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The Merchant of Venice

Bell Shakespeare’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice takes the play’s action from 16th century Venice to a contemporary setting, and the themes of religious prejudice, forgiveness and greed couldn’t be more timely.

Bessanio, a Venetian noble, borrows money from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, in order to woo the brilliant and beautiful Portia.

Bessanio’s merchant friend Antonio is openly anti-Semitic, but agrees to be Bessanio’s guarantor. In the event that his bond is not paid, Shylock lays down the condition that he will get a ‘pound of flesh’ from Antonio.

Meanwhile, love matches are fought and won as Bessanio and Portia meet, and Shylock’s daughter Jessica runs off with Bessanio’s friend Lorenzo – and converts to Christianity, to boot.

Shylock is one of the most controversial and compelling of Shakespeare’s creations; a Jewish character living in a time of intense persecution, given the most memorable and stirring speeches, but otherwise cast as a cruel villain. His ‘just’ fate, delivered through the courts at the end, is nothing of the sort to modern viewers.

Did we mention it’s kind of a comedy?

The Bell Shakespeare Company has received excellent reviews for this production, with Mitchell Butel (Janet King and Rake) as the defiant Shylock, Jessica Tovey (Wolf Creek and Wonderland) as Portia and direction by Anne-Louise Sarks. 

See the event listing.

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