweetly romantic resolution, before things are reversed as the men return, and reality dawns; the necessary prelude, perhaps, to an uneasy, unstable compromise. Jessica’s critique of received discourses even while she aspires to belong may be consistent with her threshold-crossing position, her inner strife, inscribed within a wider pattern of dualities that constantly threaten the play’s equilibrium. The first mythological reference is to ‘two-headed Janus’ (1.1.50), whereby Salanio attempts to account for Antonio being ‘not merry’ (1.1.48) and ‘merry because … not sad’ (1.1.49–50). A god of meteorological thresholds, Janus looks back to winter and ahead to spring. Janus links up with the multiple conflicting situations structured by the play’s sea-tossing tensions and the early references to ‘misfortune’ (1.1.20) and ‘fortune’ (1.1.40), whom Robert Greene describes as the ‘double-faced daughter of Janus’.33 As he recalls the game of dice between Hercules and Lichas, Morocco is very much aware that, ‘blind


Fortune leading [him]’ (2.1.36), he is playing a win-all, loseall lottery. Sudden meteorological shifts alter the course of events: ‘No masque tonight, the wind is come about’ (2.6.65). The unpredictability of the weather and the attendant risk of shipwrecks are expressed by Salanio and Salarino (1.1), by Shylock (‘the perils of waters, winds and rocks’, 1.3.23) and by Salarino (2.8.27–30 and 3.1.3). The sense of division is also picked up by Portia, who hopes nonetheless that the healing power of love will overcome conflicting loyalties: ‘Beshrew your eyes, / They have o’erlooked me and divided me: / One half of me is yours, the other half yours’ (3.2.14–17). By the end of the play, however, it is in Bassanio that Portia fears that sense of division, the duplicity that she skirted around in her analogy with Hercules: In both my eyes he doubly sees himself, In each eye one. Swear by your double self, And there’s an oath of credit! (5.1.244–6) Portia’s apprehension is that Bassanio will fail to avoid the Narcissus trap of self-love and arrogant self-delusion that McMahon traces in the lines Arragon discovers in the silver casket: ‘Some there be that shadows kiss: / Such have but a shadow’s bliss’ (2.9.65–6). The risk of this duality is a fractured, barren self, the opposite of the fecund need to be ‘twain’ in love that Shakespeare advocates in Sonnets 36 (line 1) and 39 (line 13), so that he may admire and praise his loved one outside himself. Portia suggests that it takes more than a bidirectional god to handle inconstancy in love: watch me like Argus. If you do not, if I be left alone, Now, by mine honour, which is yet mine own, I’ll have that doctor for my bedfellow. (5.1.230–3)



This reference to the god of surveillance who never closed his thousand eyes simultaneously (except when tricked by Mercury) concludes the play’s round of myths that opened with Janus. Strikingly, Portia uses it to ward off her fears of Bassanio’s philandering by instilling similar fears in him. Where Juno employed Argus to watch over her rival Io, whom Jupiter ravished and changed into a cow, a wife invites her husband to have her watched by Argus to avoid her unfaithfulness with some rival, and his cuckoldry. How much easier – though less erotically alive – for Portia, were she like Diana, chastely cradling her love, Endymion, in a long sleep. Jessica, unsurprisingly, is the one most affected by the Janus syndrome. Torn between two worlds (2.3.16–21), looking in two directions as the unfilial daughter of a Jew aspiring to become a ‘Christian, and … loving wife’ (2.3.21), she aspires to ‘end this strife’ (2.3.20), to resolve, like Desdemona, the insoluble question of ‘a divided duty’ (Oth, 1.3.181). Lancelet is perhaps the one who understands Jessica best, when he traces her aspiration for cohesive legitimacy back to her parentage, describing her, with little tact, as being caught, as Salarino fears Antonio’s argosies might be, between ‘dangerous rocks’ (1.1.30), the forces of ‘Scylla your father’ and ‘Charybdis your mother’ (3.5.14– 15) that imply a ‘monstrous birth’ (Oth, 1.3.403).34 When Jessica seeks reassurance from Lorenzo that her marriage will cancel out Lancelet’s prediction that ‘there’s no mercy for [her] in heaven because [she is] a Jew’s daughter’ (3.5.29– 30), Lorenzo replies with an image that the early modern world would view as a ‘monstrous birth’, an instance of miscegenation, to use a term that was unknown at the time. He accuses Lancelet of having got a woman’s ‘negro belly’ great with child (3.5.34–6).35 This image doubles back onto the dysfunctional image of Jessica being born of Scylla and Charybdis. Jessica is not only trapped within ‘her earlier self-division’ (to quote Drakakis),36 she is also a prisoner of representations that undermine her attempts to (re)construct her persona.


Nonetheless, Janus also carries restorative connotations. Positioned at the entrance of his temple, he leaves its doors open so that peace may circulate and closes them only in times of war. Expounding on Plutarch’s description, Spenser makes him ‘the byrth and beginning of all creatures new comming into the world’.37 He is, Plutarch also tells us, a figure with an ability to move from one country to another, adapting to new customs, while retaining something of his former culture (Moralia. The Roman Questions, 22).38 John Marston further connects Janus to a crossing of gender thresholds: ‘By Janus women are but men turnde the wrong side outward’ (Parasitaster, or The Fawn, 4.125).39 In the context of a play written for a boys’ company, the perception of gender as labile extends into the world of acting, where beards and wigs of golden hair are mere ‘excrements’, necessary to role-playing, a risky enterprise when one is a boy performing a maid performing a boy. In this protean world, Jessica also resembles what John W. Velz terms Ovidian grotesques,40 figures tracing the painful metamorphosis they undergo: ‘I am much ashamed of my exchange’ (2.6.36), ‘transformed to a boy’ (2.6.40). Late twentieth- and twenty-first-century productions have cast Jessica as seeking to overcome the tensions between her intersecting identities, ending the ‘strife’ by acknowledging rather than suppressing them; or as failing if the pressures around her prove too strong, thereby risking a form of fragmentation, her disguise having become ‘the symbol of a dislocated subjectivity’.41 Other approaches may also be imagined: ‘The more we peel off the layers of signification that inscribe Jessica within the action, the more we come to realize that her role, and hence that of her father, is unique in Shakespearean comedy’.42 Jewish daughter/boy/Christian wife: her cross-gendered potentiality exposes her to a solitary liminality, as in productions that leave her alone on stage at the end of the play, excluded outside the gates or trapped behind them.43 What Heather James writes about ‘Shakespeare’s learned heroines’ is true of Portia and Jessica: ‘Unlike their male



counterparts, they do not read Ovid to flirt with poetic and social conventions. To the contrary, they often struggle to avoid the Ovidian scenarios that come trippingly to their suitors’ tongues.’44 Turning to classical mythology helps Jessica construct her own meaning(fulness), ‘choose to be her own meaning’.45 She literally steps out of her role of submissive daughter in spite of her father’s attempt to lock her in her home, to keep out what he perceives as the dangers of the outside world. Yet, Shylock cannot keep the outside world out, or prevent Jessica from moving into that outside world, where she is viewed as the Jew’s daughter, but also gains sight of the starlit sky that was hidden behind the walls. The freedom she discovers through her elopement with Lorenzo carries other constraints, and, like other wilful, cross-dressing heroines such as Viola, she is ultimately silenced. As Shylock reflects in Howard Jacobson’s novel, Shylock Is My Name, ‘there’s no Act Six … no resolution’.46 The play’s structure is a balancing act between opposites, the mythological material running through the text to fashion, and question, the morphology of a plot that borrows from the realm of the fairy tale. If this is ‘a play that travels easily’ through productions and rewritings, it is, according to John Gross, because ‘[i]ts folktalelike qualities enable it to cut across cultural boundaries’.47 And Jacobson picks up that motif to describe Belmont, ‘There lived once in a big old house’, just as Gregory Doran’s 1998 production imagined Belmont as ‘a Walt Disney fairy castle’.48 Writing of twenty-first-century productions, Coen J. Heijes notes directorial choices that opt for ‘a light, romantic tone’, such as Iris Jansen’s ‘playful fairytale-like production’ for the Dutch DTG company and Wilter Horst’s ‘joy in the love scenes’ in the ‘dreamy outdoor forest setting of Diever’ that brings to mind A Midsummer Night’s Dream.49 He recalls how, in 2003, Wilhelm Hortmann, referring to Max Reinhardt’s productions, expressed nostalgia for the days when the play could be staged by a Jewish director as a ‘colourful fairy tale’ that celebrated Venice, Belmont, love and music, ‘the glitter, fortune and the fairy tale’.50


Productions that integrate the ‘fairy-tale’ dimension also open onto contemporaneous issues of identity, of belonging, of reconciling multiple identities or suffering the fragmentation brought on by inner and outer pressures. Writing of Melinda Pfundstein’s production for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, David Hartwig drew attention to the fact that ‘[s]everal parts were also played by actors of colour without any clear indication of interpretive choice’: this, in his view, ‘served to identify characters who did not completely fit within either their native or their adopted societies’. This choice of casting included Jessica. Played by Aidaa Peerzada, she tried, and failed, to draw Lorenzo into a Jewish hand-clapping game: ‘rather than persisting, he gave up and rejected this element of his wife’s cultural heritage’.51 Once again, Jessica ‘closed’ the play, while Shylock was being forcibly converted. Her silencing then takes on another meaning, as Drakakis notes: ‘For the moment Jessica remains silent but it is the silence of repression that always threatens to return.’52 While inviting a suspension of disbelief, fairy tales and myths provide a distance from which readers and spectators may reconnect with situations and issues closer to personal concerns, social interactions and collective memory. As Velz observes of Portia, ‘her play is part mimetic (holding a “mirror” up to life) and part mythic (idealizing and exceeding life)’.53 Similarly, Shylock is an inextricable blend of ogre, father, Jew and victim. In 2018, Jean-Claude Grumberg, whose numerous works include a play on the Dreyfus affair and an essay on antiSemitism, published La plus précieuse des marchandises: un conte.54 ‘Once upon a time’, a poor woodcutter (to echo Lewis, of course woodcutters are poor) and his childless wife lived in the forest. Every day a train crossed the forest – a goods train, the woodcutter told his wife. Yet she heard voices coming from the train, and one day a baby wrapped in a prayer shawl was pushed through the barred opening… The timeless tale of the poor woodcutter alternates with the historically anchored trajectory of a Jewish family caught up in the Nazis’



extermination programme. In opting for this story-telling format, Grumberg connects with Hortmann’s discussion of a production by Dieter Dorn, which he describes as ‘not a postbut a trans-Holocaust staging’ of The Merchant of Venice, in a world where the Holocaust is ‘an inextinguishable substratum that no longer needs to be expressly activated’: fairy-tale and mythological substructures, Hortmann argues, become other ways of demonstrating ‘how an ingrained enmity from the distant past has raged for time immemorial and will endure for all of eternity, unless the younger generation bring it to an end – a faint hope, and perhaps only a fairy-tale solution’.55 It was on this faint hope that Karin Coonrod chose to close her production of The Merchant in Venice, which premiered in the Venice ghetto in 2016. After opening the play with Lancillotto, ‘Francesca Sarah Toich’s dually gendered character with a prominent codpiece, energetic physicality and a versatile voice, modulating from mezzo soprano to baritone’, she closed it with Jessica (Michelle Uranowitz): In an added scene following Shakespeare’s ending, all the actors come forward and each of the Shylocks confronts the audience with the question: ‘Are you answered?’. The house walls provide a cryptic answer through projections of the English ‘Mercy’, Italian ‘Misericordia’ and Hebrew ‘‫ַ’רח ֲִמים‬ [‘Rachamim’]. … The live focal point of the criss-crossing of these meanings is Jessica. She comes running down the full length of the piazza, enters the audience space and faces the projections alongside with us. The performance frame is closed. In place of the comic Lancillotto stands a young woman who has been on both sides of the play’s divide.56 Dressed in white and wearing, under a long open skirt, trousers that signal ‘the strength of character that she needs to compensate for … the bias of her new environment’,57 she is poised on that moment of conscious, if painful, Ovidian transformation, negotiating self and context, a butterfly unfolding its wings, unwilling to let itself be broken on a wheel.

6 New Directions: ‘That Ugly Treason of Mistrust’: Rhetoric of Credit and the Credit of Rhetoric in The Merchant of Venice Gary Watt

In 2016, 400 years after Shakespeare’s death, ‘post-truth’ was selected as the Oxford English Dictionary’s ‘word of the year’. It was the year of the United Kingdom’s referendum on whether it should remain in or leave the European Union, and it was the year of the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States. Truth was very much at issue, especially as regards the reporting of news and facts in socalled ‘social’ and so-called ‘mainstream’ media. One especially lamentable feature of our post-truth world, and one that has special resonance with The Merchant of Venice, is the casting of doubt upon the nature and extent of the Jewish Holocaust,



the Shoah.1 Lies levelled at the Jewish people form a line that stretches far back into history, for the fact is that the posttruth world – or a world in which evidence-based claims about fact and truth are suspect – is not news. Doubt about words and images, including reports of news, was already a strong current of concern in Shakespeare’s day and it appears as a strong current in Shakespeare’s plays.2 He saw keenly that a major human cost of living in a world without truth is that one finds oneself in a world without trust. Or, which may be more accurate, that one finds oneself in a world where trust in individuals is replaced by trust in material stuff or trust in mechanisms, such as legal procedures, that are supposed to operate impartially and independently of individual will.3 Shylock’s experience in The Merchant of Venice shows that both species of trust, whether in individuals or in institutions, may be suspect. The problem is that the social cost can be very significant where such suspicions are widely held.4 Post-trust is as dangerous as post-truth. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the adjective ‘post-truth’ as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.5 A post-trust society is one in which personal belief shrinks to belief in oneself above all others. Shakespeare opened up the casket of these concerns for his own time, but we will find that his insights can still serve today to help us to distinguish coverage we should believe in from coverings of a deceiving sort, between people and performances that are creditworthy and those we should properly mistrust.

Credit Clauses ‘In sooth’. The first words of The Merchant of Venice belong to a set that I will call ‘credit clauses’. Spoken by Antonio, they are echoed in Portia’s ‘By my troth’ at the very start of the second scene. The play has many other instances, including


‘believe me’, ‘trust me’, ‘truly’ and ‘in truth’.6 The habit of using credit clauses continues in our quotidian conversations today, so we find ourselves habitually commencing speech with such statements as ‘honestly, I …’, ‘trust me, I …’, ‘believe me …’ and ‘to tell you the truth …’. Such filler phrases serve as commonplace clauses in our social contracts. Credit clauses are typically used casually and not in any deliberately calculating way. They nevertheless operate – often at the very vanguard of a speaker’s narrative – to enhance the audience’s belief in the veracity, sincerity and reliability of the speaker’s speech. In Aristotelian terms, we can say that credit clauses operate rhetorically to establish the speaker’s trustworthiness as an aspect of their ethos. Without realizing it, speakers might even use them to convince themselves of their own veracity. At their subtle best, credit clauses operate upon the hearer’s subconscious by implying trustworthiness without putting credibility expressly in issue. In Julius Caesar, Brutus’ clumsy attempt to establish ethos with a credit clause – ‘Believe me for mine honour’ (JC, 3.2.14–15) – failed in part because it was too overt. In Measure for Measure, Angelo fares no better with his ‘Believe me, on mine honour, / My words express my purpose’. He is immediately rebuked by Isabella for putting his honour in issue: ‘Ha? little honour, to be much believ’d, / And most pernicious purpose! Seeming, seeming!’ (MM, 2.4.146–9). King John, which was written almost exactly contemporaneously with The Merchant of Venice, contains in one short passage a most efficient example of credit clauses being juxtaposed to more conscious concern for the credibility of reported news. Constance says: I trust I may not trust thee, for thy word Is but the vain breath of a common man: Believe me, I do not believe thee, man; (KJ, 3.1.7–9) Clearly, The Merchant of Venice is by no means unique amongst Shakespeare’s dramatic works in containing a great many



credit clauses, but it is unique in that the entire play is prefaced with a credit clause. It is also the only one of Shakespeare’s plays in which the phrase ‘believe me’ appears three times in a scene, and, significantly, that scene is the very first of the play. From the outset, the language of credibility sounds the keynote for the play’s rich linguistic composition of trust correlates – including ‘truth’, ‘troth’, ‘sooth’, ‘belief’, ‘credit’ – and it sounds the keynote for the themes of truth and trust that drive all material plot points of the drama – the ‘pound of flesh’ bond, the lovers’ bonds and the choice of Portia’s casket. The casket scene which stands at the structural centre of The Merchant of Venice contains the play’s most sustained excursus on its central theme of credit and deceit, and it does so with a particular focus on the deceiving capacity of eloquent and ornamental rhetoric. Bassanio’s speech begins with lines which recall the creation of the ‘pound of flesh’ bond made between Shylock and Antonio and which anticipate the trial of its terms before the Duke: ‘So may the outward shows be least themselves, / The world is still deceived with ornament. / In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt, / But, being seasoned with a gracious voice, / Obscures the show of evil?’ (3.2.74–8). This is the classic Platonic critique of rhetoric. As Socrates says in Plato’s Gorgias: ‘there is no need to know the truth of the actual matters, but one merely needs to have discovered some device of persuasion which will make one appear to those who do not know to know better than those who know’.7 Plato’s criticism is somewhat overblown, for it downplays the central place of credibility as an aspect of persuasive ethos, and the part that reputation (including reputed expertise) plays in producing credibility. Around the time that Aristotle was formulating his idea of rhetorical ethos, the elderly Isocrates was writing that ‘words carry greater conviction when spoken by men of good repute’. Is it not the case, he asked, that ‘the argument that is made by a man’s life is of more weight than that which is furnished by words?’8


For Aristotle, a persuasive rhetor must be credible and to be credible the rhetor must be ethical. In his definitive statement on ethos as a necessary feature of persuasive speech, he asserts that: Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: … personal goodness revealed by the speaker … may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.9 We still describe a person as being ‘good for a debt’ if they are able to repay it, but we are not likely nowadays to confuse the qualitative measure of a debtor’s moral goodness with more quantitative measures of the debtor’s financial ability to repay money. Economic language has ousted the ethical – talk of credit as a quality of character has been replaced by ‘credit ratings’ and ‘credit scores’. In early modern England, moral and monetary considerations were more easily confused, as the following dialogue shows: jew Antonio is a good man. bassanio Have you heard any imputation to the contrary? jew Ho, no, no, no, no. My meaning in saying he is a good man is to have you understand me that he is sufficient. (1.3.12–16) Similar confusion occurred with regard to usury, which is the Venetian Christians’ key complaint against Shylock the Jewish moneylender. Thomas Wilson asserted in A Discourse Upon Usury that biting usury tends ‘to the vtter discreditinge of merchants wholye’,10 citing Aristotle for the view that money ‘is ye suerty for mens dealings: & wtout money no man



doubtlesse could tel how to trade or bargaine’.11 Elsewhere in the Discourse we find a passage that is most pertinent to our appreciation of Shylock’s offer to lend money to Antonio free of interest. Wilson gives the example of an apothecary who makes an interest-free loan to a physician in the expectation that the physician will give the apothecary exclusive preference in future business. Is this usury? Wilson concludes that it is not, ‘because the Apothecarie doth not take any thing, to be valued or measured, by money ouer & aboue his principall, but onelye the fauour of the Phisicion’.12 In a similar vein, Shylock stated that it was also in the hope of personal favour, or to ‘be friends’, that he offered his loan interest-free to Antonio. In the deal as Shylock offers it, monetary interest is replaced by repayment through friendship – the quality most prized by rhetoricians for producing credit of character as an aspect of ethos. Recall the prime place of friendship in Mark Antony’s oration in Caesar’s funeral: ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen … He was my friend, faithful and just to me’ (JC, 3.2.74, 86). In resorting to friendship in this way, Shakespeare may have been influenced directly or indirectly by Cicero’s essay ‘On Friendship’, in which the greatest Roman rhetorician of them all goes to great lengths to contrast the uncountable quality of friendship with things that can be measured numerically: ‘everybody could tell how many goats and sheep he had, but was unable to tell the number of his friends’.13 As an audience, should we trust Shylock’s friendly performance when creating the bond? If not, should we not equally mistrust Portia’s appeal to mercy when holding him to it? Maybe Shylock was correct in his assessment of Antonio’s and Bassanio’s chronic mistrust, when he complains that their ‘own hard dealings teaches them suspect / The thoughts of others’ (1.3.157–8). We might even dare to ask whether Antonio was correct in his belief that Bassanio was a true friend all along. Shylock at no stage before his defeat at trial asks for money from Antonio over and above the return of his principal. In contrast, the suspicion hanging over the financially compromised Bassanio is that money is always in


the mix of his motives. Bassanio’s professed love for Antonio and Portia may be mendacious cover for motives that are, at base, monetary. In the account that Bassanio makes to Antonio of Portia’s moral virtues, he cannot resist resorting to monetary language as he talks of the ‘undervalued … worth’ of the ‘lady richly left’ (1.1.161–76). He likens her to the Golden Fleece that Jason won,14 and his true confederate Gratiano echoes the allegory later in the play (3.2.240) to give the sense that Bassanio and Gratiano have always been a pair of merchant venturers ‘on the make’.

False Witness and Fake News In addition to ‘credit clauses’ that tend directly to commend our credit to the audience, there are statements that operate indirectly to improve our credit by casting doubt on the credibility of others. When a performer employs the rhetoric of suspicion and mistrust it serves to elicit credibility for the rhetorician’s own performance. This rhetorical dynamic is employed in the world of ‘post-truth’ politics whenever, for example, a speaker alerts their audience to ‘fake news’ and other such false fabrications. The speaker would have us believe that a special virtue of honest people is their ability to perceive falsehood in others. We would be wrong to believe it, for an artful liar knows best how to raise the credit of their own character by pointing to the dishonesty of others. Shakespeare’s Machiavellian villains, such as Iago (Oth), Edmund (KL) and Don John (MA), supply some of the best examples of this technique, but the lowly clown figure of The Merchant of Venice, Lancelet Giobbe, provides examples too. (His name is usually rendered ‘Launcelot Gobbo’, but in his Arden 3 edition John Drakakis reinstates the original pun on the Lancet as a surgical instrument that pricks through appearances. This is a choice most apt to the Clown’s role and to the theme of mistrust running through the play.) Lancelet



seeks to enhance his own ethos as ‘“… honest Lancelet; / … honest Giobbe”, or, as aforesaid, “Honest Lancelet Giobbe …”’ (2.2.6–8) by reporting that his conscience compels him to leave Shylock, who he calls ‘the devil himself’ (2.2.23). Later, when he encounters Bassanio in the street, he seeks to impress his honesty upon Bassanio with report of Shylock’s offences. Note his use of a ‘credit clause’: ‘To be brief, the very truth is that the Jew, having done me wrong …’ (2.2.123–4). Should we believe Lancelet’s claim to be honest, or should we prefer the evidence of Shylock who does not trust him to look after his house (1.3.170–2)? If the question of credibility is a question of character, Lancelet’s performance in the scene with his ‘true-begotten father’ (2.2.31–2) suggests that Shylock’s assessment is the true one and leads us to suspect that Lancelet’s account of Shylock is slanderous. Lancelet’s instinct upon encountering (Old) Giobbe in the street is to abuse his father’s trust by making sport of his blindness. How perverse, and yet so fitting to this drama of mistrust, that even as he performs the biblical Jacob’s trick of seeking his blind father’s blessing, it is given to the untrue and untrustworthy Lancelet to utter the commonplace that ‘truth will come to light’ (2.2.73–4) and, in a phrase which Shakespeare may have coined here, that ‘truth will out’ (2.2.75). It might come naturally to a liar to speak so knowingly of universal truth and the falseness of others. Lancelet’s testimony against Shylock is not the last time that Shylock seems to suffer false witness. It could even be that Jessica was lying when she said: When I was with him, I have heard him swear To Tubal and to Chus, his countrymen, That he would rather have Antonio’s flesh Than twenty times the value of the sum That he did owe him; and I know, my lord, If law, authority and power deny not, It will go hard with poor Antonio. (3.2.283–9)


We know that Jessica is not honest to a fault in the way that, say, Lear’s daughter Cordelia is. For one thing, Jessica steals Shylock’s wealth. For another, she lies directly to her father when she falsely reports what Lancelet had whispered to her: ‘His words were “Farewell mistress”, nothing else’ (2.5.43). We cannot know if she is a true witness to her father’s hateful words or if she is speaking to ingratiate herself with her new Christian company, but there is prescient truth in her instinct, originating no doubt in her upbringing in the Jewish ghetto, that any trust her father might place in law and the authorities may prove ill-founded. Whether Jessica is reporting truly or not, we have good reason to regard as ‘fake news’ the reports that flow from the mouths of Salarino and Salanio. They are an odd couple who are completely unrealized as characters except in their role as devourers and divulgers of news. The shared ‘Sal’ in their names might have suggested to the educated early modern playgoer a lustful jumping upon every salacious crumb of gossip, bearing in mind the Latin salacis (‘lustful’) and salire (‘to leap’). The word ‘salacious’ was not in use in Shakespeare’s day, but Portia’s line ‘hot temper leaps o’er a cold decree’ (1.2.18) hints that Shakespeare might have felt the Latin connection between lust and leaping. ‘Salt’ in English had connotations of lust in Shakespeare’s day, and even today the adjective ‘salty’ implies coarseness. In modern French, the connection between salt and dirtiness is resonant in the verb ‘salir’, which implies ‘tainting’. To return this linguistic digression back to Salarino and Salanio, we can note that ‘Sal’ connects the several senses of lust, leaping, grasping and tainting to the world of money through language of ‘salary’ (derived from salt) and ‘sale’ (derived from an original sense of grasping or taking). Salarino and Salanio lust after news and leap to tell it. They are conveyers or salesmen of dirty scandal into the ears of anyone who will deal with them. Most significantly, their shared ‘Sal’ confirms the impression that they operate almost as a single character with two mouths (other confirmation comes early on, when Salarino swears by two-headed Janus [1.1.50]).



