The cliche is true: Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be performed, not read from a book. We will be watching performances of all three of the plays that we’re reading this semester; I hope that seeing a performance will help you not only understand the plays better but also come to appreciate how much a play’s meaning is determined by performance, not by the text alone. I’ve chosen a 2004 film production of The Merchant of Venice starring Jeremy Irons as Antonio and Al Pacino as Shylock. Your assignment this week is to watch it using the link below and to post to the discussion board at the bottom of this page.
This link will prompt you to log in. Once you do, you should be taken directly to The Merchant of Venice:
Note that you can turn closed captions off or on. I find them distracting, but you may like them if they help you understand the language.
If you have any trouble with the above link, here is the homepage for Alexander Street, the digital library I’m using to get us access to Shakespeare performances. You can visit this page (also requires Le Moyne login) and search for The Merchant of Venice:
Post a comment about the 2004 production of The Merchant of Venice below. Consider answering any of the following study questions:
1. How does this production deal with The Merchant of Venice‘s anti-Semitic content? In other words, how do they present this play to a modern audience that isn’t going to bring the same sensibility as Shakespeare’s audience?
2. Were there any moments where the production changed your understanding of the play? Explain how.
3. Since Shakespeare’s plays tend to run longer than a feature-length film, film adaptations of plays usually abridge the text by shortening speeches, cutting scenes, or even changing plotlines. Do you notice this film shortening, cutting, or changing anything? If so, what difference do the alterations make?
4. Do you have comments on any other significant decision made by this production–casting, direction, editing, artistic direction, use of props, etc.? Is there something that you would have done differently?