Two weeks ago, I finally had my first theatrical encounter with one of Shakespeare’s plays ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ I was thrilled like a kid going to Disneyland for the first time.
Antonio, the Merchant of Venice, lend money to his friend Bassanio to assist him in pursuing Portia of Belmont.
Because Antonio’s money is tied up in his business ventures, he borrows money from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender who is known for his high rate of interest.
Shylock lends the money to Antonio against a bond. Failure to repay the loan on the agreed date will entitle Shylock to a pound of Antonio’s flesh.
I honestly could not understand most of the actors’ lines — first, the accent and second, the script. Because this is my first encounter with Shakespeare’s work, I wasn’t so familiar with what I called “Shakespearean Language.” It took me a while to understand what the actors are talking about. It was like watching a foreign movie in a different language without subtitles.
Though I had trouble understanding the whole thing, what stood out during the play were two great stage actors and the courtroom scene.
First is Lancelet. Though he was not one of the main characters and had limited lines and stage scenes, I was in awe with his performance. He was just full of life on that stage. It was like I was part of the play — like a nosy neighbor or spectator and not an audience who’s watching scripted scenes.
Second is Shylock. He looked like Dumbledore from Harry Potter (except that he was wearing a red hat). Like Lancelet, I was also amazed by Shylock’s performance. I could feel his emotions through his words/ines. He portrayed his character well that until now I could not forget every scene that he was in.
Lastly, the courtroom scene. It gave me a different perspective of what Venice was like in during Shakespeare’s time. In this scene, Antonio and Shylock met in court to settle the loan (bond). In the court, the Duke of Venice used derogatory language towards Shylock. It showed me Venice’s view towards Jews. This scene also showed that during that time, women were not acknowledged in court and that a Jew who was made to convert to a Christian was a fate worse than death.
Overall, my most awaited Shakespearean experience was great! I could not find a proper word to describe how much I appreciate the raw talents of all stage actors in this play. Imagine how challenging and scary it is to act in front of a live audience — no cut and retakes. Maybe it wasn’t much of a challenge for them because they are professional actors, but I could not imagine myself on that stage. For sure I’ll be shaking like crazy, or worse passed out from nervousness before I even get on to the stage.
How about you? Can you imagine yourself on stage?