Portia is a rich heiress whose dead father left some eccentric instructions regarding her marriage; she must marry the man who solves a riddle her father has left behind. Bassanio wants to try his hand and woo the beautiful Portia, but he doesn’t have the money to get his foot in the door of her fancy estate. So he borrows the money from Jewish moneylender Shylock using the credit of a good friend, the merchant Antonio. When Antonio ends up unable to repay the debt, Shylock demands his famous “pound of flesh,” in payment. Add to that the Shakespearean trappings of women disguised as men, Elizabethan (or, in the case of this production, Edwardian) carousers and lovers stolen away, and all’s well that ends well.
What Is The Merchant of Venice Like?
Merchant is one of those hard to categorize Shakespeare plays: not truly a tragedy, but pretty dark for a comedy. Luckily, this energetic production keeps the show from getting bogged down too heavily in any potential morality lessons. As the play’s Jewish character, Shylock is at the heart of the notoriously heavier themes, like intolerance and vengeance, but there is plenty of comedy in the play, and the talented cast makes the most of it.
Is The Merchant of Venice Good For Kids?
Leave the youngsters at home for this one. Classical language and running time (nearly three hours) aside, Merchant contains some notoriously anti-Semitic language that might prove hard to explain to younger children in this Shakespearean context. Teens, however, would likely enjoy the show’s laughs and learn a lot from its exploration of ideas such as tolerance and compassion.