Salarino and Salanio are two tongues with a shared taste for salty gossip. The dramaturgical reason for their joint operation is, I submit, that Shakespeare intended them to perform as a variant of the stock vice figure Rumour with its customary coat of many tongues. The text of The Merchant of Venice is believed to have been completed sometime between August 1596 and September 1597. The First Part of Henry IV (hereafter 1H4) was written or finalized almost exactly contemporary with it,15 with The Second Part (2H4) following around a year later. 1H4 is intensely imbued with concerns about counterfeit appearances and 2H4 begins with an induction spoken by Rumour. The opening stage direction reads ‘Enter RUMOUR painted full of tongues’. The evidence is strong that Shakespeare had Rumour in mind as he wrote The Merchant of Venice. Salarino even finishes one of his news reports with the caveat ‘if my gossip Report be an honest woman of her word’ (3.1.6–7), which is almost certainly a reference to the folk figure of the gossiping woman who has sometimes been called ‘Dame Rumour’. In their long dialogue at the start of 2.8, we witness Salarino and Salanio weaving their knowing narrative from threads of things they claim to have seen in person and threads of news drawn from what others have allegedly reported. Thus, we have Salarino’s ‘in their ship I am sure Lorenzo is not’ (2.8.3) followed by Salanio’s ‘The villain Jew with outcries raised the Duke’ (2.8.4), and then, Salarino’s ‘the Duke was given to understand’ and ‘Antonio certified the Duke / They were not with Bassanio in his ship’ (2.8.7, 10–11). Then comes their damning testimony against the character of Shylock, from which we are to believe that he makes no distinction between his daughter and his money. Salanio says that he saw Shylock running in the public place, crying ‘My daughter! O, my ducats! O, my daughter!’ (2.8.15), and his second tongue, Salarino, backs him up, saying ‘Why, all the boys in Venice follow him, / Crying “His stones, his daughter and his ducats!”’ (2.8.23–4). Their testimony is the only evidence we have that Shylock acted this way, so should we believe it? We might wonder why they would tell lies


to each other in private conversation, but that is to overlook the fact that they are never alone. They are speaking to each other in the confidence that a theatre audience is listening in. The character of Rumour who speaks the induction to 2H4 makes express reference to the role that the public, including the playgoers, perform in spreading false report: Rumour is a pipe Blown by surmises, Jealousy’s, conjectures, And of so easy and so plain a stop That the blunt monster with uncounted heads, The still discordant wav’ring multitude, Can play upon it. But what need I thus My well-known body to anatomize Among my household? Why is Rumour here? (2H4, Induction 15–22) If we ask of The Merchant of Venice ‘is Rumour here?’, the answer is affirmative. Rumour’s pipe is played by Salarino and Salanio and by numerous other characters in the play, while the eavesdropping playgoers are conscripted to play along. The false music of Salarino and Salanio falls to a low pitch when Salarino reports: I reasoned with a Frenchman yesterday Who told me, in the narrow seas that part The French and English, there miscarried A vessel of our country richly fraught. I thought upon Antonio when he told me, And wished in silence that it were not his. (2.8.27–32) We can scarce believe that such a mouth as Salarino could ever wish ‘in silence’. Salanio is truer to their talkative spirit when he urges ‘You were best to tell Antonio what you hear’ (2.8.33). There is reason to believe that Salarino had not been silent at all, but had rather spread abroad the salty rumour



of Antonio’s wrecked ship. In the following act, when Salanio asks ‘Now, what news on the Rialto?’, we are not surprised at Salarino’s reply: Why, yet it lives there unchecked that Antonio hath a ship of rich lading wracked on the narrow seas. The Goodwins, I think, they call the place: a very dangerous flat, and fatal, where the carcasses of many a tall ship lie buried, as they say, if my gossip Report be an honest woman of her word. (3.1.2–7)16 Of course it lives there ‘unchecked’, for, as Rumour itself asks in 2H4, who can ‘stop / The vent of hearing when loud Rumour speaks?’ (Induction 1–2). The lesson for our own age is that no amount of fact-checking will check the wind of a good story when it is in full flow. Salarino is speaking figuratively. There is no woman out there spreading the news; there is no ‘gossip Report’. To find the characters Rumour and Report we need look no further than Salarino and Salanio. So it is in 2H4, where, though news flows from many mouths, it all shares one source in the person of Rumour: ‘not a man of them brings other news / Than they have learnt of me. From Rumour’s tongues’ (2H4, Induction 37–9). Like Rumour in 2H4, Salarino whipped up the wind of fake news from the outset of the play (in the opening scene, he talks of ‘My wind’ [1.1.21]). In the first scene, he contemplates Antonio’s ship wrecked on ‘shallows’ and ‘flats’ and ‘What harm a wind too great might do at sea’ (1.1.25, 23). He speaks of a ‘stop’, but the pair cannot stop, for they are Rumour itself: salanio I would she were as lying a gossip in that as ever knapped ginger, or made her neighbours believe she wept for the death of a third husband. But it is true, without any slips of prolixity, or crossing the plain highway of talk, that the good Antonio, the honest Antonio, – O, that I had a title good enough to keep his name company! –


salarino Come, the full stop. salanio Ha, what sayest thou? Why, the end is, he hath lost a ship. (3.1.8–17) Salanio’s image of Dame Rumour chewing a spicy morsel of gossip as one chews (knapps) ginger has a partner in a passage of 1H4, in which Hotspur, having called for his wife to sing ‘her’ song and having been rebuffed with ‘Not mine, in good sooth’ (3.1.242), rails at length against her slovenly use of the common credit clause ‘in good sooth’ (similar, it will be recalled, to the one with which Antonio opens The Merchant of Venice). He tells her to ‘leave “in sooth,” / And such protest of pepper gingerbread’ (3.1.250–1).17 His objection is not that she uses a credit clause (he is content that she should utter a ‘good mouth-filling oath’ [1H4, 3.1.250]), but only that she should forbear to swear in the language that commoners use. Later in the play, the messenger Salerio brings news that all of Antonio’s ships have been wrecked. Salarino, Salanio … and now Salerio! Rumour has grown yet another head and found yet another tongue. Bassanio is naturally incredulous that all Antonio’s ships should have been wrecked: But is it true, Salerio? Have all his ventures failed? What, not one hit, From Tripoli, from Mexico and England, From Lisbon, Barbary and India. (3.2.265–8) Salerio confirms ‘Not one, my lord’ (3.2.270). It turns out that he was wrong, or that he was lying, for at the end of the play Portia reveals that three of Antonio’s ships survived. My own suspicion is that Salerio’s letter is simply blowing into Belmont the rumour that Salanio and Salarino had first whispered on the Rialto. The facts presented in the play give us no way to know if one of Antonio’s ships was wrecked as



Salanio and Salarino report, or whether they worked together to spin that fact out of a supposition. It matters, because if these gossips are guilty of malicious falsehood, we must doubt their narrative about Shylock’s behaviour. We should doubt on grounds of prejudice alone from the moment they describe him as ‘the devil … in the likeness of a Jew’ (3.1.19–20). We might conclude in the words of the Duke in Othello (the play that carries Shakespeare’s most extensive excursus on problems of proof)18 that ‘There is no composition in these news / That gives them credit’ (Oth, 1.3.1–2). Rumour will sometimes arise from prejudice, but it can also be as undiscriminating as the wind. Salanio and Salarino cannot resist the chance to blow their news into Shylock’s ear, even though this will harm Antonio by diminution of his reputational credit: salanio How now, Shylock, what news among the merchants? … salarino … do you hear whether Antonio have had any loss at sea or no? (3.1.21, 37–8) In this scene, Shakespeare shows double-tongued Rumour ‘Stuffing the ears of men with false reports’ (2H4, Induction 8). Shylock’s ear is greedy for news. When Tubal enters, Shylock asks ‘what news from Genoa?’ (3.1.72). The lines that follow are crammed with senses (and sounds) of ears, hearing and news. We have Tubal’s hearsay evidence: ‘I did hear of her’ (3.1.74), ‘as I heard in Genoa’ (3.1.89–90), ‘in Genoa, as I heard’ (3.1.98), ‘I spoke with some of the sailors’ (3.1.94) and ‘Antonio’s creditors  … swear he cannot choose but break’ (3.1.102–4), alongside Shylock’s ‘jewels in her ear’ (3.1.81), ‘No news’ (3.1.82), ‘Is it true, is it true?’ (3.1.93), his credulous ‘good news, good news! Ha, ha, heard in Genoa!’ (3.1.96–7) and even, perhaps, (in punning form) ‘hearsed’ (3.1.81). Tubal is not


reporting what he has seen, but only what others report that they have seen. His testimony is hearsay and attributed to unnamed anonymous sources. It is most doubtful evidence to establish the fact of Antonio’s loss. Be that as it may, Tubal’s news is lodged like a jewel in Shylock’s ear and he readily takes it for truth. tubal But Antonio is certainly undone. jew Nay, that’s true; that’s very true. (3.1.112–13)

Trust to Law The choice between trust to friendship and trust to law is at issue between Shylock and Antonio from their first meeting. Before Antonio’s arrival, Bassanio urges Shylock to trust in Antonio’s character. Shylock might, but not without the assurance of legal security: jew I think I may take his bond. bassanio Be assured you may. jew I will be assured I may; and, that I may be assured, I will bethink me. (1.3.24–8) When Antonio speaks, any possibility of reaching a friendly arrangement with Shylock quickly evaporates: ‘If thou wilt lend this money, lend it not / As to thy friends, … / But lend it rather to thine enemy’ (1.3.127–30). Whether to trust to law, or to love and friendship, is a perennial question. In the mercantile and moneyed world of



The Merchant of Venice, most characters trust to both. That the question is a perennial one is clear from the daily drama of modern courts. A case from 2016 (that year again), will serve as an illustration: in Adams v. Moore,19 the judge, His Honour Judge Platts, commenced his judgment by saying ‘This is a sad case’. The melancholy opening recalls Antonio’s ‘I know not why I am so sad’. The parties to the case had been friends, but had fallen out over their business venture. In matters of money, the judge points to the need for trust in law alongside trust in friends: these intelligent, educated partners with experience in business chose to embark on this venture without formalising the arrangements. That does speak volumes as to their mutual friendship and trust at the time, but I am sure that a failure to consider at the outset the true nature of the venture has led to the situation which they now find themselves in.20 A formal partnership might have suited the parties’ intentions best, but another possibility was to use a trust. This device, which can be employed for sharing ownership of assets, including profits from commercial ventures, was developed by the equity jurisdiction of the English High Court of Chancery and formerly went by the name of the ‘use’.21 It is with that name that Shakespeare refers to it when Antonio requests that Shylock should give half of his goods (the half awarded to Antonio by the court) ‘in use, to render it, / Upon his death unto the gentleman / That lately stole his daughter’ (4.1.379–81). In other words, Antonio proposes that there should be a ‘use’ or ‘trust’ of those assets for his benefit during Shylock’s lifetime, and on Shylock’s death that the benefit should pass to Lorenzo (and thereby indirectly to Jessica also). This is said to be a settlement (on ‘use’ or ‘trust’) ‘pur autre vie’, which is to say that Antonio’s interest in the assets comes to an end not when Antonio dies but when another named person (in this case Shylock) dies. Ironically, given Shylock’s threat to kill Antonio, Shylock’s only chance to enjoy again a personal benefit in that half of his wealth lies in the possibility that Antonio might


predecease Shylock, in which event the benefit would jump back to (that is, ‘result’ to) Shylock until his death.22 The Chancery trust originated in a personal obligation of trust reposed by one party in another, which the King’s Lord Chancellor would enforce to require the trustee to fulfil the duty which in good conscience he ought to fulfil. Over time, the trust came to grant ownership of the property which could bind third parties who had no actual relationship of trust with the original parties. In this way, the Chancery trust moved from trust between people to trust in property and trust in judicial process, hence Lord Mansfield’s observation: ‘now the trust in this court is the same as the land, and the trustee is considered merely as an instrument of conveyance’.23 We might even say that the Chancery trust is nowadays most useful precisely where personal trust between the parties is most lacking.24 For Shylock, the final indignity is being forced to confess faith in his enemy’s God and being forced to trust his wealth into his enemy’s hands, and all by a court in which he had placed his trust.

Love on Trial A striking feature of The Merchant of Venice is how little the characters trust each other, and how little deserving of trust they are. Even lovers mistrust each other and put their credit to constant trial. Does Portia suspect a mercenary motive behind Bassanio’s suit? When he says ‘Let me choose / For, as I am, I live upon the rack’ (3.2.24–5), she seizes the opportunity to test him: portia Upon the rack, Bassanio? Then confess What treason there is mingled with your love. bassanio None but that ugly treason of mistrust, Which makes me fear th’enjoying of my love. …



portia Ay, but I fear you speak upon the rack, Where men enforced do speak anything. bassanio Promise me life and I’ll confess the truth. portia Well then, confess and live. (3.2.26–7, 32–5) It is all very playful, of course, but in a play that is full of questionable credit, the playwright seems to be saying that embracing lovers trust each other at arm’s length, even as merchants and moneylenders do. Writing to Bassanio, Antonio also hints at Bassanio’s unreliable love: all debts are cleared between you and I if I might but see you at my death. Notwithstanding, use your pleasure; if your love do not persuade you to come, let not my letter. (3.2.317–20) Antonio suspected mistrust when he thought Bassanio did not credit him to put up the loan in the first place: ‘out of doubt you do me now more wrong / In making question of my uttermost / Than if you had made waste of all I have’ (1.1.155–7). It will be recalled that Antonio had from the outset been willing to undergo financial torture for Bassanio’s sake: Try what my credit can in Venice do, That shall be racked even to the uttermost To furnish thee to Belmont to fair Portia. Go presently inquire, and so will I, Where money is, and I no question make To have it of my trust, or for my sake. (1.1.180–5) Portia, Bassanio and Antonio are triangulated in courtly trials of love in which they subject each other to inquisition and


counter-question. They are always trying what their credit can do in a world of mistrust. Quibbles between Jessica and Lorenzo take similar form. She tests him: jessica Who are you? Tell me for more certainty, Albeit I’ll swear that I do know your tongue. lorenzo Lorenzo, and thy love. jessica Lorenzo certain, and my love indeed, For who love I so much? And now, who knows But you, Lorenzo, whether I am yours? lorenzo Heaven and thy thoughts are witness that thou art. (2.6.27–33) And he makes trial of her: Beshrew me but I love her heartily, For she is wise, if I can judge of her, And fair she is, if that mine eyes be true, And true she is, as she hath proved herself: (2.6.53–6) Jessica passes Lorenzo’s test, but he nevertheless teases her with jealous mistrust when he finds her and Lancelet conversing in a corner (3.5.26–7). She returns the favour: jessica   In such a night Did young Lorenzo swear he loved her well, Stealing her soul with many vows of faith, And ne’er a true one. lorenzo In such a night Did pretty Jessica, like a little shrew, Slander her love, and he forgave it her. (5.1.17–22)



These little trials culminate in the inquisition to which Bassanio is subjected when he confesses to Portia that he gave away the ring she had given him, and which he swore never to part with. There is a joinder of this trial with Nerissa’s trial of Gratiano on the same matter.25 In the end, Bassanio comes through this trial, as he also came through the trial by ordeal of the casket test. In dismissing the golden casket, Bassanio had rejected ornament as false: ornament is but the guiled shore To a most dangerous sea; the beauteous scarf Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word, The seeming truth, (3.2.97–100) Does Bassanio’s protest against deceiving appearances ring true? Did he not, at substantial cost to Antonio, dress himself in finery to gain his chance at the casket test? When he finds ‘Fair Portia’s counterfeit!’ (3.2.115) in the lead casket, did he not praise it excessively? Did he not adopt the visual language of legal formalism – the language of the sign – when he wished his victory to be ‘confirmed, signed, ratified’ (3.2.148) by Portia? The more we look upon the debtor Bassanio, the more we doubt his credit. Arguably, the lesson of the caskets is not that surfaces are false and cannot be trusted, but only that surfaces should be appreciated more deeply. There is a sense recurring in Shakespeare’s works that sensory impressions – sights and sounds – may be deceiving, but that love requires us to trust them anyway. In Cymbeline, for example, Cymbeline says it would have ‘been vicious / To have mistrusted’ (Cym, 5.5.65–6) his wife, the Queen, when she looked and sounded so attractive.26 Bassanio preferred lead to gold not because he ignored the leaden surface, but because he weighed it up and did not judge it solely by its shine: ‘Look on beauty, / And you shall see ’tis purchased by the weight’ (3.2.88–9); ‘Thy paleness moves me more than eloquence’ (3.2.106). He


was also, we suspect, not a little influenced by clues secreted in Portia’s speech (sound elements of ‘lead’ are common) and in the song she had instructed the musician to sing while Bassanio was choosing (as others have noted, the lines of the song end-rhyme with ‘lead’). The lesson may be that we should trust the performance taken as a whole. To encourage trust in the show is, of course, very sensible for lovers who wish to avoid jealousy, and most prudent for a playwright who wants playgoers to trust the ‘baseless fabric’ (Tem, 4.1.151) of the play.

Trusting the Drama If The Merchant of Venice is a comedy after all, it is Shakespeare who has the last laugh. He persuades the playgoers to believe that Antonio’s ships have all miscarried, but, as we noted earlier, in the final act, Portia reveals that three have made it safely home. When she tells the assembly, ‘You shall not know by what strange accident / I chanced on this letter’ (5.1.278–9), she is asking the playgoers to trust in the show. The ‘strange accident’ can only be that Shakespeare himself, descending into the drama as deus ex machina, posted the letter to Portia. In scene after scene, he stuffs ears with hearsay, stuffs eyes with glister and stuffs hands with letters full of lies posted directly from his desk (including one in which Bellario, a learned Doctor of Law, asserts the bare-faced lie that Portia is the lawyer Balthazar). We are so occupied in scrutinizing the play’s falsehoods and its lessons about truth that we do not notice that the one telling us about lies is the one telling the lies. As Merchant concludes with the metatheatrical conceit of Portia’s accidental letter, so 2H4 concludes with an epilogue standing outside the world of the play in which we hear the playwright speaking directly to us. As a counterpoint to Rumour’s induction, it ties the play back to metatheatrical concern with playgoers’ willingness to believe the show.



It contains a sort of ‘credit clause’ that echoes the standard formal opening of a legal deed ‘noverint universi per presentes’ (in As You Like It, Rosalind translates this as ‘Be it known unto all men by these presents’ [1.2.117–18]): Be it known to you, as it is very well, I was lately here in the end of a displeasing play to pray your patience for it and to promise you a better. I meant indeed to pay you with this, which, if like an ill venture it come unluckily home, I break, and you, my gentle creditors, lose. Here I promised you I would be, and here I commit my body to your mercies. Bate me some, and I will pay you some and, as most debtors do, promise you infinitely. (2H4, Epilogue 1, 7–16) This epilogue, with its talk of breaking with creditors, of a venture coming home, and of a body at a creditor’s mercy, fits The Merchant of Venice every bit as well as it fits the play it was written for. Surely Shakespeare had both plays in mind at the same time, even if Merchant is unlikely to be the ‘displeasing play’ referred to.27 At the end of Merchant, Portia’s accidental letter performs the epilogue’s part of reminding us that we are watching a play and that the playwright has been asking us to believe in a work of artifice. Did we really believe that Shylock planned to kill Antonio from the outset? Or that the actions of the disguised Portia would match the mercy of her ornamental speech? Or that the court would enforce the flesh bond? Did the original playgoers believe that blood would be shed on the stage – a stage that would not have been draped in tragedy’s customary black, but decked in the colours of comedy? The material evidence was always before the playgoers’ eyes. In line after line of text, the playwright tells his audience to doubt all ornamental show, but still he persuades us to suspend our disbelief. The Duke voices the playgoers’ subconscious doubts about the performed ‘act’ when he says ‘Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too, / That thou


but leadest this fashion of thy malice / To the last hour of act’ (4.1.16–18). Far from making the playgoers conscious of their doubts, his words of doubt chime with their thoughts and thereby enhance the veracity and reality of the play. We, the audience, are willingly gulled. We accept the show, as we accept the truth of a lover’s lies. The Duke, Salarino and Salanio are not the only characters to align themselves with an external or metatheatrical point of view. Lorenzo seems to speak on behalf of the poet when he praises poetic language and decries its abuse by Lancelet Giobbe: ‘I do know / A many fools … / Garnished like him, that for a tricksy word / Defy the matter’ (3.5.60–6). This talk of dressing that obscures the matter, following Lancelet’s ‘for the meat, sir, it shall be covered’ (3.5.55–6), calls to this writer’s mind passages in Thomas Wilson’s The Arte of Rhetorique: him cunne I thanke, that both can and will ever, mingle sweete among the sower, be he Preacher, Lawyer, yea, or Cooke either hardly, when hee dresseth a good dish of meate.28 Now an eloquent man being smally learned can much more good in perswading by shift of wordes, and meete placing of matter: then a great learned clarke shalbe able with great store of learning, wanting words to set forth his meaning.29 Wilson claims as a virtue the very thing that Plato decried as a vice – that it is more pleasing to be served lesser meat dressed in a good sauce than to be served good meat with a poor sauce. Shakespeare clearly agreed with the need for good sauce, though ideally as an enhancement for good meat rather than a cover for bad. I think we can hear his voice in Lorenzo’s objection to words that mar the matter. It is only when the outer dressing is unrelated to the inner matter, so that it can in no way express, enhance or emphasize the substance, that the outside loses its quality of being true. This might



happen, say, if one were to order a chicken dish with a sauce so overpowering that it becomes impossible to realize that one is really eating pork. It matters when we are tricked into swallowing lies. According to Cicero’s account, the Roman actor Polus enhanced his performance of Electra mourning her brother by bringing on to stage an urn with the ashes of his own dead son. Brecht called this ‘barbaric’. He employed a metaphor that will now be familiar to us: the object is to fob us off with some kind of portable anguish – that’s to say anguish that can be detached from its cause, transferred in toto and lent to some other cause. The incidents proper to the play disappear like meat in a cunningly mixed sauce with a taste of its own.30 Lorenzo’s role is to bear true witness to Shakespeare’s craft, even as at one point he is enlisted by Portia to bear false witness to her whereabouts during the time she played the lawyer (5.1.270–1). As Bassanio warns us not to trust the one who persuades us with sweet speech (‘In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt, / But, being seasoned with a gracious voice, / Obscures the show of evil?’ [3.2.75–7]), so Lorenzo warns us not to trust the man whom sweet sounds cannot sway: ‘The man that hath no music in himself, / Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, / Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; … / Let no such man be trusted’ (5.1.83–8). If we were to reject the sound of words and the sight of the scene merely because they are sensory and superficial, we would throw out the meat with the sauce. As Ben Jonson wrote ‘On picture’ (De pictura): ‘Whosoever loves not picture is injurious to truth’.31 In 1977, Richard Schechner put it this way: the raw material of theatre wherever it is found – is also the stuff that lies are made of. As Ekman points out, the face is not only a truth-teller but a liar without peer. And lying, as much as truth-telling, is the stock in trade of theatre.32


Alongside this we can place Constantin Stanislavski’s assertion in his 1937 work An Actor Prepares: What we mean by truth in the theatre is the scenic truth which an actor must make use of in his moments of creativeness. Try always to begin by working from the inside, both on the factual and imaginary part of a play and its setting. Put life into all the imagined circumstances and actions until you have completely satisfied your sense of truth, and until you have awakened a sense of faith in the reality of your sensations. This process is what we call justification of a part.33 Justice, which has been called giving to each one their due,34 is what the audience renders when it commits to give the performance credit where it is due. It takes the form of judgment free of prejudice, of suspension of disbelief and, at the end, the approbation of applause. Stanislavski writes that ‘Truth on the stage is whatever we can believe in with sincerity, whether in ourselves or in our colleagues. Truth cannot be separated from belief, nor belief from truth’.35 The playwright and the actors present a surface, the whole surface and nothing but the surface. That done, they make one demand of us – that we should believe them when they say, ‘if you prick us, we will bleed’. In fact, we never prick them; and they never bleed. We hold the play but as a play because it pleases us to do so. We are satisfied with the surface, with the scene. When we probe it, that is prove it, we find that a good play is proof against our doubts. The surface suffices. We take it for truth, and we trust in it. Only cutting critics of the unkindest sort will find false in everything. The reasonable playgoer, who goes ‘kindly to judge’ the play (H5, Prologue 34), does not need to see Shylock bleed to accept his humanity, or to see the Prince of Morocco bleed who offered to ‘make incision’ (2.1.6) to prove his love, or to see Antonio bleed who offered his life for his friend. Trust in surfaces makes the world of theatre, as it makes theatre of the world. Antonio sees this when he says:



I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, A stage, where every man must play a part, And mine a sad one. (1.1.77–9) Antonio speaks knowingly of his world of show as if it were our world. Through him, Shakespeare points to fabrications, and in so doing directs our critical gaze away from the hand that manufactured everything. The effect is the paradoxical and alienating one of making Antonio seem more real. We sense that he needs our trust and that he needs something to trust to in an untrustworthy world. Perhaps he needs to love and to be loved, not as a merchant of Venice, but as a character in a play. It is in that character that Antonio must take his very existence on trust, and this, in sooth, may be why he feels so sad.

7 New Directions: The Merchant of Venice On Screen Douglas M. Lanier

Adapting The Merchant of Venice to the screen involves techniques common to any screen adaptation of Shakespeare. It entails opening up the narrative, visually expanding the fictional world, showing us what the dialogue only tells us about or even extrapolating from it. It involves catering to the medium’s photorealistic nature with visual spectacle. It entails intercutting narrative lines to provide juxtaposition or analogy, recontextualizing Shakespeare’s language with close-ups, framing, camera movement and onscreen responses, and using visuals to introduce ambiguity, irony, symbolism or subtext. And it involves recasting Shakespeare’s work to the protocols of established screen genres, as well as addressing contemporary audiences’ mores and expectations for psychological believability. In the case of The Merchant of Venice, expansion of the narrative world has meant expanding the focus on Shylock.



Filmmakers add visual prologues, epilogues, flashbacks and inserted vignettes to tell us more about Shylock and his life. Two moments are noteworthy: Shylock’s return home to find Jessica gone, a vignette filmmakers borrowed from Henry Irving’s stage performance and have variously extended; and Shylock’s fate after the trial, giving Shylock one last return to the screen, often with pathos or irony. The Belmont plot has occasionally also been expanded, but rarely so. Visual spectacle has been provided by Venice’s distinctive iconography of canals, bridges, gondolas and the carnival. Over time, depictions of Venice have shifted from being a romantic, exotic location to a site of decadence and decay, with the carnival mask as its symbol. Directors have also become more willing to use strategies of intercutting and cinematography to suggest the hypocrisy of the Christians and the victimhood of Shylock. And two genres have been central to the history of Merchant on screen: melodrama and the heritage film. The content of The Merchant of Venice poses an additional challenge, for audiences have found the play’s anti-Semitic and racist elements increasingly troubling. Putting this play on screen, no matter how carefully reshaped, risks garnering protests and losing money. Relatively few cinematic adaptations of Merchant have been made after the silent era, because from the 1930s onwards filmmakers have been reluctant to tackle the play lest they contribute to anti-Semitic stereotypes. A handful of directors have used passages from Merchant to confront Nazism directly – Ernst Lubitsch in To Be or Not to Be (1942), Steven Spielberg in Schindler’s List (1993), Roman Polanski in The Pianist (2002) – but these moments only underline how, from the 1940s on, the dark shadow of the Holocaust has hovered over reception of the play and so determined its perceived amenability for film adaptation. Only very recently have directors experimented with addressing Merchant outside a concern with antiSemitism.



