Notes on Artemis production of The Merchant of Venice 11/18/93

Director's introduction

Use of games motif on set: backgammon and chess

Set in Venice of 1930's--rise of fascism in Italy; brown shirts; Jews and Gentiles

Issue of whether the play is anti-semitic or about anti-semitism

Patricia thinks its about prejudice in general

Shylock is one who makes wrong choices and whose options close down

Venice's ghetto the largest Jewish ghetto in Europe

Its members blissfully unaware of the rise of fascism

Music: swing for Belmont; Blues for Venice

Antonio: Ascot, white suit, in pain with cane; arthritic older man; depressed. Distinguished, pure, self-sacrificial; ;physical pain as expression of psych. pain

Gratiano: clownish and brownshirt and hat; match in mouth; wiseguy; racially mixed features

Bassanio: elegant, handsome, greased hair mustache, tuxedo, very polished and casual and softspoken-- Clark Gable, Charles Boyer

Portia and Nerissa--doing toenails on floor, drinking champagne; pleasure loving and spoiled, getting drunk talking about men; mockery of various male affectations, to be tested and tried again later. Moral struggle not to cheat on contest

Shylock: tall, serious, dignified and sophisticated --very dressed--in dark clothing

Hatred between Antonio and Shylock; S. gets his goat; great exit when Antonio and Bass. leave thinking that the bond is to their advantage; his love for Jessica

Morocco is silly and definitely racist; Prince of Aragon is funny and so is costume; caricatures

"Helen": composite character of Launcelot and Salerio; clown behavior; lots of business; a fantastic; always eating and making gross jokes; playing tricks on blind mohter; blindness jokes; real clown show. Passing apple around as coming business.

Shylock's agony when daughter and money leaves; Gratiano mocks him and Helen, but not so much to render him clownlike as in script; Shylock's exposure, disrobed; his pain turned to hatred and envy as Tubal tells him of daughter's unthrift and Antonio's "break." Consolation in revenge; loss of daughter and monetary loss combined; on floor

Portia in gold dress; works well; very sexy to Bassanio; his cool and sincerity; she gives herself to him wholly as he wins contest; his having nothing against her wealth, but still keeping his cool; sudden announcement of Antonio's disaster; change of tone; his letter and double voicing; Bassanio's pain

Shylock's composure and dress at beginning of IV,i. Antonio in chains, further strung out; Portia's male imitation, previously anticipated and rehearsed with capers; costume of Balthasar; Shylock's mixture of sadness and hate; justification for his action; relishing of power; he does it out of humor, as they mistreat their slaves; standing for judgment. Setting up scale. Portia's thoughtfulness, authority and determination. Her pain at having to punish Shylock and also at Bassanio's and Gratiano's comments that they'd sacrifice their wives for him. Gratiano's mocking Shylock's "A Daniel" and spitting on Shylock; fighting over scalpel; he's physically brutalized. Shylock's defeat, packing instruments and then backing down further, her judgment of him; forced conversion; his prostration and acceptance: "I am content"

Portia arguing for ring, Bassanio confused; Antonio suddenly awakens in insisting he bring her ring.

Ingenue Lorenzo and Jessica; lying on floor; drive in scene suddenly going to Welcome Home to mistress as they button up!--We're no telltales, because she catches them making out; another passsionate embrace interrupted when Bassanio introduces Antonio. Broadening comedy in this scene at discovery of ring; Nerissa's anger and beating up on Gratiano. Bassanio's confusion at threat of Portia sleeping with barrister. Antnio's happiness is temporary at end.