The Merchant of Venice: A Comedy About Humanity (make-up event)

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The Merchant of Venice is an adaptation from William Shakespeare’s famous comedy of the same name. It tells a story about an antisemitic merchant in Venice named Antonio who could repay the loan he took from a Jewish moneylender named Shylock. The production was about 130 minutes in total and was captured live in Stratford-upon-Avon. I watched this online via Digital Theatre Plus.

Antonio, Shylock, and Bassanio (A screenshot from Act I)

Written by: Yushan Guo

I have to admit that this is no doubt the most “challenging” activity of this semester. After all, it was adapted from a 16th-century play written by William Shakespeare. All aspects of a language (words, syntax, etc) may have dramatic changes over centuries, and that makes it nearly impossible to understand everything even with English subtitles.

Fortunately, it was not hard to figure out what was going on generally. Plus the fact that several factors aided story-telling and made the production more accessible and understandable. One thing I like about this production was its richness of interaction between the actors and the audiences. The stage was designed in a very special way that greatly shortened the distance between the actors and the audiences. Besides, in contrast to many other theatrical productions I watched, 3 sides rather than 1 side of the stage are exposed to the audiences.

The first appearance of the character Launcelot was quite an impressive and unexpected one that he appeared directly from the spectator seats. Tim Samuels, the actor of this character, certainly did a perfect job in matching with the role definition of this character, as he was associated with a large part of the “comedic elements” in this production.

Another actor that impressed me was Makram J. Khoury, the actor for Shylock. His performance was perfect in delivering the emotional expressions and showing the complexities of this character. My favorite part was his “Hath not a Jew eyes” speech about humanity. This part truly kept my attention focused.

'Hath not a Jew eyes?”

The costume design was also a factor that made this production more accessible to contemporary audiences. Although the time background of the play is in the 16th century, their costumes, as you can see from the image below, were not very typical of costumes in the 16th century. And instead, there were such modern elements in the costume design, such as their sneakers, the shirts, the overcoats and so on. This was another powerful measure that shortened the distance between the audiences and the characters and made it easier for the audiences to immerse themselves in the play.

The costume design of this production incorporated lots of modern elements.
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