The Silent Era The reason for The Merchant of Venice’s popularity on screen in the silent era cannot be reduced to a broad cultural embrace of anti-Semitism, though this certainly plays a role. First, Venice provided picturesque imagery that early audiences found exotic and appealing, and Belmont afforded opportunities for lavish displays of opulence. Second, Victorian melodrama underlay many silent-film narratives, and Shylock bore more than a passing resemblance to the traditional villain of melodrama, as did Portia to the traditional saviour figure. Stripped to its narrative essentials, Merchant could be presented as a blackand-white conflict between good and evil decisively resolved at trial, providing along the way romance, threat, pathos and suspense. Lastly, Shylock and Portia were well-established vehicles for theatrical stars, Shakespearean parts that offered opportunities for bravura performances and, in the case of Portia, opportunities for glamour and agency. In early silent film, Shylock seems a generic name for a comic villain. Such is the case with the first film that names him as a character, Georges Méliès’s Un miroir de Venise (Une mésaventure de Shylock, 1905). No scenario of this lost production survives, but in other films Méliès is known to have used Shakespearean scenarios, and the combination of ‘Venice’, ‘misadventure’ and ‘Shylock’ suggests that he is evoking Shakespeare’s play. Elio Ugenti surmises that Un miroir de Venise adopted a familiar Shakespearean frame – the comeuppance of Shylock the villain – within which Méliès could ply his trademark visual effects.1 Other lost films may have had connections to Merchant: Un drame judiciaire à Venise (Cines, 1908), Les Filles de Shylock (Gaumont, 1909), A Modern Shylock (Urban-Eclipse, 1911) and Der Shylock von Krakau (The Shylock of Cracow, Projections A. G. Union, 1913). Of this group, the last, directed by Carl Wilhelm from Felix Salten’s script, is notable. Der Shylock von Krakau involves a



Jewish moneylender, Isaak Lewi, who after loaning money to an aristocratic wastrel, Herr von Zamirsky, refuses to loan him any more. Zamirsky woos Lewi’s daughter, Rahel, and through her steals Lewi’s money. Soon abandoned, Rahel returns home regretful, and on her deathbed receives her father’s long-delayed forgiveness. The film reworks motifs from Shakespeare’s play – the spendthrift Christian, the eloping daughter, the vengeful moneylender – into a scenario typical of Yiddish cinema, the conflict between older Jewish tradition (represented by a father) and secular modernity (represented by a wayward son or daughter), their conflict ending in reconciliation. That is, Salten reworks the plot of Merchant into a film about Jewish heritage. Filmed on location in Krakow, one of the largest Jewish enclaves in Eastern Europe, the film provided charming vignettes of Kazimierz and sympathetic portrayal of Jewish religious life. Der Shylock von Krakau paves the way for Peter Paul Felner’s hybridization of Yiddish film and The Merchant of Venice in his Jew of Mestri (1923). The earliest surviving examples of The Merchant of Venice on screen look to older performance styles in which Shylock is a Jewish villain and Portia a romantic heroine. Between 1908 and 1916, six Merchant of Venice films were produced: The Merchant of Venice (Vitagraph, 1908), Il mercante di Venezia (Film d’Arte Italiana, 1910), The Merchant of Venice (Thanhouser, 1912), Shylock, ou le More de Venise (Eclipse, 1913), The Merchant of Venice (Universal, 1914) and The Merchant of Venice (Broadwest, 1916).2 The Vitagraph film, the earliest of this group, now exists only in paper strips, but records suggest the barebones narrative minimized the romance between Bassanio and Portia in favour of the Shylock plotline, which also included Lorenzo’s elopement with Jessica, apparently part of Shylock’s comeuppance. The final act is cut. Even in abbreviated form, the film includes a sequence in which Shylock, having discovered Jessica’s absence, rages outside his home, mocked by onlookers. This spectacle of pathos was to become a common vignette in screen adaptations thereafter. As is the case with many one-reel ‘literary’ films of the period,



the Vitagraph Merchant of Venice requires prior knowledge of the play, and it hovers between presentation of spectacular setpieces and a highly truncated tale of Shylock’s downfall. Gerolamo Lo Savio’s Il mercante di Venezia (1911) makes the most of location shooting in Venice, firmly identifying the tale as Italian and by doing so linking Italian film with Shakespeare’s prestige. Like the Vitagraph film, Lo Savio’s adaptation cuts the Bassanio and Portia romance in favour of the Shylock plot and Jessica’s elopement. Ermete Novelli, a well-established classical stage actor, plays up Shylock’s double nature. In public he is all smiles and bows, but in private he harbours a hatred which he communicates in visual asides, what Judith Buchanan likens to mini-soliloquies.3 The bond is framed as Shylock’s covert means to ruin his enemy and, after Antonio has signed, Shylock admires the document, the instrument of his power. Shylock’s villainy is that he fakes submission to the social norm rather than truly submitting to it. His defeat comes at the hands of an imposing Portia, played by Novelli’s wife Olga Giannini. Her Portia reads as a version of the New Woman, politically active, refusing domestic constraints. When news of Antonio’s arrest arrives, she takes charge, heading immediately to court while Bassanio dawdles and frets. Without a word about mercy, she cites a statute from her law book to defeat Shylock. This statute, appearing on a title card made to look like a book, culminates a series of written documents in the film, suggesting that this adaptation focuses on the power of the written word. With the Eclipse production of 1913, a French adaptation starring prominent Parisian theatre stars, silent films of The Merchant of Venice begin to reincorporate the romance plot, a trend made possible by lengthening the films to multiple reels, and spurred by the ascendancy of female stars and tales of love. This version reduces the play to eight scenes, with an epilogue; the casket test of the three suitors is reduced to a single scene, and for the first time the ring test is included. Director Henri Desfontaines alternates plot points with visual spectacle. A throwaway scene in Portia’s chamber, for example,



features her attendants dancing and sword-fighting before she greets Bassanio in Belmont. Though the staging is theatrical, with a stationary camera photographing mostly frontal action, the period costumes are sumptuous, in keeping with emphasis on grand spectacle. The exception to this is Harry Baur’s shabbily dressed but exuberant Shylock, portrayed as a comic miser. Shylock bathes his head in gold pieces before Antonio and Bassanio arrive, guards his treasure chest as they negotiate and is reluctant to let go of his money bags. Without Jessica’s elopement to motivate him (Jessica and Lancelot are cut), he is driven entirely by greed. At trial, Shylock sits on the floor like a beggar, refusing civilized behaviour. Crowds in the courtroom openly jeer at him, recasting anti-Semitism as the will of the people and allowing Antonio to project himself as a blameless, noble victim. Desfontaines expands upon Shylock’s defeat. In the ring sequence, we see him prostrate at Bassanio and Portia’s feet, as if he has indeed become a beggar, momentarily rising in rage only to fall down again as crowds mock him. In a short epilogue, we see Shylock once again in the street, taunted by onlookers as he walks toward the synagogue. Though at first he stoops with despair, he soon regains his composure, staring down one threatening man, grabbing another and returning the crowd’s abuse as he stands in the synagogue doorway. The implication is that, though the Jewish threat has been temporarily bowed, it has not been fully defeated. Many Merchant films of the 1910s we know only from descriptions. A 1914 Universal production, the first Merchant in Hollywood, sprang from producer Carl Laemmle’s interest in The Jew’s Christmas (1913), a sentimental melodrama about a Jewish family written by Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber.4 Laemmle prompted the duo to adapt The Merchant of Venice, in which they also directed and starred. In this, the first Shakespeare film directed (in part) by a woman, Weber’s script brought women’s roles to the fore. Moving Picture World notes that, in addition to Portia’s love story being developed, ‘Jessica’s love affair … is brought to closer relationship to Portia’s romance and greatly enhances its value’.5 Two years



later, the British company Broadwest produced a Merchant of Venice in London, starring established stage-Shakespearean Matheson Lang. The film was conceived as a cinematic record of Lang’s production at London’s St James Theatre. Of note are the expansive, elegant sets for Belmont which, despite the Renaissance costumes, suggest wartime nostalgia for the wellheeled leisured class, in contrast to Shylock’s cramped, plain home. An added flirtatious dockside exchange between a flower girl, Bassanio and a merchant suggests male sexual entitlement at work among Bassanio’s companions. The decade ended with the first of Anson Dyer’s series of cartoon burlesques of Shakespeare, his Merchant of Venice (1919). In it Antonio is an Italian ice-cream seller hauled into court by Shylock for unpaid debts; Portia, Antonio’s lover, defeats Shylock by demonstrating that he has insufficient ration tickets to take a pound of flesh. Dyer’s parody may indicate spectators’ growing impatience with ‘quality’ Shakespeare adaptations. The most substantial film adaptation of Merchant in the silent era is Peter Paul Felner’s Der Kaufmann von Venedig (1922), released in English-speaking markets under the title The Jew of Mestri. The film was shot on location in Venice and its superstar cast included Werner Krauss and Henny Porten. Much like Svend Gade’s Hamlet (1921), Felner’s film claims to reimagine Shakespeare through Shakespeare’s own sources, in this case Giovanni Fiorentino’s Il Pecorone. Though Felner does change the names in the English version – Shylock becomes Mordecai, Jessica Rachela, Bassanio Giannetto, Antonio Benito and Portia Beatrice – in reality he makes little use of Fiorentino. Instead, he dovetails Merchant with a plotline from Yiddish cinema – the Jewish father’s exercise of patriarchal prerogative, here an arranged marriage between Mordecai’s daughter Rachela and Tubal’s son Elias. This precipitates a family rift as Rachela pursues romantic independence. The film’s first third focuses primarily on Mordecai’s family and vignettes of Jewish life. As Rachela contemplates eloping with Lorenzo, Mordecai sends his wife to collect a debt from Giannetto, an irresponsible spendthrift. Rebuffed by Giannetto



and his mates, the wife dies of a heart attack, the first of several tragedies to befall Mordecai. Lear-like, he carries his dead wife through the piazza, vowing ‘You shall pay!’. Felner then turns to Beatrice and her idyllic villa. This Portia figure is not constrained by a casket test in her choice of husband. Her nemesis is the vain Prince of Arragon, who tries to undermine her attraction to Giannetto by revealing his poverty. When Beatrice travels to Venice to learn the truth, Benito covers for his friend by lying about his wealth, setting up Giannetto’s need for a loan from Mordecai. At this point, the plot begins to hew more closely to Shakespeare’s. Felner considerably expands Rachela’s elopement and Mordecai’s discovery of her flight. This occurs during an extended carnival sequence, in which the city seems to conspire with the lovers, revellers waving them goodbye. As carnival-goers dance outside, Mordecai, in an expressionistic sequence, searches through his dark, empty house, his anguish growing until he bursts into the piazza. Amidst a swirl of revellers, he cries ‘Rachela! Rachela! Where have they taken you?’, falls to the ground and is left alone to stumble home. The juxtaposition of carnival scenes with Mordecai’s pathosriddled isolation underlines the indifference of Christian Venice to his sufferings, which are compounded by news of Rachela’s conversion and Elias’s suicide. At this, Mordecai’s lowest point, Tubal encourages him to take revenge, at which he raises a defiant fist, directed as much at fate as at the Christians. The trial comprises the film’s last third, but before it begins, Rachela tries to get Mordecai to relent. He remains impervious to her plea, eerily unresponsive. One of the film’s most affecting scenes, it is also a refusal of a key trope of Yiddish cinema – the reconciliation of parent and child. At trial, in a cavernous courtroom that seems to seat all of Venice, Mordecai pursues Antonio until Portia stops him in mid-knife stroke, at which Mordecai is buffeted by crowds and swept away, his face frozen in anguish. Rather than being forced to convert, Mordecai must endure the wedding celebrations of the three couples as they pass his house and the city showers them



with flowers. Mordecai’s punishment is to be alone, reading the Torah by the light of a tiny window, listening to others’ happiness. The film’s final image is of Mordecai’s harrowed face, with the title card ‘desolation’. Felner’s film poses an interpretative challenge. On the one hand, some elements seem to confirm the stereotype of the devious, conspiratorial Jew. Werner Krauss was a well-known Nazi collaborator in the 1930s and 1940s, and in the trial his portrayal of Shylock plays up Jewish bloodthirstiness. One could argue that the film positions The Merchant of Venice against the tropes of Yiddish cinema, countering any initial sympathy we might feel for Mordecai. On the other hand, even though Mordecai runs roughshod over his daughter’s romantic freedom, the film magnifies his pathos. Mordecai’s carrying of his dead wife and his frantic search for Rachela are deeply moving. Felner’s portrayal of humble Jewish life is consistently set against the extravagance of Giannetto, Benito, Beatrice and the carnival revellers of Venice. Mordecai’s loss of Rachela to callous, wealthy Christians is tragic, and his pain registers in close-ups during the attempted reconciliation scene and again in the film’s final shot. There is a case to be made, then, that this film imagines its Shylock figure as a tragic, sympathetic victim of bourgeois decadents, a portrayal that would have resonated in economically devastated Weimar Germany. The Jew of Mestri signals a new sympathy in screen portrayals of Shylock.

Merchant and the Talkies It is possible to claim Widgey Newman’s 1927 The Merchant of Venice as the first Shakespeare talkie, though the film seems to have consisted of scenes rather than a thoroughgoing narrative. Drawing upon a production at the Old Vic, Widgey Newman’s visually static version, using sound-on-disc technology pioneered by Lee DeForest, reflects the actors’



need to stay close to the microphone. The cast featured Lewis Casson, whose Shylock at the Old Vic had been controversial for his Jewish accent and non-heroic approach to the role. His screen performance accords with descriptions of his stage performance – his Shylock is a caricature, sporting a crook nose and scraggly beard, exuding indignation and self-pity. More remarkable is an interpolated scene between two women, one in a long feathery white gown, the other cross-dressed à la Robin Hood. This is likely Jessica and Lorenzo, though the film’s credits do not identity them as such. As ‘Lorenzo’ woos ‘Jessica’, a ring of women dancers – like refugees from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – suddenly cavort around them before exiting. Following love-talk and a kiss, ‘Lorenzo’ slips into this rant: But should we stay outside yon house, Whose very name shrieks to the heavens, ‘Jew’! The fellow merchants scoff him in their words. A plague unto him! Curse all Jews, I say! The night is young, beloved. Let us away. The same-gender casting and flitting dancers introduce an element of innocent eroticism that jars against such virulent bigotry. This film constitutes the last gasp of the open racism of many of the silents. In the wake of rising fascism, such an approach was increasingly troubling. If Shakespeare was difficult to transpose into a talking medium, Merchant was doubly difficult because of its association with anti-Semitic stereotypes. Accordingly, Western filmmakers’ interest in The Merchant of Venice waned with the arrival of the talkies. Outside the West, the play carried different connotations and so fared somewhat better. In India in 1927, director M. Udvadia produced Dil Farosh (Merchant of Hearts), the first Indian film based upon a Shakespeare play, mediated through a Parsi play of the same name; a second Dil Farosh, directed by D. N. Madhok and featuring the actor Ishwarlal,6



perhaps a talkie remake, appeared in 1937. A third film, Zalim Saudagar (The Cruel Merchant), appeared in 1941, the work of J. J. Madan, who also produced a film version of The Taming of the Shrew. These films do not survive, but, judging from titles and plot summaries, these and other Indian film adaptations focus primarily on the motif of the merciless loan shark and the consequences for those who fall into his clutches.7 They tend to address the cycle of poverty and economic barriers to aspiration rather than religious or caste prejudice. After the Second World War, Merchant languished on screen. Though performances were broadcast on television as early as 1947, it was not until 1953 that a film version would appear, and then in altered form. Le Marchand de Venise8 was in its day a major film, featuring lavish production values (including on-location shooting in Venice) and a cast of wellestablished European film stars, including Andrée Debar as Portia and Michel Simon as Shylock. A French-Italian coproduction, it was directed and partly written by Pierre Billon, who had experience in adapting literary classics and producing period films. Billon tilts the narrative in the direction of Portia and Bassanio’s relationship, with Lorenzo and Jessica as counterpoint. Portia takes the romantic initiative, urging Bassanio to woo her in Belmont and resisting her father’s stranglehold over her love life. The film’s backbone becomes Bassanio’s heroic efforts to win Portia’s hand, actions that include not just procuring sufficient funds from Shylock but racing on horseback to Belmont on the day of judgement and threatening to defy the casket test. Devoted to the principle of romantic independence, Portia is at times a suffering innamorata, hoping Bassanio will save her from enforced marriage, and other times a voice for self-determination, asserting her rights before Bellario and Bianca who run the casket test. The casket test is modified in telling ways. At first Bassanio intends to flout it but, when Bianca insists, he chooses the lead casket only to find Portia’s portrait not in it. Only then does Bianca reveal that Portia’s portrait was in all of



the caskets, hidden in a false bottom. The test allowed Bianca to judge each suitor, and Bassanio’s heroic efforts prove the earnestness of his love. The test thus becomes one of authentic romantic fervour, the film’s central value. Throughout, class differences are front and centre. While the Venetian mercantile elite spend their time in opulent villas eating, drinking and gambling, Shylock lives in a cramped rustic flat, dresses shabbily and eats frugally. This, plus Simon’s association with upright working-class roles, identifies his Shylock more with the labouring classes than with Jews. In the opening sequence, Shylock visits the gambling house to rescue his brother Samuel’s daughter Marta, who has become a prostitute for Christians so that she can become independent of her father. This passage demonstrates the corrupting influence of wealth upon Venice, but particularly upon authentic love, and it establishes that a woman’s pursuit of erotic independence – also pursued by Portia and Jessica – may come at moral cost. Coming within a decade of the Second World War, this scenario evokes the brothels set up under Nazi occupation, where Jewish women might hope for better treatment (or mere survival) in exchange for sex with soldiers. It also shifts the central issue away from anti-Semitism per se and toward upper-class hedonism. That is, the film takes some pains to recast religious differences in terms of class and economic tensions. As is common in films of Merchant, Le Marchand extends Shylock’s discovery of Jessica’s flight. Like Portia and Marta, Jessica is motivated to elope by the principle of romantic liberty, not a desire to convert. She also has class aspirations: Lorenzo represents for her an entrée into the Venetian elite and escape from her father, who treats her like a scullery maid. This is not to say Shylock regards his daughter simply as property. In their first interaction, Shylock gives Jessica a necklace, token of his affection. This becomes Billon’s substitute for Leah’s ring, a symbol of Shylock’s capacity for love and an alternative to Venetian riches. Though Jessica accepts the gift reluctantly, once Shylock leaves she tears it off and tosses Shylock’s dinner on



the floor, a double declaration of filial independence. Shylock’s anguish upon discovering Jessica’s absence is one of the film’s most remarkable sequences. As in Felner’s film, Shylock rushes through his empty house and then outside where he is jostled by revellers. The camera dwells on Shylock’s face as he realizes what Jessica has done, and his pained, confused expression became the film’s signature image on its posters. The sequence becomes nightmarish as Shylock plunges into carnival chaos. Eventually from a bridge Shylock spies Lorenzo and Jessica in a gondola. As they glide by, the two laugh and taunt him, reminding him that he has no more children. Shylock desperately reaches after them, screaming ‘Jessica, come back! Do not abandon me!’, but grotesquely masked carnival-goers pile on, pulling him out of sight, as if he were being dragged to hell by demons. This extraordinary sequence builds sympathy for Shylock, and stresses that Shylock’s revenge springs from his daughter’s corruption by the Venetian upper classes. The trial scene, normally the climax of Merchant films, is surprisingly decorous, especially when measured against the crowd’s raucous anti-Semitism in earlier films. One reason for the crowd’s restraint, a visual aside by Lorenzo indicates, is that the trial is rigged – Portia manoeuvres Shylock into relinquishing his fortune to Jessica (via Antonio) and converting. Shylock accepts her verdict unbowed, without remorse or capitulation. Billon’s real interest is in what happens afterward in Shylock’s home. There, Portia tries to coax Shylock’s acceptance of Jessica’s actions, motivated, she stresses, by romantic desire. At first Shylock refuses, launching into the ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ speech (3.1.53ff) and insisting upon revenge. He remains angry at the aristocratic regime into which Jessica has been drawn, and given that regime’s loose association in the film with the Nazis, this sequence seems calculated to address the residual anger of those who suffered during their rule. With Portia’s pleading, Shylock soon relents, giving Portia Jessica’s necklace as a token of reconciliation. Strangely enough, Le Marchand appropriates The Merchant of Venice as a means to recast, or rather, strategically obscure the anti-Semitism of



Europe’s recent past and to imagine forgiveness of its victims for their oppressors, under the banner of ‘love’.

Merchant on Television After the Holocaust, The Merchant of Venice was regarded as commercially toxic, and so it disappeared from movie screens for the next fifty years. The play fared somewhat better on television, especially where networks were state-sponsored and committed to cultural education rather than to the profit motive. Merchant has been adapted to television worldwide, with productions in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Australia, Taiwan and Japan, among others. Often based upon successful stage productions, televisual Merchants typically bear the marks of the theatre. They follow Shakespeare’s script more closely than cinematic adaptations; they are typically filmed on soundstages rather than on location; camerawork – usually three- or five-camera setups – is utilitarian, devoted to preserving the integrity of actors’ performances. Television Merchants have also tended to be set in the Renaissance,9 perhaps in an effort to distance the play’s issues from the present and to stress the uplifting ‘classical’ quality of the material. Because I do not have space to survey the more than twenty television Merchants produced in the past seventy years, I will address a representative handful: the 1980 BBC Time-Life production directed by Jack Gold; John Sichel’s 1973 production, starring Laurence Olivier; and Orson Welles’s unfinished Merchant, begun in 1969 and reconstructed in 2015 by Stefan Drössler. Gold’s Merchant, for the BBC Time-Life Shakespeare series, exemplifies conventional television adaptation, which tends to mute the play’s troubling aspects. Period costumes and somewhat stylized, obviously theatrical sets distance the production from the post-Holocaust world. Gold’s production, following Shakespeare’s script faithfully, relies



more heavily on language than visuals. It also tends to take Shakespeare’s Christian characters at face value. Antonio is noble if priggish, Bassanio sincere about reform and love, their relationship without hint of homosexuality. Portia is chaste, earnest and morally upright, so much so that ice-blue Belmont is without much erotic heat until Lorenzo and Jessica arrive. This approach to characterization sometimes poses a problem. Portia’s comments about Morocco’s ‘complexion’ (2.1.1), for example, potentially compromise her image of moral purity, so Morocco is portrayed as a white sultan with black attendants. This blunts the possibility that Portia might be seen as a racist, but it makes Morocco’s ‘mislike me not for my complexion’ speech (2.1.1ff) incomprehensible. Shylock’s character is more complex. Though Warren Mitchell plays him with a strong Jewish accent and in yarmulke and gaberdine, religious conflict is at first rather muted. In his ‘How like a fawning publican’ speech (1.3.37ff) direct to camera, Mitchell emphasizes Shylock’s antipathy to Antonio’s business practices much more than his religion. In a performance not unlike Novelli’s, to Antonio and Bassanio he plays ‘the villain with the smiling cheek’ (1.3.96), laughing as he proposes the bond. This emphasis upon Shylock’s merriness carries over to 3.1. When Shylock begins his ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ speech (3.1.53ff), Salanio and Salarino, accustomed to Shylock’s jocularity, do not take him seriously until he reaches ‘shall we not revenge?’ (3.1.60), at which point matters become serious and Salanio’s anti-Semitism becomes nasty. Upon learning Jessica traded away Leah’s ring, Shylock rends his garments and hardens his heart, his motivation for revenge more personal betrayal rather than hatred of Christians. At trial, the religious basis for his malice surfaces only when Shylock flicks away Antonio’s cross with his knife to cut his flesh. However, as the scene progresses the benevolent face of Christian power falls away: Portia, insisting Shylock take his pound of flesh, holds the knife in Shylock’s hand to Antonio’s breast; Solanio and Gratiano knock off Shylock’s yarmulke, put a crucifix around his neck and press it to his lips; and



the camera lingers on Shylock’s anguished face as he mutters ‘I am content’ (4.1.390) and leaves. Afterward, only Portia registers the ugliness of Shylock’s treatment, even though she engineered it. Her momentarily furrowed brow is calculated to re-establish her moral rectitude, preparing us for the fairy-tale Portia we see upon her return to Belmont. The ‘happy ending’ – three couples kissing – is only briefly troubled by ambiguities. Jessica, reading the ‘deed of gift’ (4.1.390), glares at Antonio before exiting, noting his complicity in her father’s humiliation. Antonio is left alone, a solitary silhouette watching the couples leave. Television productions originating with theatre perfor­mances tend to have a stronger directorial vision. Such is John Sichel’s 1973 production, from Jonathan Miller’s stage production at the National Theatre. A showcase for Laurence Olivier’s Shylock, Sichel’s adaptation is set in an Edwardian England replete with Venetian canals, where rituals such as tea and top hats rule the day. Like Le Marchand, this production concerns questions of class; here a veneer of upper-class decorum masks hypocrisy, racism and anti-Semitism. Portia, an ageing spinster in a country house, treats Morocco politely, but glances she exchanges with Nerissa reveal she is appalled at the prospect of a black suitor. When Bassanio, a young legacy hunter, arrives, Portia manipulates his choice of casket in her favour, with two chanteuses singing in lead-coloured dresses. In Olivier’s hands, Shylock’s tale becomes a tragedy of attempted assimilation. His Jewishness is indicated only by a yarmulke often hidden beneath his top hat. Otherwise he is indistinguishable from the other upper-class merchants; at the trial, Portia initially confuses him with Antonio. Shylock initially seems to believe he has successfully assimilated, but when Jessica abandons him and he learns about Leah’s ring, he recognizes that Christian Venice is an exclusive clique which will always exclude him. Wrapping himself in his tallit, he embraces his Jewish difference and performs a mourning prayer, perhaps for Jessica, perhaps for himself. At the trial, portrayed as a private conference, Shylock is confident in the law’s power to overcome Antonio’s



upper-class privilege, though Antonio’s sang-froid never cracks; in defeat, Shylock lets loose an off-screen wail that finally breaks through the Christians’ polite façade, discomfiting them all. This juxtaposition of upper-class privilege and religious oppression returns at the end as Jessica, deeply disturbed, reads the deed of gift as we hear the Kaddish, the implication being that the trial killed Shylock. The final image is of Portia’s country house, connecting British aristocratic heritage with the exclusion and cruelty that make it possible. One of the most unusual televisual adaptations of Merchant is that of Orson Welles. His forty-minute condensed version, intended for an anthology show called Orson’s Bag, was underway in 1969 when CBS pulled its funding. Despite Welles’s attempt to finish the project, it was never completed and some reels were subsequently lost or stolen.10 Welles focuses on Shylock striking the deal with Bassanio and Antonio, on Jessica and Lorenzo’s elopement and on Shylock’s discovery of Jessica’s absence and his conversation with Tubal. Left out are Portia, the romance plot and the trial scene. Welles uses Venetian carnival as a metaphor for a sinister upper-class. As Shylock walks through Venice and enters Antonio’s house, he is watched by ominous figures in long black cloaks and white carnival masks, of which Antonio is the epitome (making a virtue of necessity, Welles used puppets for many of these figures). Without Portia to motivate the loan, Antonio and Bassanio seem to exploit Shylock financially simply for their own perverse pleasure, while others of their ilk sit in silent judgement. The atmosphere of Antonio’s home is sinister, mocking. The predominant trait of Welles’s Shylock is his isolation. Welles often shoots him alone against blank walls or from behind bars; repeatedly we see him crossing empty piazzas or streets. Venice becomes a surrealistic modernist cityscape, with Shylock surveilled by its anonymous inhabitants. Often all we hear is the lonely tap of Shylock’s cane as he walks. Jessica is visually allied with the masked figures, and once Shylock realizes she has gone, his isolation only escalates.



He converses with Tubal from behind a grated door under the eye of white-masked figures and afterward is taunted by carnival figures in long-nosed masks, large hats and beards, that is, caricatures of himself. Here the film footage runs out, but the soundtrack continues with the ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ with which the film ends. This speech becomes a protest not just against anti-Semitism but also against the dehumanizing nature of modern institutions and mass society. Shylock emerges as the quintessential ‘little man’ at the mercy of anonymous judgement and power, reprising the concerns of Welles’s The Trial (1962). In a prefacing passage, Welles, putting on make-up, divulges his lifelong desire to play Shylock, calling him ‘a stranger in a light-hearted, coldhearted city’. This frame invites the viewer to recognize the actor–director beneath the role, and so to read the production as an expression of Welles’s grievance against the mainstream film industry and mass audiences. In addition to offering a visually arresting adaptation, Welles contributes to the history of screen Merchants a distinctively modernist, paranoid conception of the play.

