Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Starting to teach The Merchant of Venice today. It's a far more repellent play than I recalled: racism and scorn for difference are everywhere, and not just in the portrayal of Shylock. Difficult to see how anyone could pull it off nowadays as a comedy; at the same time, it's difficult to see how Shylock could be made heroic or appealing (as has sometimes been the fashion) without drastic cuts. The homoerotic charge of Antonio and Bassanio's friendship is interesting, but strangely bloodless, conflating melancholy with same-sex desire. And Portia seems a very cold and calculating character, the least appealing of Shakespeare's heroines. I'm curious to see Michael Radford's film version with my class next week to see how he addresses these problems.

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