Shakespeare the Merchant of Venice vs the Film Adaptation

Topics: The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, Portia Pages: 10 (3401 words) Published: October 1, 2012
The issue of Racism addressed written The Merchant of Venice2 Understanding the characters in The Merchant of Venice4
The character of Antonio; The Merchant4
The charge of homosexuality within The Merchant of Venice6 Characteristics of Shylock the Jew6
Shakespeare’s Women: Portia8
Gender and gender relationships portrayed in the film 10
The role of ‘woman’ in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice; Portia 10
Female stereotyping in Merchant of Venice 11 Hierarchy in Shakespeare’s world mirror of Elizabethan Society 12 Conclusion 12
Work Cited 14

To what extent does a viewing of The Merchant of Venice the movie enhance your understanding of the portrayal of character and the issues of racism and gender/gender relationships in Elizabethan society?

Michael Radford's adaptation of The Merchant of Venice can be described as a dramatic device; in regards to its portrayal of characters, the issue of racism and gender/gender relationships, It can be said to be a portal into Elizabethan Society at the time of Shakespeare. This adaptation gives a very accurate visual to the written play, and through it we the reader, now the audience should be able to better understanding the points previously listed.

This essay will show through the critical analysis of certain important scenes from the movie; Shylock’s famous monologue, and the most important the court scene, how Shakespeare tackles and challenges these issues, and if the movie does help to better understand the characters and the issues of racism, gender and gender relationships in 16th century Elizabethan Society.

The issue of Racism addressed within The Merchant of Venice. From the first scene the issue of racism is tackled head on; as it shows the Jew; Shylock being spat upon by his counterpart Antonio the Merchant. This cursory and common place way in which the issue of racism is portrayed pervades the film and justifies Shylocks strong reasons for demanding his pound of flesh. The anti-Jewish bigotry propels the film, as the introduction titles give a background to the marginal status and civic oppression of the Jewish population.

In the film adaptation we see the Prince of Morocco come to make a bid for Portia’s hand in marriage, by choosing a casket. On his arrival he greets her with these words; “Mislike me not for my complexion, the shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun... “From this scene the theme of racism is again revisited. Due to his dark countenance he is considered as ‘other’, and is persecuted like the Jews, for it. ‘Othering’ is classified as those not accepted by society, those who don’t fall in to societies expected norms. It can be said that Shakespeare was of this same mind-set as he only allots seven lines to the prince within the text, these lines shows that the prince is aware of his place within society likewise the Prince’s body language and nervous discourse also conveys this sense of place; ‘othering’.

The court scene can be said to be the most dramatic as this is where the conflict between Antonio and Shylock is resolved. The issue of racism is once again questioned. Antonio has failed to put forward the money he owes and Shylock demands his pound of flesh. Shylock’s adamant demand for Antonio’s flesh is seen by the Christians as cruel, but by the Jew’s just; as they support his argument by vocal outcries, within the move. There is even a visual division within the physical outline of the court, were this one side populated by the Jews, noticeable by their red caps, and the other side populated by the Christians. There is hardly any mingling of the two races in this physical space.

At the forefront of the movie there is a short description of the Jews presence in Venice during the 16th century were there presence is barely tolerated and how they were treated. They are...
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