Twenty-first-century Screen Merchants Concerns with identity politics has reinvigorated twenty-firstcentury filmmakers’ interest in Merchant, which they have used to address not just anti-Semitism but also other forms of racial and sexual prejudice. Those concerns are central to Don Selwyn’s Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti (2002), the first feature film in the Maori language and the first film of Merchant since Le Marchand in 1953. Selwyn transposes the narrative to nineteenth-century New Zealand. The plight of the Jews in Christian Venice is analogized to that of the indigenous Maori people amidst colonization, with Hairoka (Shylock) the symbol of the island’s oppressed native population.11 As the film begins, Hairoka gives the ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ speech as



we watch a merchant ship arrive, bringing with it a tempest. The consequence of colonization becomes clear in the art gallery where Patanio (Bassanio) and Anatonio (Antonio) ask Hairoka for a loan. There hangs a painting of a notorious Maori atrocity – the colonial government’s destruction in 1881 of Parihaka, a community of Maori dissidents. Like the Jews who supplied early modern Christians capital while being derided for usury, the Maori supplied the land upon which colonial New Zealand was built while they were themselves ostracized. The Belmont plot pursues colonial critique in a different key: Pohia (Portia), a self-possessed princess, resides in the seat of a utopian pre-colonial Maori kingdom, Peremona, where she is courted by ridiculous European suitors. As each fails the casket test, singers sing them off. Remaining faithful to Shakespeare’s narrative, Selwyn creates in the romance plot what amounts to a Maori heritage film while at the same time using the loan plot to critique Maori oppression. This is one of the few Merchant films that does not expand upon Shylock’s discovery of Jessica’s elopement, preferring instead to stress Hairoka’s great dignity under tyranny. That dignity suffuses his restrained defiance during the trial. This scene is staged in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Auckland,12 a setting that establishes the colonial biases at work in this legal proceeding. When Pohia sentences Hairoka, he refuses to renounce his faith and identity, kissing his yarmulke. As Gratiano spews insults, he strides head held high out of the courtroom as the spectators from both sides watch, silent. After he passes, in voiceover we hear Hairoka complete the ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ speech with which the film began, stressing his right to revenge and so the unalloyed justice of his cause. His is a pyrrhic victory – he ends up alone in his house – but a victory nevertheless. This same pyrrhic quality hovers over the film’s ending. In keeping with her regal self-possession, Pohia uses the ring episode to instruct her new husband on his obligations to her – hers is a serious lesson  in the sovereign power of a Maori queen, not some light-hearted joke. Pohia may be willing to participate in the public disciplining of



Hairoka, but at her court she will brook no violations of matriarchal authority. Nevertheless, the ending focuses on Tiehika (Jessica). There is no sign of tension between her and her husband Roreneto (Lorenzo) – the ‘in such a night’ sequence (5.1.1–24) is cut – but as Tiehika receives the deed of gift, an extended close-up captures her shame, and in voiceover we hear her say ‘I have a father, you a daughter, lost’ (2.5.55) before she goes reluctantly into Pohia’s palace. The voiceover and the palace’s closing doors recall an earlier moment, where Tiehika, watching her father leave, utters the same line and closes the door behind him. This measures how far Tiehika has fallen by denying her heritage; her regret is especially painful when set against Pohia’s Maori self-assertion. Coming at the end of the millennial Shakespeare film cycle, Michael Radford’s The Merchant of Venice (2004), like the Maori Merchant, is a heritage film that presents a critique of heritage. Its prologue places the action in early modern Venice (specifically 1596), portrayed as a decadent society rife with male entitlement and Christian hypocrisy, exemplified by Antonio’s bigotry and Bassanio’s sense of aristocratic privilege. Radford films Venice in a dark palette or through mist that mutes its beauty, in contrast to Portia’s lush, sunlit villa Belmont. In a prologue, title cards detail the city’s history of mistreating Jews, and a Savanarola-like priest, railing against moral decline, goads a mob into tossing a Jewish merchant into the Grand Canal. Radford attaches this overt anti-Semitism to Antonio, for when during this tumult Shylock hails Antonio, we see Antonio spit in his face, something Shakespeare only reports. The montage that follows documents the religious fervour of Antonio and Shylock – Antonio engages in penance at church, while Shylock chants from the Torah in synagogue. Though the editing encourages us to see these as parallel, there are notable differences. Antonio’s penance, hints Radford, springs from his secret homosexual desire for Bassanio, a desire that leaves him alone and miserable. Shylock’s faith, by contrast, provides him with a sense of community – he chants with his daughter and other Jews. This is then threatened by another cross-current



of illicit desire, for, as Jessica leaves the synagogue with her father, she drops a handkerchief to signal her romantic interest to Lorenzo, waiting outside with his companions. The disruptive quality of forbidden passions within an ossified social order is a venerable concern of heritage films, where the viewer is provided with both the conflict between tradition and desire and the pleasure of experiencing vicariously the luxury tradition affords. In Radford’s adaptation, it is the two patriarchs, Antonio and Shylock, who suffer personal losses because of the passions of others. Antonio is smitten by Bassanio, a pretty-boy aristocrat, but he cannot be sure whether Bassanio is using his desire for his own ends, this despite the homoerotic kiss Bassanio gives him after breaking news about Portia. Antonio’s melancholy is amplified because he cannot openly acknowledge his homoerotic desire in Christian Venice. For his part, Bassanio, once he arrives in Belmont, shifts quickly to straight desire as the situation demands. When Portia confesses her emotional vulnerability to him after the casket test, he responds with sincerity and sensitivity, a pattern he repeats in the trial. There, Antonio uses the situation to become a gay martyr, profess his desire for Bassanio and extract from him ‘whether Bassanio had not once a love’ (4.1.273). Bassanio, moved by grisly preparations for Antonio’s death, makes his love public and clear, but once he returns to Belmont and is chastized by Portia, he reverts again to heterosexuality, following Portia into bed. Though Antonio reluctantly pledges to be surety for Bassanio’s faithfulness, reaction shots make clear his unspoken sadness at the situation. He ends up abandoned in Portia’s dining room. Shylock’s loss of Jessica to Lorenzo is foreshadowed in the film’s prologue. Why it leads him to anguish is somewhat unclear, since his relationship with his daughter is without affection. In part, it is because Shylock sees this as a triumph of Christian hypocrites under whom he has long suffered – tellingly he gives his ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ speech to Salanio and Salerio in a brothel as prostitutes look on. Also at issue is Shylock’s isolation. The bond is Shylock’s attempt at friendship



with Antonio, its bizarre penalty based upon a joint of lamb for his dinner, not a premeditated plot to entrap him. It is with what he sees as Jessica’s degradation by the Christians that Shylock’s attitude hardens into revenge. He uses the trial scene to vent his heretofore contained outrage at Christian hypocrisy. Shylock gets closer to actually taking his pound of flesh here than in any other film version, and Radford drags out the scene to add suspense, but a whispered exchange between Portia and the chief justice reveals that the verdict is a foregone conclusion, designed to put Shylock in his place. What most defeats Shylock is Antonio’s insistence that he convert. Hearing this, Shylock, as Tubal looks on, falls prostrate, begins to weep and grasps his mezuzah, recognizing that this will rob him not just of his faith but of his community. In the film’s coda, we see Shylock alone, as the door of a synagogue shuts him out: he is unable to leave, unable to enter. Radford intercuts this moment with Antonio’s isolation, stressing the two men’s parallel tragedies. To this he adds a third, that of Jessica. Although Lorenzo treats Jessica affectionately and their relationship never sours, she slowly reveals regret at her decision to abandon Shylock and her faith. As dawn breaks at the film’s end, she pensively watches bowfishers, symbols of love (Cupid) and Christianity (‘fishers of men’, Matthew 4.19), as she touches Leah’s tabernacle ring on her finger. Despite Tubal’s report and the flashback we saw, Jessica never traded away the ring, the icon of her faith and family. She, like Shylock and Antonio, is ostensibly integrated into the Christian heterosexual social order but in reality remains alienated from it. Generally, filmmakers have been unwilling to update Merchant to the modern era or recast Shylock in any form other than a Jew. That said, a handful of filmmakers have begun to experiment with updating the play. Merchant/Venice, a 1999 video by Noel Salzman and Brian Nishii, takes an avant-garde approach, using Kathy Acker’s punk adaptation of the play in My Death, My Life by Pier Pasolini as a basis for a video phantasmagoria. Ignoring Shakespeare’s narrative, Acker cuts up the playtext into separate thematic chapters



(money, religion, love, race, sex) and adds her own punk paraphrases of Shakespeare and dialogue inspired by her New York experiences. The result is relentlessly transgressive, both of social taboos (particularly homosexuality) and of conventional Shakespeare. Notably, Shylock hardly appears, even in the short ‘Religion’ section. Rather, the video focuses on dismantling the romance plot’s drive toward heterosexual harmony, stressing instead the perverse, irresistible nature of sexual desire and fears of betrayal. Paul Wagar’s Shakespeare’s Merchant (2003) transposes the play to the Los Angeles suburb of Venice, using a slightly modernized text and following Shakespeare’s plotline rather closely. In Wagar’s hands, the play becomes a portrayal of white bourgeois privilege, in which anti-Semitism, bigotry and even casual violence against the ethnically different is the norm. Antonio and Portia are openly racist, Shylock is beaten by Solanio and Salarino during his ‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ speech, and Nerissa blatantly manipulates the casket test. Homosexuality is also part of this system of privilege, for Antonio and Bassanio maintain their gay relationship even after Bassanio marries Portia. It is during the trial scene, when Antonio confesses his love for Bassanio and the two share a kiss, that Portia recognizes she too is a victim. The film’s ending is savage: with the rings, Portia angrily exposes Bassanio’s homosexuality, and he reacts by rejecting Antonio and embracing heterosexual conventionality, leaving Antonio in tears; Shylock, seeing a Jew being beaten, does nothing, cowed into accepting the prevailing system of injustice. Caroline Sax’s The Merchant of Little Venice (2010),13 an adaptation of the play’s first half, sets the action in post-2008 London, the canals of Little Venice providing a connection to Shakespeare’s setting. Characters are modernized and in some cases gender-switched: Bassanio is a young screenwriter, Antonia a posh movie producer, Portia an heiress living in a country house, Morocco a white rapper, Arragon a playboy. Antonio and Bassanio’s relationship is transposed to Jessica and Lorenza, whose relationship is both queer and interracial. The suggestion is that Jessica



seeks assimilation not into a different religion so much as into a young hip demi-monde. She, a white girl, may live in a respectable suburb, but her father Shylock’s ethnicity, accent and hustle after money mark him as an outsider. Tensions between Christian and Jew are mapped onto the gap between those who have financial or cultural capital in contemporary London – the ultra-rich, the creative classes – and wannabes like Shylock, Morocco and Arragon. Yet another example of indie updating is José André Sibaja’s short Rialto (2017). Sibaja sets Merchant 1.3 in a seedy urban neighbourhood in which streetwalkers ply their trade and share camaraderie. This ‘tribe’ is headed by Sheila, the film’s Shylock, an intimidating transgender man. Antonio, a corrupt policeman, strikes a deal with Sheila for a loan on behalf of Bess, a woman brutalized by a street gang for her debts. The Christians’ anti-Semitism is here repurposed to address mainstream society’s contempt for those outcasts who satisfy its illicit sexual and financial needs or fail to conform to its gender norms. When Antonio makes his request, Sheila reminds him of his maltreatment of her and her compatriots, the centrepiece of the film. Noblemen, a 2019 Indian feature, frames a brutal tale of homophobic bullying at a public school within a production of The Merchant of Venice for the school’s Founder’s Day. The points of contact are primarily thematic rather than narrative, with quotations from Merchant highlighting the film’s concern with class and masculine privilege, the futility of mercy and the impulse to meet oppression with rage and self-destructive revenge. These films point to how Merchant might be extended cinematically to modern milieux and new arenas of identity politics. Several trends emerge from this brief history of Merchant on screen. For filmmakers, the play has largely become Shylock’s story, from the 1930s on a tragic one, with Shylock’s Jewish identity and oppression the central concern. The play’s Christians have increasingly become objects of critique, for moral hypocrisy or bourgeois decadence, but, with the rare exception of Radford’s film, rarely specifically as Christians. Until recently, the play, treated as a period piece, has been



distanced on screen from direct engagement with contemporary issues. And television, not film, has been the principal means for bringing Merchant to the screen, though recent interest in identity politics, particularly queer issues, may be changing that dynamic. The Merchant of Venice remains a difficult play, but the persistence of the forms of oppression it portrays makes adapting it to modern media an ever-urgent matter.

Appendix: List of Films Cited Méliès, Georges, dir. Un miroir de Venise (Une mésaventure de Shylock). Star, 1905. Blackton, Stuart, dir. The Merchant of Venice. Vitagraph, 1908. Lo Savio, Gerolamo, dir. Il mercante di Venezia. Film d’Arte Italiana, 1910. Henderson, Lucius J., dir. The Merchant of Venice. Thanhouser, 1912. Desfontaines, Henri, dir. Shylock, ou le More de Venise. Eclipse, 1913. Weber, Lois, and Phillips Smalley, dirs. The Merchant of Venice. Universal, 1914. West, Walter, dir. The Merchant of Venice. Broadwest, 1916. Felner, Peter Paul, dir. Der Kaufmann von Venedig (The Jew of Mestri). Peter Paul Felner-Film, 1923. Newman, Widgey, dir. The Merchant of Venice. Widgey R. Newman Productions, 1927. Udvadia, M., dir. Dil Farosh (Merchant of Hearts). Elcesior Film, 1927. Madhok, D. N., dir. Dil Farosh. 1937. Madan, J. J., dir. Zalim Saudagar (The Cruel Merchant). 1941. Billon, Pierre, dir. Le Marchand de Venise. Élysée Films and Venturini Film, 1953. Welles, Orson, dir. The Merchant of Venice. CBS. Part of the show Orson’s Bag. 1969. Reconstructed by Stefan Drössler, 2015.



Sichel, John, dir. The Merchant of Venice. ATV and National Theatre. Broadcast 17 October 1973. Gold, Jack, dir. The Merchant of Venice. BBC and Time-Life Television Productions. Broadcast 17 December 1980. Salzman, Noel, and Brian Nishii, dirs. Merchant/Venice. New Butana and Westwell Productions, 1999. Selwyn, Don, dir. The Maori Merchant of Venice (aka Te tangata whai rawa o Weniti). He Taonga Films, 2002. Wagar, Paul, dir. The Merchant of Venice. Wild Vision Productions, 2003. Radford, Michael, dir. The Merchant of Venice. MGM, Sony Pictures and Talking Heads Productions, 2004. Sax, Caroline, dir. The Merchant of Little Venice. Friday Night Films, 2010. Sibaja, José André, dir. Rialto. Oblivion Films, 2017. Kataria, Vandana, dir. Noblemen. Saregama India and Yoodlee Films, 2019.

8 The Merchant of Venice: Learning and Teaching Resources Lieke Stelling

Featuring anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, and being – especially for a comedy – seriously unfunny, this play does not seem an obvious choice for teachers. At the same time, it is precisely these problems and various other tensions that lend The Merchant of Venice exceptional educative power in the literature classroom. The sense of uneasiness that is unleashed by The Merchant of Venice invites critical reflection to a degree that it can even include the celebrated author of the play himself. In addition, it explores themes that are inherently relevant to young audiences, such as parent–children relationships, gender identity, bullying, friendship, love and justice, and investigates issues that have gained new urgency over the past decade: the financial crisis and the moneylending business, anti-Semitism and the position of aliens or minorities in a given society. In what follows, I will present brief and general (but by no means comprehensive) overviews of some of the main approaches



that scholars have taken in recent decades and that are, in my experience, helpful for teaching preparation and delivery. In so doing, I will devote special attention to the issue of religious conversion, which, given its profound importance to the play, has received relatively little attention in critical guides. It provides, I argue, an especially helpful angle for understanding The Merchant of Venice both as a product of its time and as a work that invites us to reconsider today’s questions of integration and assimilation. This chapter concludes with a section containing suggestions for classroom exercises that are based on the trial scene, followed by an annotated list of select materials in the form of articles, book chapters, monographs, critical guides, internet resources and screen adaptations, that are useful in a pedagogical context.

Genre A play’s generic label is its most concise and immediate form of interpretation, serving as a guide to (potential) audiences and readers, as well as inviting them to compare it with their own experiences of the play. In fact, and certainly in the case of The Merchant of Venice, genre opens questions about the subject matter, narrative structure, style, mood and affect more successfully than it resolves them. The Merchant of Venice has been identified with all three of Shakespeare’s chief dramatic genres: the histories, comedies and tragedies. On the title pages of the three quarto editions (1600, 1600 [1619] and 1637), the play is presented as ‘The Most Excellent historie of The Merchant of Venice’. A reason for this might be of a commercial nature, as it was often booksellers who designed the title pages and who were aware of the success of Shakespeare’s history plays. According to John Drakakis, the term ‘history’ is also apt in the sense that it  ‘combine[s]’, like ‘other histories’, the ‘spheres of the personal, the political and the economic’.1 In the folio editions



(1623, 1632), however, the work is classified as a comedy, the category that most critics still agree on today. Still, for many producers and audiences, due to its dark overtones, the play bears closer resemblance to tragedy than to comedy. Confusion about genre is not unusual for Shakespeare: some of his tragedies contain funnier scenes than can be found in any of the comedies and many of his comedic works are strikingly grim, featuring characters that are haunted by the spectre of death. In the folio editions, the category of the history play is reserved for works that revolve around the (political) lives of historical rulers, but excludes the classical Roman past, as well as King Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet. The notion that generic classification is problematic, inviting endless new or sub-categories, was not lost on Shakespeare himself, as is humorously shown by Polonius in Hamlet, who seeks to be comprehensive in listing the types of actors that have arrived in the court, ‘either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoralcomical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comicalhistorical-pastoral; scene individable, or poem unlimited’.2 In an attempt to create clarity, modern critics have come up with new genres, such as (late) romance and problem play, both of which have been applied to The Merchant of Venice. According to M. M. Mahood, the work is ‘first and foremost’ a ‘romantic play’, offering a story about the victory of love over hatred, or justice over evil, and about the worship of a courtly lady by a desperate lover as was typical of the medieval romance tradition.3 As such, The Merchant of Venice is also a classic Elizabethan comedy, ending happily, and fulfilling erotic desire and restoring social order in the (perhaps excessive) form of multiple marriages. This is part of another characteristic of comedy, the notion that the plot revolves around a group of people rather than a single protagonist, the focus being on the dynamics of a community. Also typical is the use of disguise, particularly in the form of female characters dressing up as men, which occurs three times. Finally, and most obviously, nobody dies. However, almost all of the above comedic qualities are somehow challenged or impaired. The play may celebrate a



triple wedding, but it is as early as halfway through the play that the lovers in question have overcome their obstacles and tie the knot. Two of the three couples do not have the chance to consummate their marriage, moreover, as Bassanio is called to help his friend in Venice, bringing another friend and groom-to-be Gratiano along with him. In addition, the romantic exchange between Jessica and Lorenzo, the other newly-weds, is ominously peppered with references to other multicultural couples, from classical antiquity, whose lives end tragically. The Merchant of Venice may eventually conclude on a lighter note, but the gist of the plot of the rings, the final scene which comprises the comedy’s denouement, is that the husbands in question are exposed as vow-breakers. Finally, given that the plot of the caskets is resolved at such an early stage, the play’s narrative seems more focused on divulging how the bloody killing of one of its main characters is narrowly averted. This focus is emphasized in the title, which, unlike most Shakespearean comedies and similar to many tragedies, mentions a single character, a figure, moreover, whose intimated romantic desire for his friend Bassanio is not fulfilled at the end. Yet, it is the portrayal of Shylock as a complex victim that is the most important reason for modern producers and audiences to recognize the play first and foremost as a tragedy. Suffering humiliation at the hands of the self-proclaimed merciful and charitable Christians, being financially fleeced and forced to give up his Jewish identity, Shylock can be said to die a metaphorical death. It is nevertheless worth bearing in mind that early modern playgoers would have recognized the play as a comedy. This is not only because of the formal features mentioned above, but also because from a traditional Christian perspective, Christianity was essentially comedic, promising continued life after death and thus a happy ending for the soul. From this point of view, Shylock is not only spared death but given the chance to be saved and admitted to heaven. The Merchant of Venice is thus a play that vividly illustrates the tangled relationship between comedy and tragedy, showing how the distinction



between the two is a matter of angles and perspectives, and of paradox, rather than exclusionary labels.

Sources and Adaptations The play’s uniqueness, epitomized by Shylock as one of Shakespeare’s most problematic and elusive characters, is thrown into relief when compared to its sources. Its chief one, written by Ser Giovanni Fiorentino in the late fourteenth century and printed in 1558, is an Italian collection of short stories, entitled Il Pecorone (The Simpleton), which Shakespeare probably read in its original Italian language. One of its tales is about an unnamed Jew who lends money to Ansaldo, Fiorentino’s ‘Antonio’, so that the latter can finance a voyage for his friend Gianetto (Bassanio) to the Lady of Belmonte.4 There are many similarities between Shakespeare’s and Fiorentino’s renderings of the story, including the elements of the flesh-bond and of the Lady of Belmonte who disguises herself as a lawyer. Yet, whereas Shylock eventually becomes the accused and is forced to convert, in Il Pecorone the Jew is furious at the fact that he cannot even recover the original loan and tears the bond in pieces. The anonymous broadside ballad of Gernutus, too, presents a version of the fate of the Jew in a flesh-bond story, even using phrases that are reminiscent of The Merchant of Venice.5 In this ballad, whose date is unknown, so it may also have been inspired by Shakespeare’s play, the Jewish Gernutus lends a hundred crowns to a merchant and asks to take a pound of flesh if the money is not returned within twelve months. When, after the term has expired and Gernutus is not refunded, his plot develops in a similar way as Shylock’s except that he simply leaves disgruntled and emptyhanded. Compared to the Jewish characters in this ballad and Il Pecorone, who are presented from the start as one-dimensional cruel usurers, Shylock is much more ambiguous. This is even the case when juxtaposed to Christopher Marlowe’s Barabas, who



features in The Merchant of Venice’s best-known and highly successful contemporary source, The Jew of Malta (1592). Unlike Il Pecorone and the ballad of Gernutus, Marlowe’s Jew exposes Christian hypocrisy, and finds the relative complexity of his portrayal deepened by a rebellious daughter, whose character is as ambiguous as Jessica’s. Sympathy for Barabas is nevertheless harder to come by than for Shylock, if only because Barabas’s grotesque Machiavellianism is confirmed beyond doubt when he murders his daughter. A form of Shakespeare adaptation that is easy to overlook is how the author adapted his own work. An intriguing example is the tragedy Othello (1604), which is Shakespeare’s only other play set in Venice, and offers a sinister finale to the story of a newly wedded couple who are interrupted as they are about to consummate their nuptial vows. While Othello’s ending of a bloodbath in a marital bedroom is a far cry from that of the ring plot in The Merchant of Venice, the underlying theme of marital fidelity is the same. Another topic in The Merchant of Venice that may have inspired Shakespeare in writing Othello is religious conversion (discussed in greater detail below). If The Merchant of Venice, like most early modern English dramas, frustrates the audience by leaving to the imagination what characters and their lives would have looked like after their radical transformations into Christians, Othello gives us an idea in the sense that it is the only early modern English play devoted to the post-conversion life of a new Christian.6 A final intriguing overlap between the two Venice plays is the poignant speech that exposes double standards. The principles underlying Shylock’s famous attack on Venetian bigotry against Jews, ‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’ (3.1.53), return in Emilia’s memorable monologue, in Othello, in which she denounces Venetian sexism, ‘But I do think it is their husbands’ faults / If wives do fall’ (4.3.85–6).7 Using similar references to human physiology and sensory experience and ending with a comparable justification for revenge, Emilia argues that, if women cheat on their husbands, they are driven by the same passions and desires, and suffer from the same weaknesses as men.



As regards the vast reception and adaptation history of the play, it is worth noting that, as Michael Dobson reminds us, The Merchant of Venice was one of the first of Shakespeare’s dramas that appeared in translation and on foreign stages, including in ‘India, China, Romania and Bulgaria’.8 Yet despite its popularity around the world, it is, as Marjorie Garber notes, simultaneously marked by attempts to ‘purge it of its most dangerous and disturbing energies’.9 This includes attempts to turn Shylock into a more stereotypical Jew than Shakespeare could ever have imagined, or, conversely, to weaken his Jewish identity. Producers who felt uncomfortable with the comedic ending of the ring plot, have often omitted the final scene, and the awkward exchange between Lancelet and Jessica about her soteriological status has suffered the same fate. Several modernday productions, such as Munby’s and Sichel’s screen versions, address the problematic complexity of Jessica’s character by ending with her in a Jewish context, suggesting that she has qualms about her conversion.

Religion Religion is one of the most enthusiastically explored themes within the area of early modern English cultural history. Inspired by recent events and socio-cultural developments that reveal the continuing importance of religion in today’s public sphere, historians and literary scholars have embraced questions of faith and confessional identity in the early modern period, and proclaimed a ‘religious turn’ in their field, in the first decade of the century. Scholars of Shakespeare in particular have produced an impressive number of book-length studies discussing the profound importance of religion in Shakespeare’s life and work. While they present a wide variety of points, they all show that his plays defy confessional categorization and are characterized by a paradoxical stance towards organized faith. This is especially true for The Merchant of Venice, which is not



only explicitly concerned with animosity and rivalry between two religious groups, but also the play that quotes from the Bible more often than any of his other works.10 Yet, if The Merchant of Venice is a play about religion, it is one that is concerned with its social, cultural and financial implications, more so than with theology or supernatural epistemology. It is, for instance, sceptical of the ways in which scripture is employed for purposes of persuasion. According to Antonio, and in response to Shylock’s quoting from the Bible, ‘The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. / An evil soul producing holy witness / Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, / A goodly apple, rotten at the heart. / O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!’ (1.3.94–8). This principle is later echoed by Bassanio, who claims that ‘In religion / What damned error but some sober brow / Will bless it and approve it with a text, / Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?’ (3.2.77–80). These assertions are reminiscent of Barabas’s contention, in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, that ‘religion / Hides many mischiefs from suspicion’ when he urges his daughter to pose as a nun, so that she can steal and reclaim his possessions that are kept in the convent.11 However, unlike Barabas, none of the characters in The Merchant of Venice appear to use religion in an intentionally evil way. One may question their use of scripture, particularly in relation to their own behaviour, but they are not villains who deliberately abuse faith for heinous objectives. In this way, The Merchant of Venice offers a much more subtle exploration of religion than Marlowe’s tragedy, exposing its slippery and elusive nature in relation to rhetoric, confessional identity and religious rivalry. For a play that mentions scripture and the term ‘Jew’ so frequently, it seems strikingly unconcerned with the nature of Judaism and Jewishness. Other than a handful of shallow references to Jewish culture, a ‘synagogue’ (3.1.117), where Shylock and Tubal are said to meet, a ‘Jewish gaberdine’ (1.3.108), that Shylock wears, and the mention of the kashrut in the form of the restriction on the consumption of pork, there is very little that makes Shylock, Jessica and Tubal Jewish – from



a Jewish point of view. In actual fact, their religious identity is largely based on non-Christian difference and on animosity. The Christians hate Shylock, which is expressed in insults and physical aggression, and Shylock demonstrates the cultural and religious hostility between Jews and Christians by refusing to ‘eat’, ‘drink’ or ‘pray’ with the latter group (1.3.33–4). Of course, many Christians regard Jessica as Shylock’s attractive counterpart, even seemingly defying their blood-relationship, but after she has actually become a Christian, the Christian Lancelet argues that her damnable Jewish identity is indelible, an issue that will be discussed in further detail below. Like the converting Jessica, Shylock has his moment in which he challenges Jewish–Christian difference. His famous plea for equality ‘Hath not a Jew eyes?’ is often quoted in response to the vexed question of the play’s alleged anti-Semitism. The speech nevertheless ends with Shylock’s base promise to ‘better the instruction’ (3.1.66) that he has been offered by the Christians, and seek revenge, which essentially puts him back into the Christian, anti-Jewish stereotype. The love/hate treatment of Shylock and Jessica at the hands of the Christian characters exemplifies the early modern perception of Jews in England. This country was the first to expel Jews from its soil, in 1290, and, like other Christian countries, happy to circulate stories about Jews as crucifiers and child-killers, but also deeply aware of the profound relevance of Judaism to the Christian past and future, for instance in recognizing Christ’s Jewish identity and believing that the apocalyptic mass conversion of the Jews would herald his Second Coming. James Shapiro and Janet Adelman have explored this paradox in their important monographs, the first by reading it in the context of a wide range of cultural contexts, including race, nationality and economics, the second from a psycho-theological perspective. In addition to Christian–Jewish difference, the play explores and complicates a variety of other forms of religious antithesis, such as Old Testament versus New Testament values, or the principle of an eye for an eye versus mercy and forgiveness;



the relation between the letter and the spirit of the law; and Protestantism versus Catholicism. To take the latter, while the play was performed in a distinctly Protestant country, which tried Catholic proselytizers as traitors, it also presents its sympathetic Christian heroes as Catholics, setting the story in a Catholic republic and evoking a variety of Catholic ideas. Portia and Nerissa, for instance, tell their husbands that they will abide not in a health spa, as is suggested in the play’s main source, Fiorentino’s Il Pecorone, but in a ‘monastery two miles off’ (3.4.31) to ‘live in prayer and contemplation’ (3.4.28), as long as Portia’s husband is away to help his friend, a distinctly Catholic site that must have reminded Shakespeare’s audiences of the faith of their pre-Reformation grandparents. Likewise, the Venetian landscape is adorned with ‘holy crosses’ where Portia ‘kneels and prays / For happy wedlock hours’ (5.1.31–2). In addition, the language of the casket plot contains various metaphors based on Catholic practices, including a ‘pilgrimage’ that is undertaken to visit the ‘shrine’ of the ‘mortal breathing saint’ Portia (1.1.120; 2.7.40). If the Christians are (partly) Catholic, Shylock must have reminded Shakespeare’s audiences of puritans, a heterogeneous group that was known for their sober lifestyle, thrift, aversion to feasts, and that was often associated with Judaism. Nevertheless, reading characters as allegories does not do justice to the complexity of religion in this play, or, indeed, any other Shakespearean play. Again, like in the case of genre, the play shows the difficulty of classification. Instead, The Merchant of Venice, testifies to the theatrical power of religious culture, offering an ostensibly simple contrast between Jews and Christians that elicits new interpretations and complications that change with the times.

