The Merchant of Venice: Film vs Script

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By tracing back the early roles of Shylock done in the Elizabethan stage, we are able to appreciate the complexity of Shakespear’s character, Shylock, and how he has the greatest impact than any other character.

In the early Elizabethan era Shylock was portrayed as an archetypical Jew of that time. He would be played by the performer wearing a red wig and large false nose. This look created the foundations of Shylock’s personality during the Elizabethan era; a comic villain not to be taken seriously or sympathetically, he was the figure of a pantomime.

Shylock was later played as a terrifying, cruel and malicious figure. This dominated the view on how Shylock was seen until in 1814, Edmund Kean performed the character of Shylock as passionate as possible by presenting him as a venerable human being. This resulted in a triumphant change of how Shylock was seen, turning Shakespeare’s multi-faceted character into a start role.

Shylock makes a greater impact than any other character, despite the fact that he only appears in 3 scenes of the play. This is due to him being the most complex character with his personality interpreted in many different ways. In the original script, we first meet Shylock in Act 1Scene 3, where he is discussing the agreement to loan 3000 ducats to Bassanio in forfeit of a pound of his flesh. Within this scene there is a stark contrast between Shakespeare’s representation of Shylock and Radford’s film portrayal of the multi-faceted character, Shylock.

Shylock begins a long speech in the original script “Yes to smell pork…news on the Rialto?” Here a tone of aggression is suspected due to the use of an asyndeton (a list of repeated phrases lacking the use of a connective). This allows the performing actor to recreate Shylock’s anger by having to read the lines quickly expressing the build-up of his temper. His calmness is soon diverted back by Shylock changing the topic with a question “What news on the Rialto?” This stops his...
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