Segments in this Video

Male Leads and Setup (05:25)


When people think about “Merchant of Venice,” they often think about Shylock and whether he is a victim or villain. However, the story revolves around Antonio, the titular merchant, and his friend, Bassanio, who must borrow money to woo a rich heiress. F. Murray Abraham speculates that the two characters may be in love with each other.

Portia's Dilemma, Rivalry with Shylock (04:29)

Portia lives in a resplendent estate, called Belmont; but she is miserable because her father’s will limits who she can marry. Meanwhile, Antonio and Bassanio turn Jewish money lender Shylock for a loan, which would be a straightforward transaction if Shylock did not resent Antonio for past abuses.

What Are Shylock's Motives? (03:39)

Actor Henry Goodman discusses the rivalry between Antonio and Shylock, a character he has played for the Royal National Theatre. Shylock can’t believe the man who has gone out of his way to humiliate him suddenly needs him. He comes up with unusual terms: he will loan the money not for interest, but for a pound of flesh. Professors James Shapiro and Stephen Greenblatt discuss other unusual aspects of the story.

Portia and Her Suitors (03:46)

Professors Diana Henderson and Marjorie Garber discusses Portia and the nature of marriage in the 16th century. Members of London’s Globe Theatre prepare to revisit the play.

Jessica Betrays Shylock (06:38)

Abraham and others discuss the relationship between Shylock and his daughter, Jessica. Shylock doesn’t know anything about raising a teenage daughter, but he wants her to be a good, Jewish girl. However, she elopes with her Christian boyfriend, Lorenzo, taking much of his wealth with her.

Anti-Semitism in Elizabethan England (04:29)

We may sympathize with Shylock today; but how would Shylock’s predicament have been interpreted by Elizabethan era audiences? Justin Champion of the Royal Holloway colleges discusses anti-Semitism during Shakespeare’s time. Abraham recalls playwright Christopher Marlowe’s character Barabas, from “The Jew of Malta,” who embodies Jewish stereotypes of the time and may have been source material for Shakespeare.

Shylock the Outsider (07:05)

Antonio’s ships are lost at sea, meaning he will not be able to pay back his loan. Shylock confronts two of Antonio’s friends and gives an emotional speech which Jonathan Pryce cites as his reason for wanting to play the character. Pryce and director Karin Coonrood discuss the play’s relevance in today’s climate of intolerance.

Shylock's Trial (11:00)

Shylock takes Antonio to court to make him honor his bond. Portia, disguised as a lawyer, finds a loophole that keeps him from collecting his pound of flesh, and the money lender is forced to convert. Abraham, Greenblatt and Shapiro discuss the moral implications of “the most emotionally fraught (scene) of the whole play.”

Portia Tests Bassanio (07:32)

Portia has saved Antonio, but it has come at a price: she now knows how much he loves Bassanio. Still in disguise, she asks for the ring she gave her husband as payment. Her test backfires horribly, threatening her relationship. Shylock is not present but haunts the final act.

Credits: The Merchant of Venice with F. Murray Abraham (01:02)

Credits: The Merchant of Venice with F. Murray Abraham

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The Merchant of Venice with F. Murray Abraham

Part of the Series : Shakespeare Uncovered (Series 3)
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



F. Murray Abraham, who has played two great Jewish "villain" Shylock, from William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," explains European anti-Semitism in Shakespeare's time.

Length: 55 minutes

Item#: BVL166899

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

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