Conversions The ultimate theme that complicates religious difference is conversion. A vast amount of critical literature has appeared on Shylock, a character with, according to Kenneth Gross, a



more ‘complex afterlife in performance, fiction, and criticism, as well as in the language of antisemitic cliché … than that of any other character in Shakespeare’s plays, save perhaps Hamlet, and even Hamlet cannot rival Shylock’s chilling passage into the commonplace’, and the focus has accordingly been on Shylock’s awkward coerced Christianization.12 However, change of faith is also a key component of Jessica’s character, who offers in different ways a counterbalance to Shylock’s; hers is voluntary and marked by the notion that many of the Christians consider her the antithesis to what they regard as her unsavoury father. At the same time, both Shylock and Jessica’s conversions are curiously absent from the action of the play, associated with financial exchange and troubled by a Christian environment that does not appear to welcome them as fully fledged members of their faith. The pronouncement of Shylock’s punitive conversion epitomizes the play’s sense of discomfort. To begin with, it is anticipated by a range of unwitting and satirical allusions, for instance when Antonio jeers at him: ‘Hie thee, gentle Jew.  / The Hebrew will turn Christian, he grows kind’ (1.3.173–4), punning on the double meaning of the words ‘gentle/gentile’ and ‘kind’. A similar idea is evoked by Salanio when he notices the arrival of Shylock’s coreligionist Tubal: ‘Here comes another of the tribe; a third cannot be matched, unless the devil himself turn Jew’ (3.1.70–1). In the trial scene, in a stipulation that betrays complete indifference to Shylock’s capability for genuine spiritual change, possibly even a sense of vengeance rather than Christian mercy, Shylock is ordered to ‘presently become a Christian’ (4.1.383). If we take this sentence literally  – an approach favoured by the Christians only minutes earlier when they confronted Shylock with the letter of his bond – he must radically and instantaneously transform into a Christian. Shylock’s reluctant and emotionally underwhelming acceptance, as well as his comment that he is ‘not well’ (4.1.392), intimate that he will not work up the enthusiasm or desire to convincingly embrace Christianity. While Jessica is introduced as a character who cannot wait to become a member of the Christian community, unlike



her father, her conversion is also tinged with conflicts. This manifests itself already in her announcement of the elopement, which ends with a couplet that has the word ‘wife’ ominously rhyme with ‘strife’: ‘O Lorenzo / If thou keep promise I shall end this strife, / Become a Christian, and thy loving wife’ (2.3.19–21). As opposed to Shylock, Jessica is surrounded by Christian characters who seem happy to welcome her to the fold. Before she converts, Lancelet calls her ‘Most beautiful pagan, most sweet Jew!’ (2.3.10–11), and Salerio claims that ‘[t]here is more difference between thy [Shylock’s] flesh and hers than between jet and ivory, more between your bloods than there is between red wine and Rhenish’ (3.1.34–6). However, after her Christianization, she is also confronted with her status as an irreducible outsider. This happens when she is ignored by Bassanio when she and Lorenzo arrive in Portia’s court in Belmont (3.2.219). Even more striking cases in point are when the validity of Jessica’s conversion is denied and her status as a damned Jewish Other emphasized, first by Gratiano, when he jocularly calls Jessica his ‘infidel’ (3.2.218), and, second, by Lancelet the Clown who explains to her that she is damned because she is still her father’s daughter and ‘the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children’ (3.5.1–2). The question as to whether Jessica experiences a successful conversion has been debated by prominent critics, including Adelman, Bovilsky, Ephraim, Hall and Kaplan. Conversion and the language of religious change do not only bear relevance to Shylock and Jessica or, indeed, the topic of religion. When Portia finds out that she can marry her beloved Bassanio, she expresses her love by claiming: ‘myself, and what is mine, to you [Bassanio] and yours / Is now converted’ (3.2.166– 7). Critics have reminded readers that much of the language in this play is peppered with financial images, including the same speech, in which Portia wishes herself ‘much better’ and would be ‘trebled twenty times’ herself ‘to stand high in [Bassanio’s] account’ and even ‘exceed’ it (3.2.152–7). Indeed, her assertion that she wishes to convert herself shows how financial and religious discourse informed each other, a theme that is further explored in the financial penalty that accompanies Shylock’s



coerced Christianization, or in Jessica’s exchange with Lancelet Giobbe when he claims that the adoption of Christianity by Jews is undesirable, as it will raise the number of pork-eaters and thus also the price of bacon. By dramatizing the theme of conversion, Shakespeare and many of his fellow playwrights took part in a much wider debate about this phenomenon that, due to historical developments, had become more urgent than ever before. As Marianne Novy shows, Shylock’s forced conversion may have reminded audiences of one of the consequences of the Protestant Reformation: Catholics being forced to conform to the Church of England. Likewise, Jessica, the converting ‘runaway’ (2.6.48), who robs and betrays the faith of her father, reportedly squandering her booty on parties and a monkey, may have evoked the image of the renegade, a Christian, often a pirate, who, it was perceived, betrayed his country by opportunistically turning Muslim and living a lascivious life in the Ottoman Empire. The figure of the renegade who gained currency in the literary imagination of the period, embodied the perceived threat of the expanding Ottoman Empire and its appeal to impoverished Christians who sought their fortune in its territories.13 From a modern point of view, Jessica and Shylock are interesting minorities and figures of conversion, who, precisely because of their complexity and complementary conversions, can help examine current-day issues of integration and immigration. They experience pressure to conform and may be victims of a society that rejects them; yet at the same time they are cruel, opportunistic and greedy, while simultaneously craving mercy, justice and a good life, just like anyone else in Venice.

Some Suggestions for Classroom Exercises The trial scene is a useful source of inspiration for teaching the play, for instance in the form of an exploration of the ways in



which it could be staged, or of a mock trial or debate about moral dilemmas raised by the play. Indeed, Shakespeare’s audiences were keenly aware of analogies between court cases and drama, and of their own role as judges, who were sometimes even explicitly invited to pass a ‘sentence’.14 Using fictional settings and stories, theatre stimulated spectators to ponder important moral issues that were part of their lives but could be too sensitive, difficult or inappropriate to discuss without the distance and filter of the imagination. In what follows, I give suggestions that allow secondary school pupils and undergraduate students to do the same. The first invites students to empathize with characters and think about their emotions, which is particularly suitable for upper levels of secondary school education; the second requires a greater level of critical reflection and could work better for undergraduate students, but the two exercises could serve as inspiration for both levels of teaching. Exercise 1 A single lesson, of about an hour’s duration, is devoted to the trial scene (Act 4 Scene 1) and questions of staging and performance.15 Running to over 450 lines, the entire scene is lengthy, but it can be limited to the passage between 4.1.162, the moment Portia enters as Balthazar, and 4.1.396, the moment Shylock leaves the stage, shouted after by Gratiano. Divide students into small groups and assign each group a character: Portia, Shylock, Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano (Nerissa and the Duke can be skipped or taken together, as these are small parts). Give the students printed copies of the scene without footnotes and with extra space to add notes of their own. Ask the students how they would stage their own character, paying special attention to costume, gestures, emotions and motivations. In so doing, they will have to address questions such as: Why does Portia suggest that she cannot tell the difference between Shylock and Antonio? To what extent are the characters motivated by



emotions; how are they expressed and how do they change when the tables are turned on Shylock? What is the purpose of Gratiano and Bassanio’s roles in this scene and how would they behave when not speaking? Alternatively, this assignment could be given as a pre-class assignment that serves as a basis for student performances of (part of) the scene during the lesson. Exercise 2 Divide the students into two groups and ask them to prepare a debate in which one group supports a motion and another opposes it, and a third acts as a jury. These three positions should be assigned randomly to each group, so that students might have to take a position they would not have chosen themselves. Motions that could be debated are: Shylock is entitled to his pound of flesh from Antonio’s body; a forced Christianization is a just penalty for Shylock; Portia’s late father was right in forcing his daughter’s suitors to take part in a casket test; Bassanio was right in giving away his wedding ring to Balthazar; Antonio did the right thing by lending 3,000 ducats to Bassanio; Jessica will become a fully fledged member of the Christian community. Arguments pro and con should be based on the information given in the text, and both sides should speak to the jury, rather than each other. Each side should be given several minutes to present their case, without interruption; after that a second round of debate takes place, in which the two sides are, again, given several minutes to rebut the opponent’s arguments, this time with the possibility of interruptions by the opposing party. In a third round, the sides give summary speeches in which no new arguments are allowed. It is then up to the jury to discuss the debate, appoint a winner and explain their decision. In so doing, the jury should consider the validity of the arguments and persuasive power of the speakers. The instructor can serve as a chair and time-keeper.



Current Complete Works Editions The Arden Shakespeare Complete Works, eds Ann Thompson, David Scott Kastan and Richard Proudfoot, rev. edn (London: Bloomsbury, 2010). The Complete Pelican Shakespeare, eds Stephen Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller (New York: Viking, 2002). The Complete Works of Shakespeare, ed. David Bevington, 7th edn (New York: Longman, 2013). The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition: The Complete Works, eds Gary Taylor et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). The Norton Shakespeare, eds Stephen Greenblatt et al., 3rd edn (New York: W. W. Norton, 2015).

Current Single Text Editions Drakakis, John, ed., The Merchant of Venice, Arden Third Series (London, etc.: The Arden Shakespeare, 2010). Richly annotated critical edition. Contains an elaborate introduction that focuses, more so than Mahood’s and Halio’s editions, on the question of the play’s (supposed) anti-Semitism. Includes a casting chart and production photographs. Halio, J. L., ed., The Merchant of Venice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). A valuable critical edition that is comparable to the Arden Third Series regarding annotation and layout. The introduction is accessible and illustrated with production photographs. Kaplan, M. Lindsay, ed., The Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts (Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s, 2002). Offers, in addition to the play text (edited by David Bevington), a highly useful collection of early modern texts categorized under the headings: ‘Venice’; ‘Finance’; ‘Religion’; and ‘Love and Gender’. Mahood, M. M., ed., The Merchant of Venice, Cambridge 3rd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).



Classic modern-spelling edition favoured by students and instructors. Mahood’s excellent introduction is helpfully updated with an addition by Tom Lockwood, who discusses recent criticism, performance and (film) adaptation. Marcus, Leah S., ed., The Merchant of Venice: Authoritative Text, Sources and Contexts, Criticism, Rewritings and Appropriations, Norton Critical Editions (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005). Particularly valuable for its inclusion of twelve early modern sources, such as a translation of the relevant story in Ser Giovanni Fiorentino’s Il Pecorone and Thomas Coryat’s description of Venice, and important modern critical essays by authors including Barbara K. Lewalski and Kim F. Hall (see below under ‘Selected Critical Essays’). Also contains a section on rewritings and appropriations. Mowat, Barbara A. and Paul Werstine, eds, The Merchant of Venice, Updated Edition, Folger Shakespeare Library (Simon & Schuster: New York, 2010). Excellent budget edition of the play that aids (undergraduate) readers with helpful scene-by-scene plot summaries and reminders of when characters are speaking in disguise, and to whom characters are speaking if this is not immediately clear.

Selected Critical Essays Abraham, F. Murray, ‘Searching for Shylock’, in Living with Shakespeare: Essays by Writers, Actors, and Directors, ed. Susannah Carson (Vintage Books: New York, 2013), 262–74. Offers an insightful glimpse into the practice of performing the part of Shylock from the perspective of a celebrated actor. Bailey, Amanda, ‘Shylock and the Slaves: Owing and Owning in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 62.1 (2011): 1–24. Argues that legal, theological and ethical questions of debt and ownership are more central to the play than usury.



Belsey, Catherine, ‘Love in Venice’, Shakespeare Survey 44 (1992): 41–53. Focuses on the play’s sexual politics and problematizes the distinction between Venice as a place of ‘market forces and racial tensions’, on the one hand, and Belmont as a place of romantic love, on the other. Bernard, J. F., ‘The Merchant of Venice and Shakespeare’s Sense of Humour(s)’, Renaissance Studies 28.5 (2013): 643–58. Tackles the question of the play’s problematic sense of comedy by arguing that Antonio features in the play as a consistently melancholic and therefore dissonant factor. Boecherer, Michael, ‘“Lessons Learned from Killing Caesar”, or “How to Involve Your Students, and Slay Your Audience while They Slay You”’, This Rough Magic 1.2 (2010): 75–90. Confronts the difficulty of reading Shakespeare for undergraduate students by arguing that students should listen to and enact the text. The Merchant of Venice features as one of Boecherer’s case studies. Bovilsky, Lara, ‘Exemplary Jews and the Logic of Gentility’, in Barbarous Play: Race on the English Renaissance Stage (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 67–102. Focuses on Jessica’s lack of success in fully assimilating into the Venetian society, like Ephraim, and argues that the way in which she is being addressed after her conversion is dominated by often racialist criticism that ‘insist on her Jewishness’. Bruce, Susan, ‘Money Talks: Classes, Capital, and the Case of Close Reading in a Seminar on The Merchant of Venice’, English 62.237 (2013): 127–44. Using a third-year student seminar about The Merchant of Venice as a case study, this thought-provoking article investigates the pedagogical merits of close reading, a strategy that is largely predicated on readers’ rhetorical skills and access to cultural capital, contending that this approach may be less useful for students who have other skills and less cultural capital. According to Bruce, this situation is reflected in the complexities of the play itself.



Cartwright, Kent, ‘The Merchant of Venice in the Jewish Ghetto’, Shakespeare Newsletter 67.1 (2017): 5–9. Detailed account of the first performance of the play in the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, in 2016. Cohen, Paula Marantz, ‘Shylock, My Students, and Me: What I’ve Learned from 30 Years of Teaching The Merchant of Venice’, American Scholar 79.1 (2010): 97–101. Discusses students’ changing attitudes towards the play, and Shylock in particular, from a personal perspective as a Jewish teacher catering for increasingly multicultural classrooms. Dimmock, Matthew and Matthew Birchwood, ‘Popular Xenophobia’, in Andrew Hadfield, Matthew Dimmock and Abigail Shinn, eds, The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Culture in Early Modern England (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 207–22. Particularly useful for contextualization of the play and its depiction of xenophobia, as it connects this topic with early modern economic concerns. Dimmock, Matthew, ‘Shakespeare’s non-Christian Religions’, in David Loewenstein and Michael Witmore, eds, Shakespeare and Early Modern Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 280–99. Shows that, as opposed to Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, Shakespeare’s presentation of Jews is not informed by profound doctrinal engagement, which allows for a much more complex and nuanced portrayal of Judaism than offered in Marlowe. Downing, Crystal, ‘Close(d) Readings of Shakespeare: Recovering Self-Reflexivity in the Classroom’, College Literature 29.2 (2002): 115–23. Analyzes the practice of close reading from a personal, critical, self-reflexive perspective as an instructor, discussing The Merchant of Venice as a self-reflective text that defies ‘finalized readings’. Ephraim, Michelle, ‘Her “flesh and blood?” Jessica’s Mother in The Merchant of Venice’, in Reading the Jewish Woman on the Elizabethan Stage (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 133–51. Concentrates on Jessica’s mother, like Kaplan, noting that it is precisely she who confirms Jessica’s



‘exclusive ties to Jewish history’, which renders Jessica’s conversion problematic. Freud, Sigmund, ‘The Theme of the Three Caskets’, in John Wilders, ed., Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, A Casebook (London: Macmillan, 1969), 59–68. Recognizes the theme of the caskets as part of an ancient literary tradition that is revisited with a twist in both The Merchant of Venice and, more strikingly, King Lear. Gearhart, Stephannie, ‘Blood vs. Manners: Youth’s Quest for Independence in The Merchant of Venice’, in Drama and the Politics of Generational Conflict in Shakespeare’s England (London: Routledge, 2018), 49–83. Argues that in this play’s presentation of the conflict between parents and children ‘behavior has the ability to trump biology’, although not without serious struggle, loss and pain. Goldstein, David B., ‘Failures of Eating in The Merchant of Venice’, Actes des Congrès de la Société Française Shakespeare 29 (2012): 31–46. Discusses the significances of eating and food (imagery) in connection with the play’s main themes. Goldstein, David B., ‘Jews, Scots, and Pigs in The Merchant of Venice’, Studies in English Literature 1500–1900, 54.2 (2014): 315–48. Accessible study focusing on how the Jewish–Christian difference that is explored in the play bears relevance to Elizabethan perceptions of (Puritan) Scottish otherness. Hall, Kim. F., ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Colonization and Miscegenation in The Merchant of Venice’, Renaissance Drama 23 (1992): 87–111. Uses postcolonial and gender theory to explore the rich and troubled significance of the ‘Moor’ who is claimed to have been made pregnant by Lancelet (3.5.35–6). Hansen, Claire, ‘Creativity through Complexity: Identifying and Using Shadow Networks in Teaching The Merchant of Venice’, English in Education 48.2 (2014): 112–27. Uses the play as a case to explore classroom behavioural patterns and argues for a pedagogical approach, based



on ‘shadow systems’, that allows for unexpected, unconventional or informal responses to the play. Heijes, Coen, ‘“I am not Shakespeare’s Shylock”: The Merchant of Venice on the Dutch Stage’, Shakespeare Bulletin 34.4 (2016): 645–79. Discusses Dutch stage interpretations of Shylock after the Second World War, especially in relation to the Dutch ‘supposed complicity in the Shoah’. Hirschfeld, Heather, ‘“We all expect a Gentle Answer Jew”: The Merchant of Venice and the Psychotheology of Conversion’, English Literary History 73.1 (2006): 61–81. Uses psychoanalysis and Reformation theology to examine the play’s conflicting attitudes of both desiring and rejecting Shylock’s conversion. Kaplan, M. Lindsay, ‘Jessica’s Mother: Medieval Constructions of Jewish Race and Gender in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 58.1 (2007): 1–30. Traces the medieval roots of the racial conceptions of Jewish identity in relation to religion, class, heredity, corporality and gender, and claims that Jessica’s capacity as ‘subordinate female’ and potential mother of her husband’s Christian children makes her conversion successful. Kerrigan, John, ‘Shylock and Wedlock’, in Shakespeare’s Binding Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 174–208. Discusses the relationship between Shylock and Antonio in connection with the Jewish oath and the play’s representation of marital bonds. Lewalski, Barbara, ‘Biblical Allusion and Allegory in The Merchant of Venice’, in Sylvan Barnet, ed., Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Merchant of Venice (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1970), 33–54. Classic study that illustrates the importance of the Christian meaning in the play, using Dante’s four levels of allegorical meaning: that of the story; of ‘truths relating to humanity as a whole and to Christ as [its] head’; of morality; and of ‘the ultimate reality, the Heavenly City’.



McDougall, Julie, ‘Māori Take on Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice in Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Multicultural Shakespeare 8.23 (2011): 93–106. Discusses the performance history of the play in Māori society, which bears similarities with the Jew as an oppressed minority, but traditionally lacks notions of forgiveness and mercy. Metzger, Mary Janell, ‘“Now by My Hood, a Gentle and No Jew”: Jessica, The Merchant of Venice, and the Discourse of Early Modern English Identity’, PMLA 113.1 (1998): 52–63. The first to provide a sustained analysis of Shakespeare’s Jessica as a figure of conversion, argues that while her character elucidates the ambivalence in Elizabethan attitudes towards Jews, the play also invites us to see her as the fair and female alternative to Shylock, which allows her to successfully adopt a Christian identity. Mullaney, Steven, ‘Affective Irony in The Spanish Tragedy, Titus Andronicus, and The Merchant of Venice’, in The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare (Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 2015), 51–93. Insightfully explores the role of affect in the play and its audiences, focusing on Shylock and his desire for revenge. Newman, Karen, ‘Portia’s Ring: Unruly Women and Structures of Exchange in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 38.1 (1987): 19–33. Rich study which combines, anthropology, gender theory and deconstruction, among other things, to discuss Portia’s role as a figure of power. Novy, Marianne, ‘The Merchant of Venice and Pressured Conversions in Shakespeare’s World’, in Richard Fotheringham, Christa Jansohn and R. S. White, eds, Shakespeare’s World/World Shakespeares: The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare Association World Congress Brisbane 2006 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008), 108–18. Accessible and enlightening study that recognizes a connection between the forced conversion of Shylock and the practice of coerced conversion within Christianity, and specifically the



pressure that was put on Archbishop Cranmer before he was burned at the stake for heresy. O’Rourke, James, ‘The Guilty Pleasure of Bigotry: Ethnic Stereotypes in Trevor Nunn’s Merchant of Venice and Dave Chappelle’s Pixie Sketches’, Shakespeare 12.3 (2016): 287–99. Discusses the treatment of ethnic stereotyping on the basis of Nunn’s 1999 production of the play, which depicted Shylock as a sympathetic victim, and Chappelle’s opposite approach in the form of his awkward ‘pixie’ sketches with enlarged stereotypes, arguing that the latter approach may have been more effective in Nunn’s production. Orgel, Stephen, ‘Shylock’s Tribe’, in Tom Clayton, Susan Brock and Vicente Forés, eds, Shakespeare and the Mediterranean: The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare Association World Congress Valencia, 2001 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004), 38–53. Interrogates Shylock’s identity as a Jew and Other from an Elizabethan perspective. Schalkwyk, David, ‘The Impossible Gift of Love in The Merchant of Venice and the Sonnets’, Shakespeare 7.2 (2011): 142–55. Explores and problematizes the theme of giving, drawing on Jacques Derrida, Marcel Maus and Martin Luther. Schülting, Sabine, ‘“Imagined Communities”: Reconsidering European Shakespeares’, Cahiers Élisabéthains 96.1 (2018): 160–71. Problematizes the notions of European cultural identity and ‘European Shakespeare’ by discussing two recent German productions of The Merchant of Venice, and the ways in which they portrayed the relationship between German society and its excluded European and non-European minorities. Special attention is paid to the wide range of allusions to (sub)cultures and languages in these productions, including American English, hip-hop and rap, Turkish German sociolect and Yiddish. Sinfield, Alan, ‘How to Read The Merchant of Venice Without Being Heterosexist’, in Terence Hawkes, ed., Alternative



Shakespeares: Volume 2 (London: Routledge, 1996), 123–40. Reviews the play and its criticism from the perspective of a gay man, arguing that Antonio’s hatred of Shylock is a form of self-hatred, stemming from his recognition of and identification with Shylock as an outsider. Smith, Emma, ‘Was Shylock Jewish?’; Shakespeare Quarterly 64.2 (2013): 188–219. Thought-provoking analysis of interpretations of Shylock, arguing that ‘Shylock’s original Jewishness is a product of nineteenth-century rather than sixteenth-century epistemologies’, and his Jewishness being a ‘semantic, rather than [a] Semitic … property’.

Selected Critical Guides and Monograph-length Studies Abend-David, Dror, A Comparison of Translations of The Merchant of Venice into German, Hebrew, and Yiddish (New York etc.: Peter Lang, 2003). Offers insightful analyses and appendices with chronological lists of related events, performances and translations into German, Yiddish and Hebrew. Adelman, Janet, Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008). A highly acclaimed study that argues for the thematic centrality of conversion in play, claiming that in its portrayal of Jewish–Christian conversion the comedy betrays an anxiety over Judaism as both Christianity’s theological origin and antagonist. Cerasano, S. P., ed., A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (London: Routledge, 2004). Provides a rich variety of historical documents, early and modern critical interpretations, discussions of key passages and surveys of modern productions.



Chernaik, Warren, William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, Writers and Their Work (Tavistock: Northcote House/British Council, 2005). An insightful discussion of the play that focuses on ambiguities and questions, and connects critical interpretations with practical ones from productions and performances. Coodin, Sara, Is Shylock Jewish? Citing Scripture and the Moral Agency of Shakespeare’s Jews (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017). Discusses Shylock and Jessica’s identities from a Jewish perspective, arguing that they are not only convincing but also highly complex figures as Jews, despite Shakespeare and his audience’s limited (if not non-existent) knowledge of Hebrew scripture and rabbinic interpretations. Edelman, Charles, ed., The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare in Production (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). Excellent and very useful survey of productions around the world. Contains Mahood’s text, with commentary on the stage history and reception, presented alongside the text of the play itself. Gilbert, Miriam, Shakespeare at Stratford: The Merchant of Venice (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2002). Contains critical discussions and analyses of complex scenes and characters on the basis of Stratford-upon-Avon productions between 1945 and 1997. Chapters are devoted to Shylock, Lancelet Giobbe, ‘The Venetians’, the trial scene and Belmont and the guide includes photographs and cast lists of the productions. Gross, John, Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). Offers a compelling account of the origins of Shylock’s character and the development of interpretations of his role throughout the ages. Contends that Shylock is a ‘special case’ whose ‘myth has often flourished with very little reference to The Merchant of Venice as a whole, quite often with none at all’. NB. The same study has also been published under the title Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend.



Halio, Jay L., ed., Understanding The Merchant of Venice: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents (Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 2000). A helpful resource for contextualizing the play, this student casebook includes contemporary documents that are accompanied by short introductions, and, for each of the thematic chapters, questions for discussion and suggested readings. Mahon, John W. and Ellen Macleod Mahon, eds, The Merchant of Venice: New Critical Essays (New York and London: Routledge, 2002). Valuable collection of essays on a large range of topics, including names, ‘wifely empowerment’, American audiences and Ovid. Contains an elaborate introduction on four centuries of commentary and performance. Nahshon, Edna and Michael Shapiro, eds, Wrestling with Shylock: Jewish Responses to The Merchant of Venice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). Addresses, in eighteen chapters, the issue of Shylock as a stereotypical Jew, exposer of Christian hypocrisy and tragic victim as perceived by Jewish actors, directors, authors and artists. Includes an excellent chapter by Michelle Ephraim on the representation of Jessica in contemporary novels. Shapiro, James, Shakespeare and the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). Seminal study of Elizabethan attitudes towards Jews. Reads The Merchant of Venice in the context of discourses of economics, nationalism, gender, race, millenarianism and reformation theology, as well as of a variety of historical narratives of Jewish–Christian conversion. The twentieth anniversary edition contains a new preface by the author. Sierra, Horacio, ed., New Readings of The Merchant of Venice (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013). A fine collection of essays aimed at undergraduate students and their teachers. It includes chapters on critical theory and its limitations in connection with Merchant’s generic



elusiveness, male and female friendship, financial anxiety and a Manga version of the play.

Internet Resources The quality and accessibility of internet resources depend on creators who regularly update websites. The websites listed below have proven to be relatively stable over the past years. It is nevertheless possible that some of their content will change in the near future or that they disappear altogether. The Folger Library Shakespeare Library. https://www.folger. edu/merchant-of-venice. Provides online access to the Folger Digital Edition of The Merchant of Venice (but without the scene-by-scene synopses that can be found in the hard copy edition), to the quarto and folio editions, and to the library’s impressive digital image collection of actors in character and other representations of Shakespeare’s plays. In addition, it offers a lesson plan with resources for teaching The Merchant of Venice in relation to identity and difference, at secondary school level, which can be adapted for undergraduate teaching ( The Folger Library also has its own YouTube channel, FolgerLibrary, which offers a variety of short clips on teaching the plays (see their playlist ‘Teacher to Teacher’), acting and other Shakespeare-related subjects. Open Source Shakespeare. http://www.opensourceshakespeare. org/concordance/. An excellent online concordance of Shakespeare’s works. Internet Shakespeare Editions. http://internetshakespeare. A collection of high-quality resources that is regularly updated. Particularly useful for its old-spelling transcriptions of the first folio and quarto editions.



The British Library. Provides several accessible articles on The Merchant of Venice and its cultural-historical context, and offers images and descriptions of various textual and material sources that are related to the story, including other plays and prose narratives from which the comedy was adapted, photographs of productions and of a Jewish marriage ring. World Shakespeare Bibliography. https://www. A searchable database with an impressive and regularly updated record of bibliographic information on Shakespeare-related scholarly publications, theatrical and film productions from around the world.

Selected Audio-visual Materials The Merchant of Venice. Directed by Michael Radford, starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes and Lynn Collins (2004). Released on DVD by MGM Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Classics, 2005. Acclaimed production of the play that is noticeable for its stunning setting of early modern Venice, and excellent performances by Pacino as Shylock and Irons as Antonio. Avoids part of the controversial nature of the play by omitting Portia’s racist remarks about the Prince of Morocco’s skin colour. In the final scene, Jessica is shown to still own Leah’s ring and Shylock is locked out of his synagogue. The Merchant of Venice. Directed by John Sichel, starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright and Anthony Nicholls (1973). Released on DVD by Granada International Media Ltd, 2008. TV production based on Jonathan Miller’s stage version (1970). Set in nineteenth-century Venice, with strong performances by Olivier and Plowright, this production is both dated for its blackface depiction of Morocco and fresh regarding Olivier’s portrayal of



Shylock as a Jew without stereotypical Jewish features. In the final shot, Jessica reads the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Directed by Jonathan Munby, starring Jonathan Pryce, Rachel Pickup and Dominic Mafham (2015). Released on DVD by Opus Arte, 2016. Acclaimed stage production by Shakespeare’s Globe, set in sixteenth-century Venice. Memorable for Pryce’s excellent performance of a humane and complex Shylock and for a finale depicting Shylock’s coerced baptism and Jessica (performed by Pryce’s daughter Phoebe Pryce) singing a Jewish prayer. Global Shakespeares: Video and Performance Archive. https:// Particularly valuable for its non-Western versions of Shakespeare’s plays. Contains a variety of clips from global productions of Shakespeare. At the time of consulting the website, it offered videos from Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti (The Maori Merchant of Venice) (Don Selwyn, 2002), The Lamp will Keep You Company (Merchant of Venice in Yemen) (Amin Hazaber, 2012), and an integral video of Bond (Yue/Shu), a Taiwanese production in Henan dialect, set in the Song Dynasty of medieval China (Po Shen Lu, 2009).

NOTES Introduction   1 Judith Butler, Excitable Speech. A Politics of the Performative (New York and London: Routledge, 1997), 1–41.   2 For the other two occurrences, see All Is Well That Ends Well, 4.3.183 and Cymbeline, 5.5.391.   3 OED and John Drakakis, ed., The Merchant of Venice, The Arden 3rd Series (London: Bloomsbury, [2010] 2014), 390.   4 Drakakis, ed., 390.   5 See Harry Berger, Jr., A Fury in the Words. Love and Embarrassment in Shakespeare’s Venice (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), 12, quoted by Bassi in this volume.   6 Leo Salingar, ‘Is The Merchant of Venice a Problem Play?’, in Michèle Willems, Jean-Pierre Maquerlot and Raymond Willems, eds, Le Marchand de Venise et Le Juif de Malte, Texte et représentations (Rouen: Publications de l’Université de Rouen, 1985), 9–20, 11. Salingar is quoting Samuel Johnson, Johnson on Shakespeare, ed. Walter Raleigh (London: Henry Frowde, 1908), 15.   7 Ibid., 11.   8 Ibid., 19.   9 Ibid. 10 Emma Smith, ‘Was Shylock Jewish?’, Shakespeare Quarterly 64.2 (2013): 188–219. 11 See Évelyne Larguèche, L’Effet injure, De la pragmatique à la psychanalyse (Paris: PUF, 1983). 12 On the literalization of the dog metaphor, see Nathalie VienneGuerrin, ‘“You Have Rated Me”: The Insults of The Merchant of Venice’, Literaria Pragensia 23.45 (2013): 82–97.



