During the sixteenth-century there was a very prominent existence of anti-semitism. The English audience had a very clear prejudice towards the Jewish people because of the deep-rooted concept of anti-semitism. This mindset carried from everyday life to plays and productions of the time. This ill will towards the Jewish people spawned from political and religious disputes that were unresolved. The portrayal of Shylock as a villainous Jew is a logical move for the sixteenth-century playwrights because of this common belief. When walking into a production of The Merchant of Venice during this ear, one must keep in mind the predisposition towards the Jewish people as well as the cultural beliefs at that time.
In looking at Shylock, the sixteenth-century audience would deduce all view except the greedy, selfish, manipulating, Jew. In accordance with the normative view, Jews were believed to be out of tune with the universe. This is re-enforce in act 2 scene 5 lines 27-30 when Shylock is comment...
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In comparing the two productions together, one must look at the evolution of the play from the sixteenth-century to modern-day. One aspect is the cultural views. As discussed before the sixteenth-century view of Jews greatly differ than that of modern-day. It is because of the influence of World War II that many perspectives have changed. Radford’s production resonates with the tone of sympathy were as Shakespeare’s echo with rightful justice. There is a grey area that Shakespeare leaves and Radford teeters between his modern interpretation and the classic take.
William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Dir. Michael Radford. Perfs. Al Pacino, Jeremy
Irons, Joseph Fiennes. DVD. Spice Factory, 2004.
Greenblatt, Stephen, et al. The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition. New York,
NY: W.W Norton & Company, 2208, 1997.
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