The Merchant of Venice: Film vs Script Essay

851 Words Oct 22nd, 2012 4 Pages
By tracing back the early roles of Shylock done in the Elizabethan stage, we are able to appreciate the complexity of Shakespear’s character, Shylock, and how he has the greatest impact than any other character.

In the early Elizabethan era Shylock was portrayed as an archetypical Jew of that time. He would be played by the performer wearing a red wig and large false nose. This look created the foundations of Shylock’s personality during the Elizabethan era; a comic villain not to be taken seriously or sympathetically, he was the figure of a pantomime.

Shylock was later played as a terrifying, cruel and malicious figure. This dominated the view on how Shylock was seen until in 1814, Edmund Kean performed the character of Shylock as
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This shows how Shylock is shrewd, by playfully suggesting the forfeiture of the bond which is actually a cunning plan to murder Antonio with the law on his side.
Michael Radford’s 2004 film adaption is different to how Shakespeare’s script portrayed Shylock, as a bloodthirsty villain. It shows the human qualities of Shylock allowing us to sympathise with him as a victim of prejudice and racism of the shameful times he lived in. Al Pacino recites “Yes to smell pork…news on the Rialto?” with a mellow tone showing little to no emotion. This could be because Shylock is used to the daily prejudice and harsh life of living in a Jew-hating nation; allowing us to evaluate his human qualities, making us sympathise with him as a victim.
Also, in the original script, Shylock’s line “Yes to smell pork” implies that it should be read with sarcasm, mocking Bassanio for asking him to dine with Christians. However, Al Pacino says this with no emotion and his voice is lost under the hubbub of the market place, meaning Bassanio probably can’t even hear him. This could be because Shylock has given up trying to be seen as a human and is now metaphorically invisible in the eyes of society.
Throughout the play Shylock is presented in different ways: a victim who lives in a prejudice and intolerant society, a villain who deserves scorn and rejection and a tragic figure who has admiral traits worthy of respect but destroys himself by giving in to his flaws and weaknesses. This
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