13 See Thomas Wilson, A Christian Dictionary (London, 1612). 14 Schülting is quoting Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 51. 15 On myth and folklore related to festivity, see François Laroque, ‘Fête, Folklore et Mythe dans Le Marchand de Venise’, in Willems, Marquerlot and Willems, eds, 111–27. 16 Wilhelm Hortmann, ‘Wo, bitte, geht’s nach Belmont? Über ein Dilemma von Inszenierungen des Kaufmann von Venedig nach dem Holocaust’, Shakespeare Jahrbuch 139 (2003): 217–25, 217. 17 On the contradictions inherent in a post-Holocaust or trans-Holocaust approach, see Zeno Ackermann and Sabine Schülting, Precarious Figurations: Shylock on the German Stage, 1920–2010 (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2019), 175–80. 18 Marjorie Garber, Shakespeare After All (New York: Anchor Books, 2005), 311. Quoted by Lieke Stelling in this volume. 19 We owe this formulation to Mariangela Tempera, who organized a conference in 2013 in Ferrara entitled ‘Shakespeare in tatters’. 20 See 21 Many thanks to Rodolphe Olcèse for his contribution on this film at the ‘Shakespeare on screen in the digital era’ congress in Montpellier in September 2019.

Chapter 1   1 R. A. Foakes, Hamlet versus Lear: Cultural Politics and Shakespeare’s Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 3.   2 Alexander Leggatt, Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love (London: Methuen, 1974), xi.   3 David Lodge, The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor, Metonymy and the Typology of Modern Literature (London: Arnold, 1977), 53. In an earlier book, The Language of Fiction: Essays in Criticism and Verbal Analysis of the English Novel (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966), Lodge had



challenged the claim that ‘life, not language, is the novelist’s medium’ and that ‘The function of the critic then becomes that of discerning and assessing the quality of life in a given novel – the plausibility and interest of the characters and their actions, and the nature of its moral discriminations and values’ (5).   4 Leggatt, Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love, 117. See also Leo Salingar, Shakespeare and the Traditions of Comedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), 312, for a similar observation though not in quite the same terms: ‘The Merchant of Venice marks the beginnings of a new departure – thereafter, for instance, there are more vivid or powerful characters in Shakespeare’s comedies, a more reflective attitude towards human experience in the dialogue and a stronger tendency towards prose.’   5 Leggatt, Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love, 121.   6 See John Russell Brown, Shakespeare’s Plays in Performance (London: Arnold, 1966), 50–66. In his treatment of the roles of Hamlet, Gertrude, Coriolanus, Volumnia, Cleopatra and Prince Hal, Brown notes that ‘Shakespeare could give dramatic expression to reactions, conscious and subconscious, that lie beneath the words that are spoken, that qualify what the text explicitly says. Despite the rhetoric, music and excitement of his words, this subtextual communication is an almost constant element of his stagecraft and one that imaginative actors delight to exploit’ (50).   7 Leggatt, Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love, 119–20.   8 E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930), vol. 1, 368–75.   9 Patrick Collinson, ‘The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I’, Elizabethans (London: Hambledon and London, 2003), 31–58. 10 Salingar, Shakespeare and the Traditions of Comedy, 255. Salingar continues: ‘And even in his urban scenes, he shows little or nothing of the working life of the craftsman or apprentice or the ordinary shopkeeper in staple trades, by comparison with a contemporary like Dekker; … His stage world gravitates towards the great house or the court. He depicts the gentry from the outside, but they stand at the centre.’



11 John Gillies, Shakespeare and the Geographies of Difference (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 112–13. 12 Ibid., 122–3. 13 Ibid., 124–5. 14 Edward Soja, Post-modern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London: Verso, 1989), 13. 15 James Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance: The Merchant of Venice (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991), 22–6. 16 James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 55. 17 H. H. Furness, ed., The Variorum Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice (Philadelphia and London: J. P. Lippincott, 1888), 347. 18 Ibid., 370. 19 Brian Vickers, ed., Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, vol. 2, 1693–1733 (London: Dent, 1974), 194–5. 20 Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 1–27, and Miriam Gilbert, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare at Stratford series (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2002), 25–43 and 106–16 esp. 21 John Russell Brown, ed., The Merchant of Venice, Arden 2nd Series (London: Arden Shakespeare, 1955), xxxiii. 22 Furness, The Variorum Shakespeare, 373. 23 Vickers, ed., Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, vol. 2, 243. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid. 26 Margreta de Grazia, Shakespeare Verbatim: The Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 13. 27 Vickers, ed., Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage, vol. 2, 438. 28 De Grazia, Shakespeare Verbatim, 223. 29 Ibid. 30 Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 25. This strategy was to inform Arnold Wesker’s 1976 version, The Merchant, that attempted to counter the anti-Semitism that Shakespeare’s play had generated.



31 T. M. Raysor, ed., Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Shakespearian Criticism, 2 vols (London: Dent, 1960), vol. 2, 217. 32 Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 27. 33 See Donald A. Stauffer, ed., Selected Poetry and Prose of Coleridge (New York: Random House, 1951), 432. 34 Raysor, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, vol. 2, 217. 35 Oswald LeWinter, ed., Shakespeare in Europe (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), 330–1. 36 William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays (London: Dent, 1906), 206. 37 Ibid., 211. 38 See Furness, ed., Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, 376 and 378. 39 Ibid., 383. 40 Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 31. This image was extended further in Bill Alexander’s RSC production with Antony Sher as Shylock, depicted as an ‘oriental other’. See Gilbert, The Merchant of Venice, 28–30. 41 E. E. Stoll, ‘Shylock’, in John Wilders, ed., Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, Casebook series (London: Macmillan, 1969), 51. 42 Ibid., 56. 43 Harley Granville-Barker, Prefaces to Shakespeare, second series (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1930), 67. 44 See L. C. Knights, ‘How Many Children had Lady Macbeth: An Essay on the Theory and Practice of Shakespeare Criticism’, in Explorations (Harmondsworth: Penguin, [1946] 1964), 13–50. For a fuller analysis of Knights’s method, see John Drakakis, ‘Introduction’, in John Drakakis, ed., Alternative Shakespeares (London: Methuen, 1985), 19–21. 45 Barker, Prefaces to Shakespeare, 71. 46 Knights, ‘How Many Children had Lady Macbeth’, 18. 47 Barker, Prefaces to Shakespeare, 72. 48 Ibid., 78. 49 Ibid., 105. 50 Ibid., 106.



51 Ibid., 80–1. 52 Cf. E. A. J. Honigmann, ed., Othello, The Arden Shakespeare, Arden 3rd Series (London: Arden Shakespeare, 1996), 8–9. 53 J. L. Styan, The Shakespeare Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 64ff. 54 Ibid., 69. 55 Ibid., 47ff. 56 John Russell Brown, Shakespeare’s Plays in Performance (London: Arnold, 1966), 71–90. 57 Ibid., 50–66. 58 Ibid., 53. 59 Ibid. 60 Ibid., 87. 61 Ibid., 85. 62 John Gross, Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend (London: Chatto and Windus, 1992). 63 W. H. Auden, ‘Brothers and Others’, in The Dyer’s Hand & Other Essays (London: Faber & Faber, 1963), 218–37. 64 Ibid., 227. 65 Gāmini Salgādo, ‘The Middle Comedies’, in Stanley Wells, ed., Shakespeare: Select Bibliographical Guides (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), 76. 66 John Russell Brown, Shakespeare and His Comedies (London: Methuen, 1957), 25. 67 Ibid., 45. 68 Ibid., 45–61. 69 Ibid., 61. His argument develops ideas he first announced in his 1955 Arden 2 edition of the play. 70 Ibid., 71. 71 Ibid., 73. 72 Ibid., 74–5. 73 M. C. Bradbrook, Shakespeare and Elizabethan Poetry (London: Chatto & Windus, 1951, reprinted Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964), 154. 74 Ibid.



75 M. C. Bradbrook, The Growth and Structure of Elizabethan Comedy (London: Chatto & Windus, 1955, reprinted Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), 85. 76 Ibid., 83ff. 77 Ibid., 87. 78 L. C. Knights, Drama and Society in the Age of Jonson (London: Chatto & Windus, 1937, reprinted Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962), 149. 79 C. L. Barber, Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and its Relation to Social Custom (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959, reprinted New York, 1966), 166. 80 Ibid. 81 Ibid., 167. 82 Ibid., 168. 83 Ibid., 169. 84 Ibid., 177. 85 Ibid., 179. 86 Ibid., 187. 87 Victor Turner, From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play (New York: PAJ Publications, 1982), 13. 88 Barber, Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy, 186. 89 See Michael Bristol, Carnival and Theater: Plebeian Culture and the Structure of Authority in Renaissance England (New York and London: Methuen, 1985), 265–39, 59–72, 125–39 and 197–213. 90 Brown, Shakespeare and His Comedies, 61. In this he notes that this view developed ideas he had first floated in his Arden 2 edition of the play (1955). 91 Leggatt, Shakespeare’s Comedy of Love, 125. 92 Ibid., 127. 93 Ibid., 142. 94 Ibid., 143. 95 Sigmund Freud, ‘The Theme of The Three Caskets’, in John Wilders, ed., Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, Casebook series (London: Macmillan, 1969), 59–68.



  96 Ibid., 60.   97 Ibid., 67.   98 Barbara Lewalski, ‘Biblical Allusion and Allegory in The Merchant of Venice’, in Sylvan Barnet, ed., Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Merchant of Venice (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1970), 33.   99 Ibid., 34. 100 Ibid., 35. 101 Ibid., 37. 102 Auden, ‘Brothers and Others’, 223. 103 Ibid., 227. 104 Ibid., 233–4 (my italics). 105 Arnold Kettle, ed., Shakespeare in a Changing World (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1964), 10–11. 106 Raymond Southall, ‘Troilus and Cressida and the Spirit of Capitalism’, in Kettle, ed., 218–19. 107 Eliot Krieger, A Marxist Study of Shakespeare’s Comedies (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1979), 9. 108 Ibid., 15. 109 Ibid., 17. 110 Ibid., 20. 111 Ibid., 26. 112 Ibid., 32. 113 Ibid., 36. 114 See Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (London, New Left Books, 1971), 127–88; Louis Althusser and Étienne Balibar, Reading Capital (London: New Left Books and Pantheon Books, 1970); and Pierre Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production, trans. Geoffrey Wall (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978). 115 See Terence Hawkes, Structuralism and Semiotics (London: Methuen, 1977); Roger Fowler, Linguistics and The Novel (London: Methuen, 1978); and, in the same series, John Drakakis, ed., Alternative Shakespeares (London: Methuen, 1985).



116 Leslie Fiedler, The Stranger in Shakespeare (London: Stein & Day, 1972), 85–136. 117 Marc Shell, Money, Language, and Thought: Literary and Philosophical Economies from the Medieval to the Modern Era (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), 1–2. 118 Ibid., 3–4. 119 Ibid., 48. 120 Ibid., 49–50. 121 Walter Cohen, ‘The Merchant of Venice and the Possibilities of Historical Criticism’, ELH, 49.4 (Winter, 1982): 765–89, 766. 122 See Lawrence Danson, The Harmonies of The Merchant of Venice (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978). 123 Cohen, ‘The Merchant of Venice and the Possibilities of Historical Criticism’, 767. 124 Ibid., 770. 125 Ibid., 772. 126 Ibid., 781. 127 Ibid., 783. 128 Ibid., 784. 129 Terry Eagleton, Criticism and Ideology (London: New Left Books, 1976), 85. 130 Terry Eagleton, William Shakespeare (London: Blackwell, 1986), 35. 131 Ibid., 36. 132 Ibid., 38. 133 Ibid., 39. 134 Ibid., 42. 135 Ibid., 45. 136 For a detailed study of these fantasies, see Debra Higgs Strickland, Saracens, Demons & Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 95ff. See also Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983).



137 Gillies, Shakespeare and the Geographies of Difference, 129. 138 Stephen Greenblatt, Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture (London: Routledge, 1990), 40–58. 139 Ibid., 146–7. 140 Ibid., 41. 141 Ibid., 47. 142 Ibid., 43. 143 Lorna Hutson, The Usurer’s Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in the Sixteenth Century (London: Routledge, 1994), 226. 144 Ibid., 228. 145 Ibid., 235. 146 Ibid., 224. 147 Ibid., 238. 148 Clara Claiborne Park, ‘As We Like It: How a Girl can be Smart and Still Popular’, in Carolyn Ruth Swift Lenz, Gayle Greene and Carol Thomas Neely, eds, The Woman’s Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980), 100–16, 111. 149 See Karen Newman, ‘Portia’s Ring: Unruly Women and Structures of Exchange in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 38 (1987): 19–33; also in Martin Coyle, ed., Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, New Casebooks series (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998), 130–1. See also Lynda Boose, ‘The Comic Contract and Portia’s Golden Ring’, in J. Leeds Barroll, ed., Shakespeare Studies 20 (1988): 241–54. See also M. Lindsay Kaplan, ‘Others and Lovers in The Merchant of Venice’, in Dympna C. Callaghan, ed., A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare (Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000), 341–57. 150 Auden, ‘Brothers and Others’, 231. 151 Ibid., 234. But for a theoretically dense reading, see also Avraham Oz, The Yoke of Love: Prophetic Riddles in The Merchant of Venice (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1995), 146, where ‘identity’ is established ‘by the play’s diverse riddles – appealing to both reason and imagination’, thereby allowing the play to ‘approach its prophetic conclusion as



approved by official ideology, in which the characters relate to each other as extensions of themselves through the redeeming power of love in its various modes’. 152 Jonathan Goldberg, Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992), 142. A much fuller reading of the play along the lines set out by Goldberg appears in Alan Sinfield, ‘How to Read The Merchant of Venice Without Being Heterosexist’, in Shakespeare, Authority, Sexuality: Unfinished Business in Cultural Materialism (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 53–67. 153 Alan Sinfield, ‘How to Read The Merchant of Venice Without Being Heterosexist’, in Terence Hawkes, ed., Alternative Shakespeares 2 (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), 122–39. 154 Ibid., 123. 155 Ibid., 124. 156 Ibid. 157 Ibid., 128. 158 Ibid., 129. 159 Ibid., 130. 160 Ibid., 132. 161 Ibid., 134. 162 Ibid., 136. 163 Ibid., 139. 164 See Oz, The Yoke of Love, ‘Epilogue’, 193ff. for an account of Israeli performances of the play, and esp. 199: ‘In Israel the play is loaded simultaneously with the terror of extermination and the dilemma of might.’ 165 Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews, 171. 166 Martin D. Yaffe, Shylock and the Jewish Question (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 1. 167 Ibid., 19. 168 Ibid., 22–3. 169 Ibid., 45.



170 Ibid., 47. 171 Ibid., 63. 172 See Lewalski, ‘Biblical Allusion’. 173 Yaffe, Shylock and the Jewish Question, 82. 174 Ibid., 89. 175 Ibid., 121. 176 Ibid., 123. 177 Jacques Derrida, ‘What is “Relevant” Translation?’, in Lawrence Venuti, ed., The Translation Studies Reader, 2nd edition (New York and Abingdon: Routledge, 2002), 430. 178 Ibid., 439. 179 Ibid. 180 Ibid., 443.

Chapter 2   1 See John Gross, Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 31–5.   2 See The Merchant of Venice, ed. Jay L. Halio (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 124, n. 1.   3 Ibid., 65.   4 Toby Lelyveld, Shylock on the Stage (Cleveland: Wester Reserve Press, 1960), 7.   5 William Ringler, ‘The Number of Actors in Shakespeare’s Early Plays’, in G. E. Bentley, ed., The Seventeenth Century Stage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), 123.   6 For conflicting theories on Elizabethan acting styles, see Lise-Lone Marker, ‘Nature and Decorum in the Theory of Elizabethan Acting’, in David Galloway, ed., The Elizabethan Theatre II (Toronto: Macmillan, 1970), 87–107.   7 See Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage, 1574–1642, 4th edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 180–4.



  8 The London Stage, 1660–1800, 5 vols, ed. William Van Lennep (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1965), vol. 2, Part 1, 151–2.   9 Halio, ed., The Merchant of Venice, 61. 10 C. B. Hogan, Shakespeare in the Theatre, 1700–1800, 2 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952), vol. 1, 461. 11 George C. D. Odell, Shakespeare from Betterton to Irving, 2 vols (New York: Scribner’s, 1920), 262. 12 Lelyveld, Shylock on the Stage, 21–4. For discussion of Macklin’s style of acting compared with Garrick’s and others’, see 26–32. 13 William Hazlitt was so taken by Kean’s representation of Shylock that in The Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays he borrowed the phrase from King Lear’s cry in 3.2 to describe Shylock. 14 See Lelyveld, Shylock on the Stage, 41. 15 Ibid., 47. 16 Ibid., 56. 17 Linda Rozmovits, Shakespeare and the Politics of Culture in Late Victorian Culture (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 61. 18 Lelyveld, Shylock on the Stage, 82, citing a passage from Irving’s Impressions of America. 19 Ibid., 85. 20 See Robert Speaight, William Poel and the Elizabethan Revival (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954), 132–4; compare Lelyveld, Shylock on the Stage, 97–8. 21 Ibid., 138–9. 22 Ibid., 140. 23 Even stagings decades later in the reconstructed Globe have to depend on ‘get penny’ performances to attract sufficient paid admissions to cover expenses. The Globe receives no subsidy from the British Arts Council; many productions are sponsored by various charitable funds or corporations. 24 Lelyveld, Shylock on the Stage, 108.



25 Ibid., 10. 26 James C. Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance: The Merchant of Venice (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991), 53. 27 J. C. Trewin, Shakespeare on the English Stage, 1900–1964 (London: Barrie and Rockcliff, 1964), 137. 28 Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 54–6. 29 Trewin, Shakespeare on the English Stage, 137; Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 68–71. 30 For example, the London Times, 26 July 1932. See Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 56–7. 31 Sally Bauman, The Royal Shakespeare Company: A History of Ten Decades (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 127. 32 Viki K. Janik, The Merchant of Venice: A Guide to the Play (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003), 218. 33 Ibid., 222–3. 34 Gielgud anticipates what John Barton years later referred to as ‘timeless Jacobean’. 35 Trewin, Shakespeare on the English Stage, 140–1. 36 Gross, Shylock, 199. 37 Recall how Gielgud directed the play in 1932. 38 See Gross, Shylock, 292–8. 39 Jeanette Malkin, ‘Fritz Kortner and Other German-Jewish Shylocks Before and After the Holocaust’, in Edna Nahshon and Michael Shapiro, eds, Wrestling with Shylock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 204–9. 40 Zeno Ackermann, ‘Shakespearean Negotiations in the Perpetrator Society: German Productions of The Merchant of Venice During the Second World War’, in Irena R. Makaryk and Marissa McHugh, eds, Shakespeare and the Second World War (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2012), 36. 41 Ibid., 54. 42 Malkin, ‘Fritz Kortner and Other German-Jewish Shylocks’, 198. 43 Ackermann, ‘Shakespearean Negotiations in the Perpetrator Society’, 46.



44 Ibid., 47. 45 Lelyveld, Shylock on the Stage, 112–14. 46 Angus L. Bowmer, As I Remember, Adam: An Autobiography of a Festival (Ashland: Oregon Shakespeare Festival Association, 1975), 73–6. I saw Bowmer’s Shylock in the 1958 production. 47 See Edna Nahshon, ‘New York City, 1947: A Season for Shylocks’, in Nahshon and Shapiro, Wrestling with Shylock, 140–67. One production was actually in Yiddish and another one in Hebrew. 48 Ibid., 142–8. 49 Ibid., 157–8. The play is a dramatization of a Hebrew novel by Ari Ibn Zahav published in Tel Aviv in 1943. See ibid., 160–5. 50 Ibid., 163. 51 Ibid., 164. 52 Joel Berkowitz, Shakespeare on the American Yiddish Stage (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2002), 204. 53 Nahshon, ‘New York City, 1947: A Season for Shylocks’, 166. 54 Frank Rich, New York Times, 21 June 1989, C15. 55 Louis Auchincloss, New York Times, 11 February 1990. 56 Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 76. 57 Halio, ed., The Merchant of Venice, 74. 58 See Jay L. Halio, ‘Shylock: Shakespeare’s Bad Jew’, in Evelyn Gajowski, ed., Re-Visions of Shakespeare (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2004), 57–65. 59 Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 83. 60 Ibid., 101. 61 Ibid., 104–6. 62 Roger Warren, ‘A Year of Comedies: Stratford 1978’, Shakespeare Survey 32 (1979): 201–9, 204. 63 Ibid. 64 John Drakakis, in his Arden edition of the play (London, 2010), 132. He also notes that the gesture was eliminated in later performances.



65 Warren, 1979, 205. 66 Patrick Stewart, ‘Shylock in The Merchant of Venice’, in Philip Brockbank, ed., Players of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 11–28, 14. 67 Warren, 1979, 205. 68 Ibid. 69 See John Barton, Playing Shakespeare (London: Methuen, 1984), 171. 70 Ibid., 169. 71 Ibid., 172. 72 Roger Warren, ‘Interpretations of Shakespearean Comedy, 1981’, Shakespeare Survey 35 (1982): 141–52, 141. 73 Barton, Playing Shakespeare, 172. 74 Ibid., 173–4. 75 Ibid., 175. 76 Warren, 1982, 141. 77 Sinéad Cusack, ‘Portia in The Merchant of Venice’, in Brockbank, ed., Players of Shakespeare, 29–40, 29. 78 Warren, 1982, 142. 79 Cusack, ‘Portia in The Merchant of Venice’, 37. 80 Ibid., 39. 81 Warren, 1982, 142. 82 See 1.2.107–16. 83 Ian McDiarmid, ‘Shylock in The Merchant of Venice’, in Russell Jackson and Robert Smallwood, eds, Players of Shakespeare 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 45–54, 48. 84 See ibid., 46 and 53 for pictures of him as Shylock. 85 Nicholas Shrimpton, ‘Shakespeare Performances in Stratfordupon-Avon and London, 1983–4’, Shakespeare Survey 38 (1985): 201–13, 207. 86 Bulman, Shakespeare in Performance, 117. 87 Ibid., 121, citing the Jewish Chronicle, 8 May 1987. 88 Miriam Gilbert, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare at Stratford series (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2002), 22.



  89 Stanley Wells, ‘Shakespeare Performances in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, 1986–7’, Shakespeare Survey 41 (1989): 159–81, 162.   90 Ibid., 163.   91 Gilbert, The Merchant of Venice, 22.   92 Deborah Findlay, ‘Portia in The Merchant of Venice’, in Russell Jackson and Robert Smallwood, eds, Players of Shakespeare 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 52–67, 54.   93 Ibid., 56.   94 Peter Holland, ‘Shakespeare Performances in England, 1992–93’, Shakespeare Survey 47 (1994): 181–207, 196–7.   95 Christopher Luscombe, ‘Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice and Moth in Love’s Labour’s Lost’, in Robert Smallwood, ed., Players of Shakespeare 4 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 18–29, 19.   96 Ibid, 22.   97 Holland, ‘Shakespeare Performances in England, 1992–93’, 197.   98 Ibid., 198. Compare Benedict Nightingale’s review in the London Times, 7 June 1993, who notes a similar change in character and is generally less favourably disposed towards the production.   99 Charles Spencer, ‘Shylock in the Square Mile’, London Telegraph, 7 June 1993, 17. 100 Kelly Newman O’Connor, ‘RSC’s The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Newsletter 286 (Spring/Summer 2012): 27. 101 Ibid. 102 Robert Smallwood, ‘Shakespeare Performances in England, 1999’, Shakespeare Survey 53 (2000): 264–73, 267–8. 103 Ibid., 268. 104 Ibid. 105 New York Times, 6 February 2000, AR17. 106 Stephen Purcell, Shakespeare in the Theatre: Mark Rylance at the Globe (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 47. Note also references to Pauline Kiernan’s very full descriptions and



analyses, including interviews with some actors, in her online discussions from Shakespeare’s Globe Research Bulletins. 107 Purcell, Shakespeare in the Theatre, 47–8. 108 Nina da Vinci Nichols’s review in Shakespeare Bulletin 17 (Winter 1999): 20–1. 109 Holly Williams, The Independent, 1 May 2015, 10:24. 110 On Merchant on screen, see Douglas M. Lanier’s chapter in this volume. 111 See Gross, Shylock, 234–43. 112 Wilhelm Hortmann, Shakespeare on the German Stage: The Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 7. Compare Gross, Shylock, 240–1. 113 Ibid., 35–6. Compare Robert Speaight, Shakespeare on the Stage (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973), 206–8. 114 Ibid., 254. 115 Ibid., 254–6. 116 Ibid., 256–7. 117 Gross, Shylock, 243–9. 118 Kent Cartwright, ‘The Merchant of Venice in the Jewish Ghetto’, Shakespeare Newsletter 67 (Fall/Winter 2017): 1, 6–9, 6. 119 Ibid. 120 Alexander Shurbanov and Boika Sokolova, Painting Shakespeare Red (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2001), 76–82. 121 Thomas A. Pendleton, Shakespeare Newsletter 58 (Winter 2008/2009): 81, 106, 110. But compare Jay Halio, ‘The International Shakespeare Festival, Gdańsk’, Shakespeare Newsletter 59 (Fall 2009): 48, who found the production ‘masterful’ with the roles of Shylock and Portia balanced well. 122 Halio, ‘The International Shakespeare Festival, Gdańsk’, 50. 123 See Shelly Zer-Zion, ‘The Merchant of Venice in Mandatory Palestine and the State of Israel’, in Nahshon and Shapiro, Wrestling with Shylock, 168–97. 124 Sisir Kumar Das, ‘Shakespeare in Indian Languages’, in Poonam Trivedi and Dennis Bartholomeusz, eds, India’s



Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2005), 47–73, 58. 125 Dennis Bartholomeusz, ‘Shylock’s Shoes: The Art of Localization’, in Trivedi and Bartholomeusz, eds, India’s Shakespeare, 227–41, 231. 126 Ibid., 235. 127 Alan Armstrong’s review in Shakespeare Bulletin 20 (Spring 2002): 26–7. 128 Polly Zavadivker, ‘Vengeance and Despair: Reclaiming Shylock as Outsider and Jew’, in the [Delaware] Jewish Voice 50 (2018): 48–9. 129 See the twin reviews by Thomas A. Pendleton and John W. Mahon in Shakespeare Newsletter 54 (Summer/Fall 2004): 69–70, 76. 130 See Paula Glatzer’s review in Shakespeare Newsletter 60 (Fall 2010): 67–8. 131 See Halio, ed., 79.

Chapter 3   1 Stephen Greenblatt, ‘The Limits of Hatred’, in Shakespeare’s Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 49–73, 52.   2 Zygmunt Bauman, ‘Allosemitism: Premodern, Modern, Postmodern’, in Bryan Cheyette and Laura Marcus, eds, Modernity, Culture and ‘the Jew’ (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998), 143–56.   3 See Leah S. Marcus, ed., The Merchant of Venice (New York and London: Norton, 2006); John Drakakis, ed., The Merchant of Venice (Bloomsbury: Arden, 2010).   4 See M. Lindsay Kaplan, The Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts (New York: Palgrave, 2002); Boika Sokolova, A Guide to William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice (Penrith: Humanities-Ebooks, 2009); Michael Neill, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (Lacock, Wiltshire: Connell Publishing, 2018).



  5 John W. Mahon and Ellen Macleod Mahon, eds, The Merchant of Venice: New Critical Essays (New York and London: Routledge, 2002); Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi, eds, Visions of Venice in Shakespeare (Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011), 198–214; M. Lindsay Kaplan, ed., The Merchant of Venice: The State of Play (London: Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2020).   6 Rebecca Lemon, ‘Law’, in Arthur F. Kinney, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 554–70; Quentin Skinner, Forensic Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), esp. 210–17, 220–5.   7 Peter G. Platt, Shakespeare and the Culture of Paradox (Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009); Tosi and Bassi, eds, Visions of Venice; Graham Holderness, Shakespeare and Venice (Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010); Carole Levine and John Watkins, Shakespeare’s Foreign Worlds: National and Transnational Identities in the Elizabethan Age (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009), 85–144.   8 Lisa Freinkel, Reading Shakespeare’s Will: The Theology of Figure from Augustine to the Sonnets (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).   9 Ibid., 251. 10 See Lisa Lampert, Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). 11 Susannah Heschel, ‘From Jesus to Shylock: Christian Supersessionism and The Merchant of Venice’, Harvard Theological Review 99.4 (2006): 407–31. 12 Graham Hammill and Julia Reinhard Lupton, eds, Political Theology & Early Modernity (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2012), 5. 13 Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, [1932] 2007). See Gil Anidjar, The Jew, the Arab. A History of the Enemy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003) for an application to Merchant.



