By Kathryn Keyser ’20
I had the opportunity to attend the October 13 screening, in Loew Auditorium, of the Globe Theatre’s high-definition video production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (which will also be screened Thursday, November 10) . The play ranged from lighthearted and playfu (such as its depiections of Portia’s dealings with her suitors and Gratiano’s crude antics) to ominous and somber (such as Shylock’s forced conversion from Judaism to Christianity, his daughter Jessica’s running away from home and theft from him, and the frequent, eerie music of chanting and drums).
The first scene was incredibly telling of the rest of the play. It began with a burst of energy, as the cast sang and danced joyfully around the stage in traditional Venetian masks and costumes. However, one soon realizes that these are all Christian characters, and, by the end of the scene, the two Jewish men who walk by them are attacked.
Having neither read nor seen The Merchant of Venice prior to the screening, I was a little concerned that I would not be able to follow the plot; however, I was very quickly and easily immersed in the drama. I was also very surprised by much of the anti-Semitic content, as Shylock, a Jewish man, is scorned and discriminated against by almost all of the Christian main characters and portrayed and as a merciless and cold man throughout most of the play. However, it was difficult to determine whether the play itself is anti-Semitic or if Shakespeare wrote it as a judgement on anti-Semitism in England at the time, since the ending (Shylock’s forced conversion to Christianity) was incredibly mournful and menacing, and Jessica’s guilt at contributing to his fate was apparent.
Overall, The Merchant of Venice was one of my favorite Shakespeare performances that I have seen. The contrasting liveliness and bleakness of different scenes, the raw emotions of the actors, and the beauty of the set, costumes and props were all very compelling and drew me in from the start.
Globe On Screen’s The Merchant of Venice will be screened a second time in the Loew Auditorium on Thursday, November 12.
I’m a ’20 from Cranbury, New Jersey. I enjoy running, singing, reading and eating. I am interested in studying Biology and English.