The Merchant of Venice

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The Merchant of Venice: Speech Task.

Fellow dramatists, the recent discussion of whether The Merchant of Venice would be an appropriate choice for our final performance piece has provoked controversial and inconclusive debate. I hope we have got over the fact that NIDA has already decided that Romeo and Juliet is out because we just can’t agree to who should be Romeo and Juliet. We’ve also talked about how The Merchant of Venice provides a perspective of anti-Semitism which is clearly despised of in a multicultural 21st Century Australia. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is my opinion. I’d say that firstly, anti-Semitism is only a fraction of the entire play’s focus and secondly, that even so, the play’s context is definitive in Elizabethan England and to deny the play simply because it doesn’t apply to society now, would be to sabotage the main foci of The Merchant of Venice in which I believe are commerce, deceptive appearances and justice. It would be in contemporary interest to stage The Merchant of Venice for these reasons.
I will first consider why anti-Semitism should not be a barrier to staging it. Shylock is the universal Jew yet he is theatrically more complex. Shakespeare makes reference to the attitudes towards race and religion in Elizabethan England, only to show how hypocritical the Christians are. For example, Shylock is not treated with respect when Portia calls him, “The Jew” continuously throughout the courtroom scene. Lancelot Gobbo identifies Shylock as “the very devil incarnation” and fears that he will turn into a Jew if he continues to serve under him. Hypocritically, he plays tricks on his sand-blind father. Furthermore, Shylock notes how he has been mistreated by Antonio where, “he hath many a time and oft/ In the Rialto…have rated me/ About my monies and my usances…as well as calling me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, / And spit upon my Jewish
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