Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical
hermionesviolin

Merchant of Venice [ASP, 2008-11-07]

ASP is currently doing Merchant of Venice at Midway Studios down by Fort Point Channel.

Cate and I got dinner at Channel Cafe.  I got the Deluxe Veggie Burger, which was definitely tasty, though I'm not sure worth $10.95.  I could have gone for dessert (despite the fact that it surely would have been overpriced) but we didn't have time.  We went to Wendy's in Central Square after the show 'cause Jason hadn't had dinner, so I got a chocolate chip cookie dough Frosty -- and some of Jason's french fries 'cause the woman neglected to take down that part of my order.  According to Jason, Wendy's french fries are made with love and rainbows with no animal fat, so I didn't even have to feel guilty.  (McDonald's french fries use animal fat, but they are so much tastier than Burger King's animal-fat-free french fries.  Wendy's fries are def. tasty.)

***

Merchant of Venice is one of the few arguably the last major Shakespeare play I still had yet to read or see a production of.  [I would link to that "which Shakespeare plays have you seen/read?" meme, but I'm not sure I ever posted it -- *finds unposted draft from back in March*  *posts*]

I knew it was the anti-Semitic play, of course, and I knew it had the "If you prick us, do we not bleed" speech, and that was about it.  I was not prepared for the fact that I was SO UNCOMFORTABLE.  I think I just assumed that Shylock was a slimy villain and that because it was like, "Hey, villain, and also he's Jewish, 'cause clearly the only Jew in my entire oeuvre should be a villain," it was nowadays considered an anti-Semitic play. 

I was not prepared for him to be so vigorously all about money.  It's unclear whether he has any real affection for his daughter, and while he says that Antonio spat on him and suchlike, because it's telling rather than showing it doesn't stick in the viewer's mind as much (and in that same segment he also talks about how Antonio's lending money interest-free drives down interest rates).  And yes he opts for the pound of flesh revenge over any amount of money, but that doesn't really help -- and yes it's mitigated by the aforementioned complaints against Antonio combined with the idea that he learned vindictiveness from the Christians, but I'm not certain that the sympathy-inducing parts really override the other parts... especially in Shakespeare's day.

AND THEY FORCE HIM TO CONVERT!!!  (On pain of death, essentially, too.)  That was the part that squicked me out the most.  I was like, "But he should take the death sentence!"  Jason pointed out that the Kol Nidre contains, "Forgive us for the lies we tell to survive."

I was expecting the "if you prick us, do we not bleed?" speech to be in the courtroom, but it's just on the street with a couple of schmoes.

Having Portia be the one who comes up with all the legal wrangling (and who gets the "The quality of mercy is not strained" speech -- I like the "God is merciful, so to be more like God, be merciful" idea) is really subversive.

Antonio (and Graziano) giving away their wives' rings is argh.  OMFG I love Portia and Nerissa joking about bedding the men their husbands gave their rings to.  (I also enjoyed the jason/fleeces dirty pun earlier in the play.)

Portia's "that complexion" re: the Moroccan prince is dodgy -- but then Lorenzo is a Moor... or was that just ASP's double-casting and I'm just hallucinating that there was a line about Lorenzo being a Moor?

[Sidebar: Having been to Venice, I was like, "Hey, the Rialto, I know that place."  And having read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, I knew that Venice had a Jewish quarter.  Wikipedia notes: "Some modern productions take further pains to show how Shylock's thirst for vengeance has some justification. For instance, in the 2004 film adaptation directed by Michael Radford and starring Al Pacino as Shylock, the film begins with text and a montage of how the Jewish community is cruelly abused by the bigoted Christian population of the city. One of the last shots of the film also brings attention to the fact that, as a convert, Shylock would have been cast out of the Jewish community in Venice, no longer allowed to live in the ghetto, and would still not be accepted by the Christians, as they would feel that Shylock was yet the Jew he once was."]

***

I am skipping econ class to go to:
Merchant Conversations: Being Shylock with moderator Stephen Greenblatt
November 18th, 7pm, Midway Studios
Panelists:
    Melia Bensussen, Director, ASP's Merchant of Venice
    Michelle Ephraim, Associate Professor of English at Worcester Poly Tech
    Jeremiah Kissel, Actor playing Shylock
    Bernie Steinberg, President & Director, Harvard Hillel
Join us for a riveting evening of scenes and discussion exploring the provocative and resonant themes of The Merchant of Venice today.
    Price: $12 - $15
    Buy Tickets Here
Tags: food: boston area, food: veg, people: jason, plays: asp, plays: attended, plays: boston area, plays: shakespeare, shakespeare: the merchant of venice
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