Re-imagining Shakespeare is not a new concept. Just recently, the Dartmouth College Department of Theater reimagined Romeo and Juliet as a more experimental production, setting it in a rehearsal studio and using video cameras to record the action, so that the audience watches the actors both on stage and on monitors and a large video screen. Peter Hackett, the director of the winter main stage, wanted to highlight the less-obvious more salient aspects that are not as often explored in a traditional Shakespearean manner. Challenging the conventional view, Hackett wanted the audience to ponder and be critical of what was being presented to them on stage. “It forces you as an audience not to sit back and have your expectations met. … I hope the effect is that it makes you listen to what is being said,” Hackett said.
In Mobile Carnival Theatre Company’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, director Brent Murrill, like Dartmouth theater director Peter Hackett, reimagined Shakespeare’s traditional setting in a more contemporary fixture.
Post Holocaust Interpretation
The Holocaust permanently changed the perspective from which ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is read. It ended the debate as to whether Shylock is a victim or a villain. Shylock is a victim, and to say otherwise would be wrong, both morally and analytically. Continue reading
June 7th 1594—ten years before the first performance of The Merchant of Venice. Dr. Rodrigo Lopez, who some suspect inspired the character of Shylock, awaits his execution. His formal charge is treason against the Queen—attempt to poison, supposedly. His second, more subjective charge is obvious to the angry crowd delighting in his death. Lopez probably didn’t attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth; he did, however, convert from Judaism to Christianity—neither of which the public believes. The crowd and court ignore his pleads of innocence on both religious and criminal charges. Continue reading
Image: “Jacob and Laban”, Jean Restout II (1692-1768), Before 1737
Shakespeare was no dope: his writing reflects his deep understanding of the cumulative nature of storytelling and the intense influences of early texts, including the bible, on modern writing. The Merchant of Venice synthesizes this relationship, borrowing from the bible in order to comment on the anti-Semitism that was prevalent in Elizabethan England. In particular, Shakespeare incorporates a story from Genesis directly into the play during an argument between Shylot and Antonio over the correct interest rate to charge. This story, involving an agreement reached between Jacob and his uncle Laban, not only serves as fodder for Shylot’s argument, but also additionally provides historical and biblical firepower to the story of Shylot’s downfall and eventual ‘salvation’. Continue reading