May 2, 2001
My Three Shylocks
Shylock, the Jew, is the most memorable and controversial character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. In the course of the four centuries that have elapsed since the first presentation of this work, the portrayal of Shylock has become a mirror of each succeeding Christian society's attitude towards the Jewish community in their midst. One of the most popular theories is that Shakespeare was pandering to the anti-Semitic views of the Elizabethan era when he penned this comedy. The possibilities of honing Shylock's persona are vast. I have chosen three precise options for the portrayal and development of this challenging role; Shylock the Villain, Shylock the Victim, and Shylock the Catalyst.
-Shylock the Villain-
The portrayal of Shylock the Villain requires the least amount of theatrical talent for an actor. All of the pitiful, anti-Semitic conceptions of a typical Jew would be employed.
A false nose accompanied by loud, Yiddish accented speech, and a slovenly appearance would be emphasized. There are two sub-divisions of Shylock the Villain. At this juncture, we branch off into two entirely different perceptions; the concept of a comic villain and the concept of a somber and serious villain.
The comic villain would certainly add a red fright wig to his costume. A knowledgeable audience would understand the obvious reference to Judas of Iscariot and the less sophisticated portion of the audience would simply revel in the comic appearance of red hair on a Jew since they are usually portrayed with very dark hair. The comic villain would deliver his lines in a boorish and overbearing manner. Shylock's devious nature is clearly shown as he woos them with street humor. "Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me,"...