I had the great pleasure of seeing the Merchant of Venice with my good friend Niro last Friday, courtesy of my good friend Stacie.
The Merchant of Venice is actually one of the few Shakespeare plays I had not read or seen and I was looking forward to seeing it. The play is very different from the Shakespeare plays I have seen which are either comedies with dramatic elements where everyone ends up getting married at the end, or tragedies with comic elements where everyone dies at the end.
The Merchant of Venice sits somewhere in between given its more ambiguous ending. Portia does forgive Bassanio and everyone makes amends in the end, but I was left feeling there was trouble brewing in the relationships. While the play appears anti-Semitic at first, it really depicts all characters as flawed except for Portia and Nerissa. The Merchant of Venice is probably Shakespeare’s most feminist play. While at first Portia seems bound by the wishes of her deceased father, she rapidly shows her wherewithal, independence and judgment. She is also just and righteous where none of the men have an acceptable perspective. Given all this, I wonder how the play would have been received in Shakespeare’s time.
The acting was superb. The elocution of all the actors was perfect with the minor exception of Lily Rabe, who played Portia, who did not speak loud enough towards the end of the play. Al Pacino played the part of Shylock to perfection, which is no mean feat given that every time I see him I think: “booyah!”
Go see the play!