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Kevin Wolf

These are a few quick thoughts?

As it happens I only just saw Pacino's Looking for Richard, and though his style gets a little too flip in trying to "make Shakespeare accessible" it's still an excellent distillation of the play. I've seen very little on stage, but there's definitely some fine films out there...


Sorry I came off as harsh, Lance. I didn't mean to come off as smacking you down so hard--I noodled off in my own direction. I did like this post, though.



Harsh schmarsh. You weren't harsh. And I didn't mean to come off as offended or defensive. I think your post is a perfectly reasonable rebuttal. The text of the play is anti-semitic.

But you can't put the text onstage. Back in the 19th Century, one of the great English actors of the day---I forget who it was---caused a controversy when he decided to play Shylock without the orange wig and big fake nose he'd always been portrayed with before. Probably actors playing Shylock used to lisp too. To get an idea of what stage Shylocks looked lie before that watch Alec Guiness as Fagin in Oliver Twist. It's horrifying!

But this means that even in the days when people were more reflexively and happily anti-semitic, audiences needed visual cues to hate Shylock. Once it became the standard to play him without those cues, when he was played as a man and not as a stage clown, Merchant was on its way to no longer being an anti-semitic.

By the way, have you ever read Marlowe's Jew of Malta? Now there is a great example of Elizabethan anti-semisitsm.


I've seen Looking for Richard. Made wish I could see Pacino play Richard III on stage. And Merchant made me want to see Looking all over again.


I saw As You Like It the other day. Orlando was perfectly played by Dominic West, Rosalind by Helen McCrory, who I think was only off stage long enough to change costumes, and her cuz by Sienna Miller, who is just too cute for words. You are right, Shakes needs to be seen to be truly appreciated.

That Orlando is hot stuff, though. Agree with Rosalind there.

Have you read 1599? I am most anxious to read it.



I'm jealous. I've only seen one live production of As You Like It and it was a bit of a disappointment.

Their Rosalind was only OK and it didn't help that their Orlando was a head shorter than her.

How was Jacques in the production you saw? At Stratford, Ontario, where I saw it, their Jacques was good. It was the same actor we later saw as Antonio in Merchant. He seemed to be specializing in melancholy.


What a great discussion, here and on Pandagon. I always figured Shakespeare probably had the same ugly attitudes as others of his day--but he was a great writer, and a great writer knows one-dimensional stock figures aren't interesting. He was too good at his craft to just throw a conventional 16th-century Jewish villain onstage and take it from there. He had to give Shylock some humanity, or drama withers and dies ... hence "Hath not a Jew eyes?"

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