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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0019  Tuesday, 4 January 2005

[1]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Jan 2005 05:44:49 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 16.0010 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

[2]     From:   Melvyn R. Leventhal <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 Jan 2005 14:12:27 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0015 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

[3]     From:   Melvyn R. Leventhal <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 Jan 2005 19:07:51 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0015 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

[4]     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 Jan 2005 14:33:39 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0015 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Jan 2005 05:44:49 -0500
Subject: Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
Comment:        SHK 16.0010 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

Frank Kermode has a piece on the Pacino film in the current London
Review of Books, dated 6th January.

T. Hawkes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melvyn R. Leventhal <
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Date:           Monday, 3 Jan 2005 14:12:27 EST
Subject: 16.0015 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0015 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

Mr. Weiss (and to a lesser extent Mr. Manger) both recognize that if
there is a failing in this rendition it is in the screenplay and the
direction, not in Mr. Pacino.

The problem continues to be that 20th and now 21st century directors
fail to accept Shylock, as a comic villain.  Jay Halio's wonderful
introduction to the Oxford Shakespeare states that Shylock was played
with a "bubble nose," and that the trial scene contains a joke -- the
"biter bit" -- which Elizabethans loved almost as much as jokes about
cuckolds.  As written, the entire play including the trial scene is comedy.

Morality and Miracle plays which anticipated Shakespeare's work, often
contained the devil incarnate.  Can anyone guess how many times Shylock
is referred to as the "devil" in M of V?  Indeed he is even referred to
as the devil incarnate.  And the devil in Morality and Miracle plays was
always grotesque in appearance including having ... yes, a "bubble nose."

And, by the way, in at least one Morality/Miracle play that contained a
Jew as a character (distinct from the devil), he accepts conversion to
Christianity as the proper reward for his misconduct. In other words,
when Shylock says "I am content," he provides a stock answer to his
humiliation.

I have no problem with contemporary productions except that they are not
true to the original.  As "self-proclaimed" experts we should have no
objection to adaptation provided there is full disclosure.

I would love to direct a production of Merchant.  I would attempt to
stage the version that was most likely seen by Elizabethans.  But I
can't expect anyone to sponsor my production.  It is politically
incorrect and does not reflect contemporary sensibilities.  It would be
profoundly anti-Semitic as was the original.  And bardolators would be
aghast at the suggestion that our beloved poet was, as far as
anti-Semitism is concerned, but a product of his time.

Melvyn R. Leventhal

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melvyn R. Leventhal <
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Date:           Monday, 3 Jan 2005 19:07:51 EST
Subject: 16.0015 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0015 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

In my email on this subject of earlier today I refer to Professor Jay L.
Halio's Introduction to the Oxford Shakespeare edition of M of V.
Unfortunately, when I wrote that email I was sitting in my law office
rather than at home in my library, and I did not have the volume in
front of me.  I misquoted him:

--  Professor Halio wrote that the "biter bit" was "a joke that
Elizabethans loved almost as much as jokes about cuckoldry."  (p. 11 of
his introduction)

-- I incorrectly refer to Shylock as originally adorned with a "bubble
nose," (probably the result of a heavy cold I am nursing at this
moment).  What Professor Halio wrote at p. 10 was:

"Shakespeare's initial conception of [Shylock] was essentially as a
comic villain, most likely adorned with a red wig, and beard and a
bottle nose ...."

I apologize to Professor Halio for misquoting him especially since I
greatly admired this Introduction from the date of its publication in 1993.

Melvyn R. Leventhal

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 Jan 2005 14:33:39 -0000
Subject: 16.0015 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0015 Al Pacino in "The Merchant of Venice"

Larry Weiss is correct in his complaint that the text of The Merchant in
butchered in Radford's film.  Surely, though, we might expect this in a
modern film.  What is interesting is the way in which Radford produces
the ending. The Lorenzo-Jessica dialogue of 5.1 is radically cut and
displaced into Act 4 where a truncated version (minus the love
exemplars) is placed before the Trial scene.  Then at the end Antonio is
left onstage alone with a letter (that Portia has no given him), and the
scene cuts first to Jessica  pensively wandering along the water's edge
watching fishermen shooting fish with cupid-like bows, and then the
scene cuts to Shylock isolated in the square in front of his house. This
is a tendentious ending, but worth considering in relation to a number
of actual theatre performances, and, of course, in relation to the
Olivier film of the early 70s where the play ends with the intoning of a
Jewish Kadish (and with Jessica as an 'outsider'), and with the 2000
Henry Goodman-Trevor Nunn version where Jessica actually sings the
Kaddish herself.  It seems that in all these instances TS Eliot's 'The
Journey of The Magi' has got in the way of the play.

Happy New Year

John Drakakis

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