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Merchant Of Venice

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The Trial Scene From Shakespeare’s Play

The Merchant Of Venice

According to many people Shakespeare was the greatest playwright who ever lived. And I am inclined to agree.

Even today his plays are still performed all over the world and have been translated into many languages.

It is said that Shakespeare’s genius is universal and ever fresh.

He wrote a great many plays but only thirty-seven were ever published.

During Elizabethan times the audience would have come to watch one of Shakespeare’s plays and received it differently to a modern day audience.

The Elizabethan audience would have been noisy and more ‘involved’ with the performance, whereas now a days the audience would go the theatre and treat it as an almost spiritual thing, we would dress up and be silent throughout the performance showing a general respect for the actors and those involved with the play, whether we liked it or not. Where as if the performance was disliked by an Elizabethan audience they would shout and often through things at the actors.

Shakespeare’s plays were attended by all standards of people varying from the rich to the ‘lower middle class.

Much like today’s theatre the more you pay the better the seat. For Shakespeare’s outdoor plays the lower middle class paid one penny for admittance to the yard (like a playground outside a school building.) They had no seats and had to stand for the entire performance. These people were called the ‘groundlings’. The upper middle class paid two penny’s and sat at eye level in the lower galleries. And the rich paid three pennies to sit in the upper balconies, which had a far better view.

If I were directing a Shakespearian play for a modern day audience I would do it differently to how I would do it if it were for an Elizabethan audience.

Beginning with having the women played by women and not boy’s below thirteen.

I admire the way Shakespeare portrayed each of his characters and managed to keep any of the anti-Semitic feelings he may have felt out of the performance.

I think he created 3D characters and I would think that when the play was performed in front of what was probably a anti-Semitic audience in Elizabethan times the sympathies would have lay solely on Antonio, where as now a days I think they also lie with Shylock – Pitying him for the way the Christians treat him, the loss of his daughter and his money.

Act 4 Scene 1 p115

The Duke’s palace in Venice

In this scene there are seven characters.

To begin with it is Duke, Antonio and Salario, Shylock enters later.

In the beginning and throughout the scene all of the characters except Shylock feel sorry for Antonio and think Shylock is being unfair.

Duke describes Shylock as ‘an inhuman wretch, incapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy.’

I think that Shylock is much more complex than that but I will come to that later.

When Duke questions Shylock as to why he is holding such a bond, Shylock gives no answer and is very evasive in his speech. I feel that this is not because he doesn’t want to explain but because emotionally he can’t, he feels anger for Antonio not just because Antonio is Antonio but because he feels resentment for a great number of things including the Christian faith to which Antonio is a part.

Shylock is extremely angry and claims that no amount of money will deter him from wanting his bond.

He claims he will feel no regret as he states to Duke ‘what judgement shall I dread doing no wrong’. Then he starts ‘scapegoating’ ‘you have among you many a purchased slave.’ Line 90 page 119.

Shylocks Mental State

I have researched Shylock’s state of mind and come up with a couple of conclusions.

I have found two main reasons for both Shylocks’ defensive attitude and general hatred towards Antonio and Christians.

The psychodynamic ideas I have found focus on the emotional and motivational reasons for prejudice. In my research scapegoating seems the most fitting for Shylock’s attitude.


The process of blaming others for your own problems is called scapegoating. ‘If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.’ Act III page 77 line 54.

This can happen after the frustrations of living build up in certain people and lead to hostile feelings which need to be released – his daughter leaving – could cause anger, but I think the fact that she ran off with a Christian taking Shylock’s money and jewels upset him most – I think Shylock is extremely interested in material possessions because he feels safer but as I may have mentioned earlier Shylock’s aggression cannot be directed at the cause because there are too many and too complicated.

Aggression can then be displaced on to those less powerful Antonio – in debt to Shylock – so the defence mechanism of displacement is used as an outlet for frustration – making Antonio pay his bond.

On the whole the person acting as Shylock should appear slightly unstable.

Continuing with the scene

Nerissa enters (disguised as a lawyer’s clerk).

Shylock sharpens his knife on his shoe (at this point he should be at the front centre stage



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