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The Merchant Of Venice Has Been Condemned As A Racist Play, What Are The Problems That A Modern Production Faces.

2106 words - 8 pages

The context in which William Shakespeare wrote the Merchant of Venice in 1597 was racist and prejudiced against different religions in the society that existed then.At that time England was a protestant country that had recently been under threat from catholic Spain and before that the Jews had been exiled from the country. Therefore Jews, coloured people and Catholics were generally hated and very rarely seen except in ports around the coast, nevertheless, Shakespeare makes fun of other races and religions in the play.It can be argued that the Merchant of Venice is a racist play by modern standards but this is because nowadays England is populated by many different religions and races so prejudice is not only frowned upon, but also is against the law because all human beings are seen as equal whereas in the 16th century there were no different races or religions unless they were practiced in secret, and also against the law.While in view of the condemnation of racism against the play, I will study three scenes in detail. Beginning with Act one Scene three.In this scene Bassanio, Antonio and shylock enter into the bond of which so much of the play is based. This scene I feel has a highly controversial content.It commences with Bassanio (the merchant Antonio's destitute friend) asking Shylock (the Jewish money-lender) for money to go see the woman he wants to marry (Portia). Bassanio requires 3000 ducats (Venetian money) for three months. After these three months on the due date Antonio's (the rich Venetian merchant) ships will have returned and so Antonio shall pay back the money, Bassanio needs to borrow money as Antonio's ship carry all of his money and they are at sea.Shylock has been pestered and assaulted by Antonio and he makes a heart-felt plea to be considered as a human and not an animal or a lower being just because of his religion.The problems a modern production faces when they set out upon this task is that the lay is so unorthodox and not politically correct and could be criticised for its use of language and the content of racism that has caused so much controversy over the years. This can lead to people not appreciating the full content of the play as much may have to be cut in order for the play to be performed to a modern audience without any of them taking offence. The channel four production, for example is that as it tries to be politically correct, it looses much of its anti-Antonio/ pro-Shylock content in act 1 scene three, such as Antonio: " The devil can cite scripture for his own purpose". The devil it refers to is an anti-Semitic name for a Jew, this has been edited from the channel four production because of the nature of prejudice in the line that implies that the Jewish scriptures are enabled to be adapted to the use of the Jew under question, this could be offensive as it implies that the scriptures (torah) support the money lending frowned upon by many even though it was the only way a Jew in the state of Venice...

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