14 Kent Cartwright, ‘The Return from the Dead in The Merchant of Venice’, in Tosi and Bassi, eds, Visions of Venice, 167–83. 15 Kenneth Gross, Shylock is Shakespeare (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 14. 16 Ibid., 18. 17 Ibid., 11. 18 Ibid., 7. 19 Ibid., 81. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid., 87. 22 Ibid. 23 Ibid., 149. 24 Ibid., 155–6. 25 Janet Adelman, Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 11. 26 Ibid., 28. 27 See Kim F. Hall, ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Colonization and Miscegenation in The Merchant of Venice’, Renaissance Drama n.s. 23 (1992): 87–111; Ania Loomba, Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). 28 Adelman, Blood Relations, 36. 29 I here follow Adelman’s conventional use of Gobbo and Lancelot as names of the characters that are spelt as Giobbe and Lancelet in Arden 3. 30 Ibid., 140. 31 M. Lindsay Kaplan, ‘Jessica’s Mother: Medieval Constructions of Jewish Race and Gender in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 58.1 (2007): 1–30, 26. 32 Kaplan, ‘Jessica’s Mother’, 30. 33 See also John Drakakis, ‘Jessica’, in John W. Mahon and Ellen Macleod Mahon, eds, The Merchant of Venice: New Critical Essays (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), 145–64; Nicoleta Cinpoeș, ‘Defrauding Daughters Turning Deviant



Wives? Reading Female Agency in The Merchant of Venice’, SEDERI: Yearbook of the Spanish and Portuguese Society for English Renaissance Studies 21 (2011): 133–46; Lara Bovilsky, ‘“A Gentle and No Jew”: Jessica, Portia, and Jewish Identity’, Renaissance Drama, 38 (2010): 47–76; Irene Middleton, ‘A Jew’s Daughter and a Christian’s Wife: Performing Jessica’s Multiplicity in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Bulletin 33.2 (2015): 293–317; Michelle Ephraim, ‘Jessica’s Jewish Identity in Contemporary Feminist Novels’, in E. Nahshon and M. Shapiro, eds, Wrestling with Shylock: Jewish Responses to The Merchant of Venice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 337–58; Efraim Sicher, The Jew’s Daughter: A Cultural History of a Conversion Narrative (Lanham, MD: Lexington Book, 2017). 34 See Ania Loomba, Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism; Patricia Akhimie, Shakespeare and the Cultivation of Difference: Race and Conduct in the Early Modern World (London and New York: Routledge, 2018); M. Lindsay Kaplan, Figuring Racism in Medieval Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019). 35 James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996 and 2016). 36 Stephen Orgel, Imagining Shakespeare (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 144–62. 37 Emma Smith, ‘Was Shylock Jewish?’, Shakespeare Quarterly 64.2 (2013): 188–219, 189. 38 Ibid., 188–9. 39 Ibid., 203. 40 Ibid., 209. 41 Ibid., 212. 42 Ibid., 215. 43 Ibid., 216–17. 44 David Nirenberg, ‘“Which Is the Merchant Here, and Which the Jew?”: Acting Jewish in Shakespeare’s England’, in Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (New York: Norton, 2013), 269–99, 272. 45 Ibid.



46 Ibid., 273. 47 Ibid., 299. 48 Greenblatt, ‘The Limits of Hatred’, Shakespeare’s Freedom, 59. 49 Ibid., 67. 50 Ibid. 51 Zeno Ackermann and Sabine Schülting, Precarious Figurations: Shylock on the German Stage, 1920–2010 (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2019). 52 Adelman, Blood Relations, 1. 53 Ibid., 135n3. 54 David Hillman, ‘Freud’s Shylock’, American Imago 70.1 (2013): 1–50, 36. 55 Ibid. 56 Nahshon and Shapiro, eds, Wrestling with Shylock, xxii. 57 Abigail Gillman, ‘Shylock in German-Jewish Historiography’, in Nahshon and Shapiro, eds, Wrestling with Shylock, 52. 58 Sara Coodin, Is Shylock Jewish? Citing Scripture and the Moral Agency of Shakespeare’s Jews (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), 7. 59 Ibid., 9. 60 Natasha Korda, ‘Dame Usury: Gender, Credit, and (Ac) counting in the Sonnets and The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 60.2 (2009): 129–53, 150. 61 Amanda Bailey, ‘Shylock and the Slaves: Owing and Owning in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 62.1 (2011): 1–24, 6. 62 Ibid., 6. 63 Ibid., 24. 64 Simon Critchley and Tom McCarthy, ‘Universal Shylockery: Money and Morality in The Merchant of Venice’, Diacritics: A Review of Contemporary Criticism 34.1 (2004): 3–17, 12. 65 Ibid. 66 David Schalkwyk, ‘The Impossible Gift of Love in The Merchant of Venice and the Sonnets’, Shakespeare 7.2 (2011): 142–55, 143.



67 Ibid., 149. 68 Ibid., 153. 69 Ibid., 154. 70 Richard Halpern, ‘Bassanio’s Bailout: A Brief History of Risk, Shakespeare to Wall Street’, SEDERI: Yearbook of the Spanish and Portuguese Society for English Renaissance Studies 24 (2014): 27–45, 33. 71 Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (London: Sage, 1992). 72 Ibid., 44. 73 Harry Berger, Jr., A Fury in the Words. Love and Embarrassment in Shakespeare’s Venice (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), 12. 74 Ibid., 13. 75 Ibid., 20. 76 Ibid., 9. 77 Ibid., 82. 78 Ibid., 29. 79 Ibid., 42. 80 Julia Reinhard Lupton, Citizen-Saints. Shakespeare and Political Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 75. 81 Julia Reinhard Lupton, ‘Exegesis, Mimesis, and the Future of Humanism in The Merchant of Venice’, Religion and Literature 32.2 (2000): 123–39; ‘Job in Venice: Shakespeare and the Travails of Universalism’, in Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi, eds, Visions of Venice in Shakespeare, 123–40. 82 Lupton, Citizen-Saints, 79. 83 Ibid., 96. 84 Ibid., 100. 85 Gilberto Sacerdoti, ‘Jessica’s Cosmopolitan Dreams: Blood, Religion and Citizenship in The Merchant of Venice’, in Camilla Caporicci, ed., Sicut Lilium inter Spinas. Literature and Religion in the Renaissance (Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag, 2018), 141–65, 147.



86 Ibid. 87 Arthur L. Little, ‘The Rites of Queer Marriage in The Merchant of Venice’, in Madhavi Menon, ed., Shakesqueer: A Queer Companion to the Complete Works of Shakespeare (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 216–24, 217. 88 Ibid., 222. 89 Drew Daniel, ‘“Let me have judgment, and the Jew his will”: Melancholy Epistemology and Masochistic Fantasy in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 61.2 (2010): 206–34, 217. Cf. Henry S. Turner, ‘The Problem of the Morethan-One: Friendship, Calculation, and Political Association in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 57.4 (2006): 413–42. 90 Ibid., 209. 91 Paul Yachnin, ‘Shakespeare’s Public Animals’, in Andreas Höfele and Stephan Laqué, eds, Humankinds: The Renaissance and its Anthropologies (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011), 185–98, 189–90. 92 Ibid., 196. 93 Ibid. 94 Ibid., 197. 95 Keith M. Botelho, ‘The Beasts of Belmont and Venice’, in Jennifer Munroe, Edward J. Geisweidt and Lynne Bruckner, eds, Ecological Approaches to Early Modern English Texts: A Field Guide to Reading and Teaching (Burlington, VT and Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2015), 71–80, 80. 96 Tina Krontiris, ‘The Staging of the Merchant of Venice and Othello by Greek Political Exiles (1951–1953): Shakespeare in Extremis’, in Martin Procházka, Michael Dobson, Andreas Höfele and Hanna Scolnicov, eds, Renaissance Shakespeare: Shakespeare Renaissances (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2014), 249–61. 97 Katalin Ágnes Bartha, ‘The Merchant of Venice in Pest and Cluj (Kolozsvár) during the Habsburg Neo-absolutism’, in Keith Gregor, ed., Shakespeare and Tyranny: Regimes of Reading in Europe and Beyond (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholar Press, 2014), 77–104.



  98 Madalina Nicolaescu, ‘Rewriting Venice and Radicalizing Shylock: Nineteenth-century French and Romanian Adaptations of The Merchant of Venice’, in Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi, eds, Visions of Venice in Shakespeare, 215–30.   99 Gunnar Sorelius, ‘The Stockholm 1944 Anti-Nazi Merchant of Venice: The Uncertainty of Response’, in Gunnar Sorelius, ed., Shakespeare and Scandinavia: A Collection of Nordic Studies (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002), 193–206. 100 Elizabeth Klein and Michael Shapiro, ‘Shylock as CryptoJew: A New Mexican Adaptation of The Merchant of Venice’, in Sonia Massai, ed., World-wide Shakespeares: Local Appropriations in Film and Performance (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), 31–39. 101 Yukari Yoshihara, ‘Japan as “half-civilized”: An Early Japanese Adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Japan’s Construction of its National Image in the Late Nineteenth Century’, in Ryuta Minami, Ian Carruthers and John Gillies, eds, Performing Shakespeare in Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 21–32. 102 Dennis Bartholomeusz, ‘Shylock’s Shoes: The Art of Localization’, in Poonam Trivedi and Dennis Bartholomeusz, eds, India’s Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2005), 227–41. 103 Marta Cerezo, ‘Shakespeare at the Vatican, 1964’, in Clara Calvo and Coppélia Kahn, eds, Celebrating Shakespeare: Commemoration and Cultural Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 121–39. 104 Carol Chillington Rutter, ‘Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, In and Beyond the Ghetto’, Shakespeare Survey 70 (2017): 79–88. 105 Amy Scott-Douglass, Shakespeare Inside: The Bard Behind Bars (London and New York: Continuum, 2007). 106 Imran Awan and Islam Issa, ‘“Certainly the Muslim is the very devil incarnation”: Islamophobia and The Merchant of Venice’, Muslim World 108.3 (2018): 367–86.



107 Jason Demeter and Ayanna Thompson, ‘The Merchant of Ashland: The Confusing Case of an Organized Minority Response at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’, The Shakespearean International Yearbook 16: Special Section: Shakespeare on Site (New York: Routledge, 2016), 61–76. 108 Adam Meyer, ‘Victim and Villain: Shylock in the African American Imagination’, Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation 7.2 (2012–13), http://www. 109 Marcela Kostihová, ‘Shocked Shylock: Neoliberalism, Postcommunism, and 21st-Century Shakespeare’, Early English Studies 4 (2011): 1–22. 110 Susan L. Fischer, ‘Jacques Vincey’s ‘Business in Venice’ in a French supermarket: Shakespeare’s Merchant and perceptions of ‘anti-Semitism’, Cahiers Élisabéthains 97.1 (2018): 84–94. 111 Jessica Apolloni, ‘Shylock Meets Palestine: Rethinking Shakespeare in Abdelkader Benali’s Yasser’, Shakespeare Bulletin: A Journal of Performance Criticism and Scholarship 31.2 (2013): 213–32; Edna Nahshon, ‘Shylock and the ArabIsraeli Conflict’, in E. Nahshon and M. Shapiro, eds, Wrestling with Shylock: Jewish Responses to The Merchant of Venice, 413–23. 112 Stuart Sillars, ‘Merchant of Where? The Venetian Plays in English Visual Culture’, in Laura Tosi and Shaul Bassi, eds, Visions of Venice in Shakespeare, 198–214. 113 Gross, Shylock is Shakespeare, 158–74, among others. 114 Fernando Cioni, ‘Visualizing and Performing Jewishness: Jews and “Shylocks” on stage from the Restoration to Late Romanticism’, in Virginia Mason Vaughan, Fernando Cioni and Jacquelyn Bessell, eds, Speaking Pictures: The Visual/ Verbal Nexus of Dramatic Performance (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2010), 141–63. 115 Thomas Cartelli, ‘Redistributing Complicities in an Age of Digital Production: Michael Radford’s Film Version of The Merchant of Venice’, in Nina Levine and David Lee Miller, eds, A Touch More Rare: Harry Berger, Jr., and the Arts of Interpretation (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009), 58–73.



116 Emma Cox, ‘Te Reo Shakespeare: Te tangata whai rawa o Winiti/The Maori Merchant of Venice’, Kunapipi: Journal of Postcolonial Writing 28.1 (2006): 79–95; Julie McDougall, ‘Māori Take on Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice in Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Multicultural Shakespeare 8 (2011): 93–106. 117 Ackermann and Schülting, Precarious Figurations, 13.

Chapter 4   1 John Drakakis, ed., The Merchant of Venice, 5.1.83–4n, 374–5.   2 Gail Kern Paster, Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), 7.   3 Barbara H. Rosenwein, Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006), 1.   4 Brian Massumi, ‘The Autonomy of Affect’, Cultural Critique 31 (1995): 83–109, 88.   5 Ibid.   6 Brian Massumi, ‘Notes on the Translation and Acknowledgments’, in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), xvi–xix, xvi.   7 Margaret Wetherell, Affect and Emotion: A New Social Science Understanding (London: Sage, 2012), 56.   8 See for example Ruth Leys, ‘The Turn to Affect: A Critique’, Critical Inquiry 37.3 (2011): 434–72, 455.   9 Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 40n.   10 Steven Mullaney, The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015), 19.   11 See Rosenwein, Emotional Communities, 4.



12 OED, Oxford English Dictionary, online edition (Oxford University Press, 2019), ‘affect,’ n. 1.–4., 6. 13 Ibid., ‘affect,’ n. 5. 14 Ibid., ‘emotion,’ n. 1a–c; 3. 15 See Richard Meek and Erin Sullivan, eds, The Renaissance of Emotion: Understanding Affect in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), 11. 16 Ibid., 10–11. 17 Cf. Paster, Humoring the Body, 10. 18 See, for example, Mullaney, The Reformation of Emotions; Meek and Sullivan, eds, The Renaissance of Emotion, 7. 19 Evelyn Tribble, ‘Affective Contagion on the Early Modern Stage’, in Amanda Bailey and Mario DiGangi, eds, Affect Theory and Early Modern Texts: Politics, Ecologies, and Form (New York: Palgrave, 2017), 195–212. 20 Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors (London: printed by Nicholas Okes, 1612), sig. F3v. 21 Aleksondra Hultquist, ‘The Passions’, in Susan Broomhall, ed., Early Modern Emotions: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2017), 71–3, 72. 22 Cf. OED 2019, negotiate, v. 23 Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 3. 24 Rosenwein, Emotional Communities, 2. 25 Steven Mullaney, ‘Affective Technologies: Toward an Emotional Logic of the Elizabethan Stage’, in Mary Floyd-Wilson and Garrett A. Sullivan Jr., eds, Environment and Embodiment in Early Modern England (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 71–89. 26 J. F. Bernard, ‘The Merchant of Venice and Shakespeare’s Sense of Humour(s)’, Renaissance Studies 28.5 (2014): 643–58, 652–3. 27 Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (Oxford: printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, 1621), 46.



28 Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, trans. R. D. Hicks, 2 vols (London: William Heineman/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, [1925] 1958), vol. 2, bk IX, 411. 29 See, for example, Bruce Smith, Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s England: A Cultural Poetics (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, [1991] 1994), 67–8; Alan Sinfield, ‘How to Read The Merchant of Venice Without Being Heterosexist’, in Terence Hawkes, ed., Alternative Shakespeares, vol. 2 (London: Routledge, 1996), 122–39. 30 Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, 70. See also Erin Sullivan, ‘Melancholy’, in Broomhall, ed., Early Modern Emotions, 56–61. 31 Daniel Drew, ‘“Let me have judgement and the Jew his will”: Melancholy Epistemology and Masochistic Fantasy in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 61.2 (2010): 206–34, 214. 32 Bernard, ‘The Merchant of Venice and Shakespeare’s Sense of Humour(s)’, 657. 33 Barbara Hodgdon, ed., The Taming of the Shrew, The Arden Shakespeare, Third Series (London: Methuen, 2010). 34 Cf. Katharine A. Craik and Tanya Pollard, ‘Introduction: Imagining Audiences’, in Katharine A. Craik, ed., Shakespearean Sensations: Experiencing Literature in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 1–25, 11. 35 On Merchant on screen, see Lanier’s chapter in this volume. 36 Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 9. 37 Ibid., 11. 38 Camille Slights, ‘In Defense of Jessica: The Runaway Daughter in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 31.3 (1980): 357–68, 358. 39 John Drakakis, ‘Jessica’, in John W. Mahon and Ellen Macleod Mahon, eds, The Merchant of Venice: New Critical Essays (London: Routledge, 2002), 145–64, 152. 40 Steven Kruger, The Spectral Jew: Conversion and Embodiment in Medieval Europe (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 85.



41 M. Lindsay Kaplan, ‘Jessica’s Mother: Medieval Constructions of Jewish Race and Gender in The Merchant of Venice’, Shakespeare Quarterly 58.1 (2007): 1–30, 22. 42 Heinrich Heine, Shakespeare’s Maidens and Women, in The Works of Heinrich Heine, trans. Charles Godfrey Leland (London: Heinemann, 1906), vol. 1, 377. 43 See, for example, Zeno Ackermann and Sabine Schülting, Precarious Figurations: Shylock on the German Stage, 1920– 2010 (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2019). 44 Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 49. 45 Ibid., 49. 46 Ibid., 51. 47 Ibid. 48 Ibid., 52, emphasis in the original. 49 Ngai, Ugly Feelings, 335. 50 Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 94. See also Ngai, Ugly Feelings, 336. 51 Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard and Katharine Eisaman Maus, eds, The Norton Shakespeare (New York: Norton, 1997), 1129. 52 Mullaney, The Reformation of Emotions, 75. 53 Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 137. 54 See Lisa Lampert, ‘“O what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”: Exegesis and Identity in The Merchant of Venice’, in Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 138–67, 150; Efraim Sicher, The Jew’s Daughter: A Cultural History of a Conversion Narrative (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2017), 12. 55 Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 137. 56 Walter Cohen, ‘The Merchant of Venice and the Possibilities of Historical Criticism’, ELH 49.4 (1982): 765–89. 57 Mullaney, ‘Affective Technologies’. 58 Ibid., 79. 59 Ibid., 80. See also Mullaney, The Reformation of Emotions. 60 Mullaney, ‘Affective Technologies’, 81.



61 Ibid. 62 Mullaney, The Reformation of Emotions, 93. 63 Jyotsna Singh, ed., A Companion to the Global Renaissance: English Literature and Culture in the Era of Expansion (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). 64 See, for example, Immanuel Wallerstein, ‘The Rise and Future Demise of the World-Capitalist System: Concepts for Comparative Analysis’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 16 (1974): 387–415. 65 Ngai, Ugly Feelings, 3.

Chapter 5

I should like to thank warmly Bettina Boecker, Yves Peyré and Boika Sokolova for their help and suggestions, and the editors of this volume for their careful reading and comments.

  1 C. S. Lewis, ‘Hamlet, the Prince or the Poem?’, Annual Shakespeare Lecture of the British Academy 1942 (read 22 April 1942), Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. XXVIII (London: Humphrey Milford, 1942), 1–18, 4.   2 John Drakakis, ed., ‘Introduction’, The Merchant of Venice, 40.   3 Imtiaz H. Habib, Shakespeare’s Pluralistic Concepts of Character: A Study in Dramatic Anamorphism (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1993), 44.   4 Lewis, ‘Hamlet, the Prince or the Poem?’, 10.   5 John Middleton Murry, Shakespeare (London: Jonathan Cape, 1936), 189; Harley Granville Barker, Prefaces to Shakespeare, vol. 4 (London: B.T. Batsford [1930] 1963), 99–134, 104.   6 Murry, Shakespeare, 193.   7 Murry, Shakespeare, 194.   8 M. M. Mahood, ed., ‘Introduction’, The Merchant of Venice, The New Cambridge Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [1987] 1993), 12.   9 Ibid., 9.



10 On the Gesta Romanorum, see The Early English Versions of the Gesta Romanorum, ed. Sidney J. H. Herrtage (London: Early English Text Society, 1879), vii–xxviii; Nigel Harris, ‘Introduction’, in Christopher Stace, Gesta Romanorum: A New Translation (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016), xiii–xxvi. Gesta stories inspired authors such as Boccaccio, Gower, Chaucer and Lydgate. Printed versions included those of Wynkyn de Worde (1510–15) and Richard Robinson, with six editions appearing between 1577 and 1601. 11 See for instance, Stace, Gesta Romanorum, ‘109. Those the devil enriches he finally lures into hell through their avarice’, 271–3; ‘120. Of the subtle deceits of women’, 306–11; Herrtage, The Early English Versions, ‘[LXVI]. Ancelmus the Emperour (The story of the three caskets in The Merchant of Venice)’, 294–306 (tale XXXII in Wynkyn de Worde). On Shakespeare’s use of Gesta Romanorum, see Rebecca Krug, ‘Shakespeare’s Medieval Morality: The Merchant of Venice and Gesta Romanorum’, in Shakespeare and the Middle Ages, ed. Curtis Perry and John Watkin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 241–61. 12 Lawrence Danson, The Harmonies of The Merchant of Venice (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978), 93. 13 Atsuhiko Hirota, ‘Venetian Jasons, Parti-Coloured Lambs and a Tainted Wether: Ovine Tropes and the Golden Fleece in The Merchant of Venice’, in Interweaving Myths in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, ed. Janice Valls-Russell, Agnès Lafont and Charlotte Coffin (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017), 109–27. ‘The last suitor, Bassanio, enters like a fairy prince’, Peter J. Smith, ‘The Merchant of Venice, Directed by Peter Hall at the Phoenix Theatre, London, 23 May 1989’ (review), Cahiers Élisabéthains 36 (1989): 92–5, 94. 14 Elizabeth S. Sklar suggests that Shakespeare may have turned to Gower’s account of the Jason story and the casket motif in book 5 of Confessio Amantis, which Gower may have found in Gesta Romanorum, ‘Bassanio’s Golden Fleece’, Texas Studies of Language and Literature 18 (1976–7): 500–9. See also John W. Velz, ‘Portia and the Ovidian Grotesque’, in The Merchant of Venice: Critical Essays, ed. John W. Mahon and Ellen Macleod Mahon (London: Routledge, 2002), 179–86; Katherine Heavey,



The Early Modern Medea: Medea in English Literature, 1558–1688 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), esp. 136–8. 15 Danson, The Harmonies, 86. 16 ‘A Chaine of Pearle’, written in 1603 by ‘Lady Diana Primrose’, refers to the Duke of Alençon as, ‘That brave French Monsieur who did hope to carry / The Golden Fleece, and faire Eliza marry’. John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, 3 vols (London: John Nichols and Sons, 1823; repr. New York: Kraus reprint, n.d.), vol. 3, 643. 17 Danson, The Harmonies, 172. Bassanio finds Portia’s portrait, her ‘counterfeit’, in the leaden casket (3.2.115). 18 On the Petrarchan imagery of the beloved woman’s hair as an imprisoning net and labyrinth, see Yves Peyré, ‘Iris’s “rich scarf” and “Ariachne’s broken woof”: Shakespeare’s Mythology in the Twentieth Century’, in Shakespeare and the Twentieth Century, ed. Jonathan Bate, Jill L. Levenson and Dieter Mehl (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1998), 280–93, 284. 19 Jonathan Bate reads ‘rage’, rather than ‘page’, as a ‘felicitous misprint’ of the original quarto: How the Classics Made Shakespeare (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), 226. 20 F. S. Boas, ‘Aspects of Classical Legend and History in Shakespeare’, Annual Shakespeare Lecture of the British Academy 1943 (read 28 April 1943), Proceedings of the British Academy, volume XXIX (London: Humphrey Milford, 1943), 1–28, 10. 21 Richard Rowland, Killing Hercules: Deianira and the Politics of Domestic Violence, From Sophocles to the War on Terror (London: Routledge, 2016), esp. chapter 4. Charlotte Coffin, ‘Hercules’ (2009), in Yves Peyré, ed., A Dictionary of Shakespeare’s Classical Mythology, myth/111/hercules. 22 Rui Carvalho Homem discusses this scene and its ‘weight of materiality’ in ‘Of Mountebanks, Lovers and Thieves: Rhetoric and Desire Under Two Venetian Balconies’, Arrêt sur Scène/ Scene Focus 6 (2017): 75–84, more especially 77–80, http:// arret_scene_focus_6_2017.htm.



23 Robert McMahon, ‘“Some there be that shadows kiss”: A Note on The Merchant of Venice, II.ix.65’, Shakespeare Quarterly 37 (1986): 371–3, 373. 24 All references to Chaucer are to The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, third edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, [1987], 2008). 25 Bate, How the Classics Made Shakespeare, 134. 26 ‘Ovid’s version in the Heroides of the departure of Aeneas from Dido, which dominates Virgil’s Aeneid IV, presents Aeneas as a betrayer and Dido as a heroine’, Colin Burrow, Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 98. 27 On this segment of the Medea story, see Katherine Heavey, ‘Fifty Ways to Kill Your Brother: Medea and the Politics of Fratricide in Early Modern English Literature’, in Valls-Russell, Lafont and Coffin, eds, Interweaving Myths, 128–48. 28 In some productions, Jessica and Lorenzo lie on the ground, gazing upwards: see Janice Valls-Russell, ‘The Merchant of Venice, directed by Darko Tresnjak for Theatre For A New Audience, The Swan, 29 March 2007’ (review), Cahiers Élisabéthains Special Issue 71.1 supp. (2007): 85–7, 87. Sometimes they lie on a carpet, recalling the flying carpets already present in medieval tales: ‘Of the subtle deceits of women’ in Gesta romanorum, describes the powers of three gifts, a ring, a necklace and a cloth: ‘the cloth had a special virtue that whoever sat on it and thought of somewhere he would like to go was at once there’. Stace, Gesta Romanorum, ‘120. Of the subtle deceits of women’, 306–11, 306. 29 Murry, Shakespeare, 191. 30 This and the following references are to Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Arthur Golding, ed. Madeleine Forey (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2002). 31 References are to James Ker and Jessica Winston, eds, Elizabethan Seneca: Three Tragedies (London: MHRA, 2012). 32 Boika Sokolova, William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice (Penrith: Humanities-Ebooks, 2009), 93–5, 94. 33 Robert Greene, Perimedes The Blacke-Smith, a golden methode, how to use the minde in pleasant and profitable exercise … (London: John Wolfe for Edward White, 1588), sig. C1r.



34 On this image, see Drakakis, ed., ‘Introduction’, 90. 35 Kim F. Hall discusses this from a different perspective in ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Colonization and Miscegenation in “The Merchant of Venice”’, Renaissance Drama New Series 23 (1992): 87–111. 36 Drakakis, ed., ‘Introduction’, 90. 37 Edmund Spenser, ‘The generall argument of the whole booke’, The Shepheardes Calendar, in The Yale Edition of the Shorter Poems of Edmund Spenser, ed. William A. Oram, Einar Bjorvand, Ronald Bond et al. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 24, lines 93–4. 38 Plutarch, Moralia, trans. Frank Cole Babbitt, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: University of Harvard Press, 1936), vol. 4, 36–7. 39 John Marston, Parasitaster or The Fawn, ed. David A. Blostein (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978), 177. 40 See note 14. 41 Drakakis, ‘Jessica’, in The Merchant of Venice: Critical Essays, ed. John W. Mahon and Ellen Macleod Mahon (London: Routledge, 2002), 145–64, 155. 42 Drakakis, ‘Jessica’, 156. 43 Jessica is left outside the gates sobbing in Neil Sissons’s production (1997): Drakakis, ‘Jessica’, 145. In Jonathan Munby’s production (2016), ‘just as the doors were closing, she turned to face the audience. She was trapped – like Shylock’: Verna Foster, ‘Shakespeare’s Globe – The Merchant of Venice’, 18 August 2016, https://citydeskshakespeare400chicago.wordpress. com/2016/08/18/shakespeares-globe-the-merchant-of-venice–2/. 44 Heather James, ‘Shakespeare’s Learned Heroines in Ovid’s Schoolroom’, in Shakespeare and the Classics, ed. Charles Martindale and A. B. Taylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 66–85, 68. 45 Drakakis, ed., ‘Introduction’, 81. 46 Howard Jacobson, Shylock Is My Name (London: Vintage, 2016), 56. 47 John Gross, Shylock: A Legend and its Legacy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 250. The book is the American



version of Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend (London: Chatto and Windus, 1992). 48 Jacobson, Shylock, 18; Peter J. Smith, ‘The Merchant of Venice, Directed by Gregory Doran for the RSC, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 29 January 1998’ (review), Cahiers Élisabéthains 54 (1998): 119–20, 119. 49 Coen J. Heijes, ‘“I am not Shakespeare’s Shylock”: The Merchant of Venice on the Dutch Stage’, Shakespeare Bulletin 34.4 (2016): 645–79, 661, 660. 50 Heijes, 646. Wilhelm Hortmann, ‘Wo, bitte, geht’s nach Belmont? Über ein Dilemma von Inszenierungen des Kaufmann von Venedig nach dem Holocaust’, Shakespeare Jahrbuch 139 (2003): 217–25, 217. 51 David W. Hartwig, ‘The Utah Shakespeare Festival 2018 Season’ (review), Cahiers Élisabéthains 98 (2019): 87–92, 89. 52 Drakakis, ‘Jessica’, 163. 53 Velz, ‘Portia and the Ovidian Grotesque’, 184. 54 Jean-Claude Grumberg, La Plus précieuse des marchandises: un conte (Paris: Seuil, 2018). 55 Hortmann, ‘Wo, bitte’: ‘Der Holocaust ist … ein unauslöschliches Substrat, das nicht mehr ausdrücklich aktiviert werden muß. Wenn überhaupt, dann war diese Inszenierung keine Post-, sondern eine Trans-HolocaustDarstellung, die vorfürhte, wie eine eingefleischte Feindschaft seit undenklichen Zeiten wütet und bis in alle Ewigkeit weitergehen wird – wenn die junge Generation ihr nicht ein Ende steht. Daß dies nur eine schwache Hoffnung und vielleicht auch nur eine märchenhafte Lösung war, zeigte sich deutlich in Jürgen Roses Bühnenbild.’ (The Holocaust is imprinted in the conscience of the spectator and the performer, an inextinguishable substratum that no longer needs to be expressly activated. If anything, this staging was not a postbut a trans-Holocaust production, which demonstrated how an ingrained enmity from the distant past has raged for time immemorial and will endure for all of eternity, unless the younger generation bring it to an end. That this was only a faint hope, and perhaps only a fairy-tale solution, was apparent in Jürgen Roses’s stage design.). For a discussion of this



production and the notion of ‘trans-Holocaust productions’, see Zeno Ackermann and Sabine Schülting, Precarious Figurations: Shylock on the German Stage, 1920–1910 (Berlin: Brill, 2019), 175–9. 56 Boika Sokolova and Kirilka Stavreva, ‘The Merchant in Venice’ (review), Cahiers Élisabéthains 91 (2016): 96–101, 100. 57 Sokolova and Stavreva, ‘The Merchant in Venice’, 99.

