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The Merchant Of Venice

Sep 25, 2017  ·  2 min read

One of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, the Merchant of Venice, will soon be gracing the Canberra Theatre Centre. And we think that’s a guilt-free green light to tell blabbermouth mates, “You speak an infinite deal of nothing”. Quality 16th-century burn, right there.

The 1596 comedy follows a Venetian noble after defaulting on a loan to a Jewish merchant. Though thought of as a comedy, the play is famous for its dramatic scenes, the Portia and Shylock characters, and their respective “the quality of mercy” and “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speeches.

Do things get a bit anti-Semitic at times? Yes. Does a moneylender demand a pound of the lendee’s flesh if the money is not repaid on time? Oh, yes.

“All that glisters is not gold— often have you heard that told”

The CTC put it so well when they broke it down as follows – Money makes the world go around. Portia has it. Bassanio wants it. Shylock lends it. Antonio owes the value of it. Love also plays a part. Portia offers it. Bassanio wants it. And Antonio may lose a pound of flesh for it.

The Merchant of Venice tackles Christian Europe’s often turbulent relationship with its Jewish population. A troubling topic that has been proven time and time long after the Bard put quill to parchment.

“The devil can cite scripture for his purpose”

This version of the great play is directed by Anne-Louise Sarks (Belvoir’s Jasper Jones and Medea). Described as having a very mischievous sense of humour and a great rigour with text, her adaptation brings the right amount of funny, as well as compassion and empathy. It also features three-time Helpmann Award winner, Mitchell Butel (Janet King and Rake) and Jessica Tovey (Wolf Creek and Wonderland).

“Love is blind, and lovers cannot see, the pretty follies, that themselves commit”

The Merchant of Venice will run at the Canberra Theatre Centre from October 13-21.

words by niall roeder


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