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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: September ::
Re: Globe Merchant
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0834  Friday, 11 September 1998.

[1]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Sep 1998 15:02:22 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0826  Re: Globe Merchant

[2]     From:   John W. Mahon <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Sep 1998 19:52:55 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0820  Re: Globe Merchant


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 10 Sep 1998 15:02:22 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0826  Re: Globe Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0826  Re: Globe Merchant

I remember being stunned when Ian McKellan (in his pre-Sir days) said
that he could never play Shylock, because of the attitudes Shakespeare
takes towards Jews in this play.  Stunned, I should add, and impressed.
Other actors regard this role as a -must-do' at some time in their
careers, and make a hash of it.  The play is a comedy, and in order for
it to work as comedy Shylock has to be the "appalling gutter-snipe" that
Gielgud created.  The senex, the old romantic obstacle, is old as the
theatre; the Jewish senex, however, was of Shakespeare's time, and if we
can't deal with the fact that the play was anti-semitic, at a time when
anti-semitism was as fashionable as, say, anti-islamism is today, then
we probably shouldn't deal with the play at all.

Not surprising that, when Shylock is given his comedic/anti-semitic
reading, he elicits laughs and jeers that horrify many modern audience
members.  Surprising that it is still produced this way, instead of
being shelved or completely re-written.

Andy White
Arlington, VA

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Mahon <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Sep 1998 19:52:55 +0000
Subject: 9.0820  Re: Globe Merchant
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0820  Re: Globe Merchant

Thursday evening

Dear fellow Shakespeareans,

I am just catching up with the thread of conversation about the Globe
production of MERCHANT this summer.  When I saw the play early in June,
I did not think the Shylock particularly repellent, but I DID find the
Portia particularly attractive and appropriately pivotal as a
character.  What struck both me and the friends who accompanied me that
evening was the somewhat ineffective and understated Bassanio in the
performance by Mark Rylance.

I had the wonderful opportunity to see MERCHANT in Stratford the day
after I attended the Bankside production, and the contrast between the
two treatments, viewed back-to-back was startling. I would be
particularly interested in reactions from others who might have seen
both productions.  One friend was so offended by the Stratford MERCHANT,
which included an interpolated scene not found in Shakespeare's text,
that he almost left at the interval.

The forthcoming Summer issue of THE SHAKESPEARE NEWSLETTER (look for it
in early October, we hope!) will feature my review of the two
productions as well as an account of my interview with Richard Olivier,
who directed the Globe MERCHANT as well as last season's HENRY V.  His
discussion of what he sought to do with the Globe production will be of
interest to everyone, especially to those who saw it and found it
unsatisfactory.  I thought it one of the best productions of THE
MERCHANT OF VENICE I have ever seen.

More to follow in the Summer issue of SNL,
John Mahon
Iona College
 

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