Chapter 6   1 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (London: Penguin Books, 1993).   2 Lorna Hutson, The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).   3 Niklas Luhmann, ‘Trust’, in Trust and Power: Two Works by Niklas Luhmann, trans. H. Davies, et al. (Chichester: Wiley & Sons, 1979).   4 Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: Macmillan, 1995); Piotr Sztompka, Trust: A Sociological Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).   5 (online).   6 In Act 1, Scene 1, the phrase ‘believe me’ passes like bad credit from Salanio to Antonio to Gratiano. In Act 2, Scene 2, it is Gratiano who seeks credit with the words ‘trust me’ and in Act 3, Scene 5, ‘truly’ is uttered four times by the false servant Lancelet Giobbe in his short private dialogue with Jessica. It is Portia who says ‘In truth’ (1.2.54).   7 Plato, Gorgias, trans. W. R. M. Lamb, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929), 459c.   8 Isocrates, Antidosis, trans. George Norlin, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954), 279.   9 Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric, trans. J. H. Freese, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), 1356a.



10 Thomas Wilson, A Discourse Upon Usury (London: Richard Tottel, 1572), 102. 11 Ibid., 112. 12 Ibid., 130. 13 Marcus Tullius Cicero, Laelius de Amicitia, trans. William Armistead Falconer, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 17.62. 14 On the Golden Fleece and mythological allusions, see Janice Valls-Russell’s chapter in this volume. 15 It was ‘probably first performed in the winter of 1596–7’, David Scott Kastan, ed., King Henry IV: Part 1, The Arden Shakespeare, Third Series (London: Thomson, 2002), 2. 16 The grain of truth here is the specific reference to the Goodwin Sands, which has for many years been a notorious shipwreck site on the Thames estuary. Shakespeare also refers to it in King John (5.5.12–13), a play almost exactly contemporary with Merchant. 17 David Scott Kastan’s Arden edition of 1H4 contains an introductory section expressly devoted to ‘counterfeiting and kings, credit and credibility: economic language in the play’ (62–8). 18 Gary Watt, ‘“To read him by his form”: Shakespeare on the Matter of Proof’, in Jean-Pierre Schandeler and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, eds, Les Usages de la preuve d’Henri Estienne à Jeremy Bentham (Laval: Les Presses de l’Université Laval; Paris: Hermann, 2014). A version of the essay is available online at DOI: 10.5040/ 19 [2016] EWHC 3666 (QB). The citation indicates a case heard in the Queen’s Bench Division (QBD) of The High Court of Justice in the jurisdiction of England and Wales (EWHC). 20 Ibid., para. [8]. 21 N. G. Jones, ‘Wills, Trusts and Trusting from the Statute of Uses to Lord Nottingham’, Journal of Legal History 31 (2010): 273–98; Gary Watt, Equity Stirring: The Story of Justice Beyond Law (Oxford: Hart, 2009), 120–4. 22 On the technicalities, see Mark Edwin Andrews, Law Versus Equity in The Merchant of Venice (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 1965), 74.



23 Burgess v. Wheate (1759) 1W Bl 123, 162; 96 ER 67, 84. 24 See, generally, Roger Cotterrell, ‘Trusting in Law: Legal and Moral Concepts of Trust’ (1993) CLP 75. 25 ‘Joinder’ is a legal term meaning the union in one lawsuit of multiple parties who have the same rights or against whom rights are claimed as co-plaintiffs or co-defendants. 26 Further strong examples can be found at the end of Pericles (5.1.110–13) and Sonnet 138. 27 1H4 is the better candidate because of the controversy arising from the name of Oldcastle that was first associated with the character of John Falstaff. See the introductory notes to James C. Bulman’s Arden edition, Third Series (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 133–42. 28 Thomas Wilson, The Arte of Rhetorique [London: Richard Grafton, 1553] (1560), ed. G. H. Mair (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909), 4. 29 Ibid., 161. 30 Berthold Brecht, Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, ed. John Willett [1964] (London: Methuen Drama, 2001), 271. 31 Ben Jonson, Discoveries (London: 1641), 59. 32 Richard Schechner, Performance Theory [1977] (London: Routledge, 2003), 315. 33 Constantin Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares, trans. Elizabeth R. Hapgood [1937] (London: Methuen, 1980), 129. 34 Justitia suum cuique distribuit (Cicero, De Legibus [c. 43 BC], I, 15, following Aristotle). 35 Stanislavski, Actor, 129.

Chapter 7   1 Elio Ugenti, ‘Filming Shylock’, in Vittorio Pavoncello, ed., Shylock e il suo mercante (Ariccia: Aracne editrice, 2016), 127–54, 130.



  2 One additional film, None So Blind (aka Shylock of Wall Street, dir. Burton King, 1923), reworks tropes from Shakespeare’s play into a narrative that accords with concerns typical of Yiddish film.   3 See Buchanan’s audio commentary on Lo Savio’s Merchant of Venice on the Silent Shakespeare DVD.   4 Robert H. Ball, Shakespeare in Silent Film: A Strange Eventful History (London: Allen & Unwin, 1968), 206.   5 Quoted in Ball, Shakespeare in Silent Film, 207.   6 Vikram Singh Thakur, ‘Parsi Shakespeare’, in Craig Dionne and Parmita Kapadia, eds, Bollywood Shakespeares (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 21–43, 22.   7 See also Savkari Pash (The Indian Shylock, 1925, directed by Baburao Painter), based upon Hari Narayan Apte’s novel Savkari Haak. Shylock (1940, directed by Kinema Ramu and Serukalathur Sama), a Tamil film, attempted to be more faithful to the Shakespeare text and Venetian milieu than previous Indian adaptations. No prints survive.   8 To my knowledge, the only copies are in French and Italian national film archives and so accessible only to the most determined.   9 Notable exceptions are John Sichel’s 1973 production (set in Edwardian England), Peter Zadek and George Moorse’s 1990 production (set in a stylized modern corporate world), and Trevor Nunn’s 2001 production (set in 1930s Berlin). 10 Passages appear in Welles’s F for Fake (1973) and Oja Kodar and Vassili Silovic’s documentary Orson Welles: One Man Band (1995). Stefan Drössler of the Munich Filmmuseum has restored and reassembled the surviving footage using Welles’s and composer Angelo Lavagnino’s notes; some of the lost soundtrack has been supplied by Welles’s vocal performance for his 1937 Mercury Records production of the play. 11 Valerie Wayne, review of Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti, The Contemporary Pacific 16.2 (2004): 425–9. 12 Gretchen Minton, ‘A Polynesian Merchant of Venice Film: The Maori Merchant of Venice’, Upstart Crow 24 (2004): 45–55, 52. 13 My thanks for Caroline Sax for providing a copy of her film.



Chapter 8   1 John Drakakis, ed., The Merchant of Venice, Arden 3rd series (London, etc.: The Arden Shakespeare, 2010), 54. Bibliographical information can be found in the list of materials at the end of this chapter, unless stated otherwise.   2 Hamlet, ed. Harold Jenkins (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2002), 2.2.392–6.   3 M. M. Mahood, ed., The Merchant of Venice, Cambridge 3rd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 9.   4 A translation can be found in Marcus.   5 A version can be found in Marcus. See also Helen Ostovich’s Three Ladies of London website http://threeladiesoflondon.   6 Lieke Stelling, Religious Conversion in Early Modern English Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 142–54.   7 Quotations from The Merchant of Venice are taken from Drakakis. William Shakespeare, Othello, ed. E. A. J. Honigmann (London: Arden, 2006).   8 Michael Dobson, Shakespeare and Amateur Performance: A Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 206.   9 Marjorie Garber, Shakespeare After All (New York: Anchor Books, 2005), 311. 10 Steven Marx, Shakespeare and the Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 104. 11 Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, in David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen, eds, Doctor Faustus and Other Plays (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 247–322, 1.2.282–3. 12 Kenneth Gross, Shylock is Shakespeare (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2006), x. 13 See, for instance, Daniel Vitkus, Turning Turk: English Theater and the Multicultural Mediterranean, 1570–1630 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).



14 Subha Mukherji, Law and Representation in Early Modern Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 1. 15 This idea is based on Benjamin Jude Wright’s exercise as offered in The Pocket Instructor Literature: 101 Exercises for the College Classroom, ed. Diana Fuss and William A. Gleason (Oxford and Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 173–6.

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INDEX Abend-David, Dror 220 Abraham, F. Murray 213 Acker, Kathy 192 Ackermann, Zeno 10, 94, 103 Adelman, Janet 8, 90, 91, 94, 205, 208, 220 Adler, Luther 65, 67 Ahmed, Sarah 107, 113, 117 Alexander, Bill 73, 74 Al-Farabi 101 All’s Well That Ends Well (Shakespeare) 4 Althusser, Louis 41 Appel, Libby 82 Arendt, Hannah 89 Aristotle 11, 91, 97, 115, 147, 148, 149 Arliss, George 61 As You Like It (Shakespeare) 136, 166 Ashcroft, Peggy 64 Auchincloss, Louis 67 Auden, W. H. 6, 30, 31, 38, 48, 49, 112 Auerbach, Erich 103 Ayrton, Randle 63 Bailey, Amanda 97, 213 Bakhtin, Mikhail 36 Bamber, David 76 Barbarash, Ernie 14 Barber, C. L. 5, 31, 34, 35, 36 Barton, John 7, 69, 70, 71, 72

Bassi, Shaul 8, 9, 65 Bauman, Zygmunt 86 Baur, Harry 176 Bechtler, Hildegard 76 Beck, Ulrich 99 Beerbohm Tree, Herbert 61 Belasco, David 61 Belsey, Catherine 214 Benson, Frank 61, 62, 63 Berger Jr, Harry 4, 99, 100 Bernard, J. F. 214 Betterton, Thomas 59 Bible 30, 37, 38, 51, 52, 53, 89, 90, 96, 101, 127, 152, 204, 205, 217 Billon, Pierre 12, 181, 182, 183, 195 Birchwood, Matthew 215 Blackton, Stuart 174, 195 Bland, Marjorie 70 Boas, F. S. 130 Bodin, Jean 101 Boecherer, Michael 214 Booth, Edwin 26 Botelho, Keith 102 Bovilsky, Lara 208, 214 Bowmer, Angus 65, 66 Bracegirdle, Anne 59 Bradbrook, M. C. 31, 33, 34 Bradley, A. C. 5, 17, 18, 27, 33 Braithwaite, Lilian 62 Brantley, Ben 77 Brecht, Bertolt 168


Bridges-Adams, William 62 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 7, 68, 184 Broadway 84 Brown, John Russell 5, 18, 22, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 36 Brown, Kirk Wendell 83 Bruce, Susan 214 Bruno, Giordano 101 Buchanan, Judith 175 Bullough, Geoffrey 30, 37 Bulman, James 20, 22, 24, 26 Burbage, Richard 26, 57 Burton, Robert 111, 112 Caird, John 72, 73 Calder, David 75 Calhoun, Eleanor 61 Campbell Maywood, Robert 60 Capell, Edward 24 Carnovsky, Morris 65 Carradine, John 65 Cartwright, Kent 215 Casson, Lewis 180 Cerasano, S. P. 220 Chambers, E. K. 19, 29 Charlton, H. B. 31 Chaucer, Geoffrey 134, 135, 136 Chekhov, Anton 29 Chernaik, Warren 221 Cicero 150, 168 Claiborne Park, Clara 48 Clive, Kitty 59 Clothier, Richard 81 Coffin, Charlotte 131 Cohen, Paula Marantz 215 Cohen, Walter 6, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 122


Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 24, 27, 33, 34 Collins, Lynn 84, 224 Collinson, Patrick 19 Comedy of Errors, The (Shakespeare) 32 Coodin, Sara 96, 221 Cooke, George Frederick 26, 59 Coonrod, Karin 80, 144 Coryat, Thomas 29, 213 Coward, Rosalind 41 Critchley, Simon 97 Crotty, Derbhle 77 Cusack, Sinéad 70, 72 Cymbeline (Shakespeare) 132, 164 Daniel, Drew 102 Danson, Lawrence 43, 127, 129 Dante, 38, 217 Davenant, William 58 Debar, Andrée 181 DeBruno, Tony 82 DeForest, Lee 179 Dekker, Thomas 19, 20 Delacorte Theatre (New York) 84 Deleuze, Gilles 107 Demme, Jonathan 5 Derrida, Jacques 33, 53, 54, 98, 219 Derwent, Clarence 65 Desfontaines, Henri 175, 176, 195 Deutsch, Ernst 80 Dil Farosh (Merchant of Hearts) see Udvadia, M. Dimmock, Matthew 215 Disraeli, Benjamin 67



Dobson, Michael 203 Doggett, Thomas 6, 59 Donat, Robert 62 Doran, Gregory 76, 142 Dorn, Dieter 144 Downie, Penny 75 Downing, Crystal 215 Drakakis, John 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 17, 87, 106, 125, 140, 143, 151, 198 Drake, Fabia 63 drame judiciaire à Venise, Un 173 Dreyfus, Alfred 143 Drössler, Stefan 184 Drury Lane Theatre 5, 22, 59, 116 Dyer, Anson 176 Eagleton, Terry 41, 44, 45 Edelman, Charles 221 Edwards, Michael Donald 82, 83 Eisaman Maus, Katharine 119 Elizabeth I (Queen) 56, 92, 129 Ellis, John 41 Ephraim, Michelle 208, 214, 215, 222 Evans, Bertrand 31 Felner, Peter Paul 12, 174, 177, 178, 179, 183, 195 Fiedler, Leslie 41 Fiennes, Joseph 224 Fiennes, Ralph 84 Filles de Shylock, Les 173 Fincher, David 14 Findlay, Deborah 74 Fiorentino, Ser Giovanni 13, 177, 201, 206

Foakes, R. A. 17 Forrest, Edwin 60 Foucault, Michel 41 Freinkel, Lisa 87, 90 Freud, Sigmund 37, 38, 41, 95, 216 Furness, H. H. 21 Garber, Marjorie 13, 203 Gearhart, Stephannie 216 Gernutus (anonymous) 201, 202 Giannini, Olga 175 Gielgud, John 63, 64 Gilbert, Miriam 22, 221 Gildon, Charles 22 Gillies, John 19, 20, 29, 45, 46 Gillman, Abigail 95 Globe Theatre 57, 58, 65, 77, 78, 104, 225 Goebbels, Joseph 65 Gold, Jack 68, 69, 184, 196 Goldberg, Jonathan 48, 49 Golding, Arthur 137 Goldstein, David B. 216 Goodman, Henry 76, 77 Goodrin Nordli, Robin 82 Goold, Rupert 76 Graetz, Heinrich 95 Graham, Hepburn 72 Granville, George 4, 20, 22, 23, 58, 59 Granville-Barker, Harley 27, 29, 126 Grazia, Margreta de 23 Greenblatt, Stephen 8, 46, 86, 94 Greene, Robert 138 Greg, W. W. 29 Gross, John 30, 142, 221


Gross, Kenneth 8, 88, 89, 91, 206 Grumberg, Jean-Claude 143, 144 Guattari, Félix 107 Guthrie, Tyrone 65 Halio, Jay 6, 7, 95, 222 Hall, Kim F. 208, 213 Hall, Richard 81 Hall, Sir Peter 67 Hallam, Lewis 84 Halpern, Richard 98, 99 Hamlet (Shakespeare) 3, 17, 55, 57, 65, 84 Hamlet (Svend Gade), 177, 199, 207 Hammill, Graham 88 Hampden, Walter 61 Hansen, Claire 216 Hanson, Alexander 76 Hardwicke, Cedric 62 Hartwig, David 143 Hawkes, Terence 41, 219 Hazanavicius, Michel 14 Hazlitt, William 25, 26 Heijes, Coen J. 142, 217 Heine, Heinrich 116 Helpmann, Robert 65 Henderson, Lucius J. 195 Henry IV Part 1 (Shakespeare) 154, 157 Henry IV Part 2 (Shakespeare) 154, 155, 156, 158, 166 Henry V (Shakespeare) 3, 169 Heraclitus 111, 112 Heschel, Susannah 88 Heywood, Jasper 137 Heywood, Thomas 109 Hillman, David 95


Hirota, Atsuhiko 128 Hirschfeld, Heather 217 Hitler, Adolf 64, 81 Hoffman, Dustin 67 Holland, Peter 74 Holocaust, The 3, 5, 10, 11, 12, 24, 30, 66, 80, 86, 96, 104, 126, 144, 145, 146, 172, 184 Hopkins, Anthony 5 Horst, Wilter 142 Hortmann, Wilhelm 10, 143, 144 Hutson, Lorna 47 Hyginus, Caius Julius 134 Irons, Jeremy 13, 83, 224 Irving, Henry 24, 26, 29, 60, 61, 62, 63, 66, 92, 172 Ishwarlal (actor), 180 Isocrates 148 Jacobs, Martin 72 Jacobson, Howard 142 James I (King) 6, 57 James, Geraldine 67 James, Heather 141 Jansen, Iris 142 Jew of Malta, The see Marlowe, Christopher Jew of Mesri, The see Felner, Peter Paul Jew of Venice, The (1592) see Dekker, Thomas Jew of Venice, The (1701) see Granville, George Jew’s Christmas, The 176 Jonson, Ben 168 Julius Caesar (Shakespeare) 147, 150



Kafka, Franz 89 Kant, Immanuel 108 Kaplan, Lindsay M. 8, 91, 208, 217 Kataria, Vandana 196 Kaufman von Venedig, Der see Felner, Peter Paul Kean, Charles 60 Kean, Edmund 6, 24, 25, 26, 56, 59, 60, 116 Kemble, John Philip 59 Kempe, William 6, 57 Kentrup, Norbert 78 Kerrigan, John 217 Kettle, Arnold 39 Killigrew, Thomas 58 King John (Shakespeare) 147 King Lear (Shakespeare) 49, 58, 151, 153, 199, 216 Knight, G. Wilson 31 Knights, L. C. 5, 27, 31, 34 Komisarjevsky, Theodore 7, 62, 63, 69 Korda, Natasha 96 Kortner, Fritz 80 Krauss, Werner 64, 177, 179 Krieger, Eliot 40, 41 Lacan, Jacques 41 LaDuca, Rob 14 Laemmle, Carl 176 Laertius, Diogenes 111 Lal, Ananda 82 Lanier, Douglas M. 9, 11, 12, 13, 83, 171 Lansdowne, Lord see Granville, George Larguèche, Évelyne 8 Leggatt, Alexander 17, 18, 36, 41, 54

Lelyveld, Toby 57 Lewalski, Barbara 37, 38, 213, 217 Lewis, C. S. 125, 126, 143 Leys, Ruth 107 Limon, Jerzy 81 Lion King II, The 14 Little, Arthur L. 101 Lo Savio, Gerolamo 175, 195 Lodge, David 18 Lopez, Dr Rodrigo 56, 92 Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare) 32 Lubitsch, Ernst 172 Lupton, Julia 88, 100 Luscombe, Christopher 75 Luther, Martin 87 Lyceum Theatre 60 Macherey, Pierre 41 Machiavelli, Niccolo 33, 51, 101, 151, 202 Macklin, Charles 5, 6, 22, 24, 26, 59 Macleod Mahon, Ellen 222 Macready, William 26, 29, 60 Madan, J. J. 181, 195 Madhok, D. N. 180, 195 Magni, Marcello 78 Mahon, John W. 222 Mahood, M. M. 127, 199, 212, 213, 221 Maimonides 101 Malone, Edmond 23, 24 Mansfield, Richard 61 Mantell, Robert B. 61 Maquerlot, Jean-Pierre 4 Marcus, Leah 213 Marlowe, Christopher 19, 27, 46, 51, 56, 115, 201, 202, 204, 215


Marston, John 141 Marx, Karl 20, 39, 40, 41, 46, 53 Massumi, Brian 107 McCarthy, Tom 97 McDiarmid, Ian 72, 73 McDougall, Julie 218 McLuskie, Kathleen 49 McMahon, Robert 133, 139 Measure for Measure (Shakespeare) 4, 147 Méliès, Georges 173, 195 mercante di Venezia, Il see Lo Savio, Gerolamo Merchant of Little Venice, The see Sax, Caroline mésaventure de Shylock, Une see Méliès, Georges Metamorphoses, The see Ovid Metzger, Mary Janell 218 Midsummer Night’s Dream, A (Shakespeare) 18, 135, 136, 142, 180 Miller, Jonathan 7, 67, 68, 69, 72, 83, 113, 186, 224 miroir de Venise, Un see Méliès, Georges Mitchell, Warren 68, 69, 70, 185 Moignard, Pierre 15 Montaigne, Michel de 89 Mowat, Barbara 213 Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare) 3, 20, 151 Mullaney, Stephen 108, 110, 120, 122, 123, 218 Munby, Jonathan 78, 79, 104, 203, 225 Murry, John Middleton 126, 127, 137 Müthel, Lothar 64


Nahshon, Edna 8, 95, 96, 222 National Theatre (NT) 67, 76, 77, 113, 186 Nettles, John 70 Newman, Karen 48, 218 Newman, Widgey 179, 180, 195 Ngai, Sianne 110, 118, 124 Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm 97, 98 Nirenberg, David 93, 94 Nishii, Brian 192, 196 Noblemen (Kataria) 194, 196 Novelli, Ermete 175, 185 Novy, Marianne 209, 218 Nunn, Trevor 76, 77, 219 O’Connor, Kelly 76 O’Rourke, James 219 Old Vic Theatre 63, 179, 180 Olivier, Richard 77 Olivier, Sir Laurence 7, 12, 67, 68, 75, 83, 184, 186, 224 Orgel, Stephen 92 Ortega y Gasset, José 25 Othello (Shakespeare) 3, 31, 99, 128, 140, 151, 158, 202 Other Place, The 7, 69, 70 Ovid 10, 106, 128, 130, 135, 137, 141, 142, 144, 222 Oz, Avraham 82 Pacino, Al 13, 83, 84, 224 Paul (apostle) 53, 87, 89, 90, 93, 97, 98, 100 Pecorone, Il see Fiorentino, Ser Giovanni Peerzada, Aidaa 143 Pellone, Elena 80



Petrarch 129 Pfundstein, Melinda 143 Phelps, Samuel 60 Pianist, The see Polanski, Roman Pickup, Rachel 79, 225 Plato 148, 167 Playfair, Nigel 62 Plowright, Joan 224 Plutarch 141 Poel, William 29, 60, 61 Pogson, Kathryn 78 Polanski, Roman 172 Pollard, A. W. 29 Pope, Alexander 22, 23 Pound of Flesh see Barbarash, Ernie Presley, Elvis 76 Proust, Marcel 89 Pryce, Jonathan 78, 79, 225 Quiller-Couch, Arthur 126 Radford, Michael 13, 83, 103, 190, 191, 192, 194, 196, 224 Reinhard Lupton, Julia 100 Reinhardt, Max 64, 79, 142 Rialto see Sibaja, José André Rio Ne Répond Plus 14 Roberts, James 56 Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare) 24, 32, 128, 133 Rooney, Darrell 14 Rose Theatre 57 Rose, Clifford 75 Rosenstein, Barbara 9 Rosenwen, Barbara 107 Rowe, Nicholas 4, 21, 22 Rowland, Richard 131

Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) 7, 61, 69, 73, 74, 76, 77 Royal Shakespeare Theatre 70 Rylance, Mark 78 Sacerdoti, Gilberto 101 Salingar, Leo 4, 19 Salten, Felix 173, 174 Salzman, Noel 192, 196 Sandoe, James 65 Saussure, Ferdinand de 39, 44, 45 Sax, Caroline 193, 196 Schalkwyk, David 98, 219 Schechner, Richard 168 Schildkraut, Rudolf 79 Schindler’s List see Spielberg, Steven Schlösser, Rainer 65 Schmitt, Carl 88 Schülting, Sabine 9, 10, 94, 103, 105, 219 Schwartz, Maurice 7, 66 Selwyn, Don 13, 103, 188, 189, 190, 196, 225 Seneca 130, 137 Sengupta-Halder, Sohini 82 Seven see Fincher, David Shakespeare Memorial Theatre 61, 62, 63 Shapiro, James 6, 8, 21, 51, 91, 93, 205, 222 Shapiro, Michael 8, 95, 222 Shell, Marc 41, 42, 45 Sher, Anthony 73 Shoah, The see Holocaust, The Shylock see Vigny, Alfred de Shylock and His Daughter see Schwartz, Maurice


Shylock Is My name see Jacobson, Howard Shylock of Cracow, The see Salten, Felix Sibaja, José André 193, 196 Sichel, John 12, 113, 184, 186, 196, 203, 224 Sierra, Horacio 222 Silence of the Lambs, The see Demme, Jonathan Simon, Michel 12, 181, 182 Sinfield, Alan 49, 50, 219 Sinsheimer, Hermann 95 Smalley, Phillips 176, 195 Smith, Emma 8, 92, 93, 94, 220 Socrates 148 Soja, Edward 20 Sokolova, Boika 138 Sophocles 130 Southall, Raymond 40 Spielberg, Steven 172 Spinoza, Baruch 89, 101, 107 St James Theatre 177 Stanislavski, Constantin 18, 29, 169 Stelling, Lieke 13, 14, 197 Stewart, Patrick 7, 61, 69, 70, 71, 76 Stoll, E. E. 26, 27, 32 Stradley, David 83 Styan, J. L. 29 Suchet, David 7, 70, 71, 72 Sullivan, Daniel 84 Taming of the Shrew, The (Shakespeare) 32, 113, 181 Tate, Nahum 58 Tawney, R. H. 33, 34 Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti see Selwyn, Don


Thacker, David 74 Theobald, Lewis 23 To Be or Not to Be see Lubitsch, Ernst Toich, Francesca Sarah 144 Tomelty, Frances 72 Trial, The (Welles) 188 Troas see Seneca Troilus and Cressida 40, 134, 136 Trump, Donald 145 Tsankov, Hrisan 81 Turner, Victor 36 Two Gentlemen of Verona, The (Shakespeare) 132 Udvadia, M. 180, 195 Ugenti, Elio 173 Uranowitz, Michelle 144 Valk, Frederick 65 Valls-Russell, Janice 10, 125 Velz, John W. 141, 143 Vigny, Alfred de 80 Wagar, Paul 193, 196 Wanamaker, Sam 77 Warfield, David 61 Warren, Roger 69 Watson, Ralph 77 Watt, Gary 11, 145 Weber, Lois 176, 195 Welles, Orson 12, 184, 187, 188, 195 Werstine, Paul 213 West, Walter 195 Wetherell, Margaret 107 Who Chooseth Me see Moignard, Pierre Wilhelm, Carl 173



Willems, Michèle 4 Willems, Raymond 4 Williams, Emlyn 65 Wilson, John Dover 126 Wilson, Thomas 149, 150, 167 Windmill Theatre (Australia) 81 Winter’s Tale, The (Shakespeare) 3 Wolfit, Donald 66

Wotton, Sir Henry 29 Yachnin, Paul 102 Yaffe, Martin D. 6, 51, 52, 53 Zadek, Peter 80 Zalim Saudagar (The Cruel Merchant) see Madan, J. J.