"The Merchant of Venice," like many of Shakespeare’s middle “comedies,” is often considered a problem play: the language is dense, the final courtroom scene fraught with near-tragedy, and for even the most casual observer, the language is steeped with anti-Semitic vitriol.
Howard Jacobson, British author who won the 2010 Man Booker Prize for his Jewish-themed novel The Finkler Question, has been commissioned to rewrite The Merchant of Venice in prose, according to The Jewish Chronicle.
Each time I hear “There’s a place for us” – the stirring plea for tolerance and acceptance sung by the ethnically mismatched lovers of “West Side Story” — I am reminded that it pinpoints a Jewish sensibility that influenced the show’s composer and lyricist. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s musical about prejudice transformed Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into an American classic.
I saw BAM's staging of "King Lear" this weekend and thought this blog would be about the titular role. Lear is the play's cynosure, but Shakespeare spreads his talents liberally--no character goes without his quotient of richly rendered language or keen moral insight. Even the immortal lines of the play's chief villain, Edmund, have just as much truth as anything mouthed by Lear:
Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses?
Those biting Shakespearean lines, spoken by one of The Bard of Avon’s most unforgettable characters, took on a new level of importance for one yeshiva high school senior last week, as he brought them to life in front of a crowd of literature buffs at the English-Speaking Union’s National Shakespeare Competition.
Despite the general approbation for this summer's Shakespeare in the Park staging of "The Merchant of Venice," the production was dealt a serious blow this week. Stephen Greenblatt, America's leading Shakespeare scholar, wrote a scathing review of Al Pacino's performance in the New York Review of Books.