by Jim Murchison
In an article written by Joel Fishbane he said he would be all for The Merchant of Venice being retired forever. I would love to see a production of the play. I feel that the apparent anti-semitic viewpoint may be mitigated by Shylock’s; If you prick us do we not bleed speech that calls for the understanding of people based on a principle that we all suffer, laugh, cry and eat. I also feel that the quality of mercy soliloquy adds a layer of balance to the play that suggests that justice should be rendered with compassion. Having said that, I do understand that where there are stereotypical depictions of a race, a group or a gender these stereotypes should always be challenged.
However Mr Fishbane dislikes TMOV more because he feels it is a badly crafted play than any other reason and I frankly adore a couple of speeches, but haven’t really read or looked at the play as a whole in a couple of decades. I have never seen a production of the play. When an actor connects with an audition piece so well that he gets cast after the reading he may lose his objectivity. When I audition for a director I think of the particular speech as a play unto itself. I am not thinking of its context beyond what that specific character has in his heart at the exact moment he is saying those words. The Shylock speech I have auditioned with is the one that speaks to Antonio’s hypocrisy in rating him on his beliefs and business practices, until he needs his help and then he comes begging. It is very powerful on its own, as it demonstrates anger, hurt, sarcasm and loathing towards a man that feels his very birthright entitles him to benefits that others have to struggle for. I love performing that speech.