The Trial Scene From Shakespeare’s Play
The Merchant Of Venice
According to many people Shakespeare was the greatest playwright who ever lived. And I am inclined to agree.
Even today his plays are still performed all over the world and have been translated into many languages.
It is said that Shakespeare’s genius is universal and ever fresh.
He wrote a great many plays but only thirty-seven were ever published.
During Elizabethan times the audience would have come to watch one of Shakespeare’s plays and received it differently to a modern day audience.
The Elizabethan audience would have been noisy and more ‘involved’ with the performance, whereas now a days the audience would go the theatre and treat it as an almost spiritual thing, we would dress up and be silent throughout the performance showing a general respect for the actors and those involved with the play, whether we liked it or not. Where as if the performance was disliked by an Elizabethan audience they would shout and often through things at the actors.
Shakespeare’s plays were attended by all standards of people varying from the rich to the ‘lower middle class.
Much like today’s theatre the more you pay the better the seat. For Shakespeare’s outdoor plays the lower middle class paid one penny for admittance to the yard (like a playground outside a school building.) They had no seats and had to stand for the entire performance. These people were called the ‘groundlings’. The upper middle class paid two penny’s and sat at eye level in the lower galleries. And the rich paid three pennies to sit in the upper balconies, which had a far better view.
If I were directing a Shakespearian play for a modern day audience I would do it differently to how I would do it if it were for an Elizabethan audience.
Beginning with having the women played by women and not boy’s below thirteen.
I admire the way Shakespeare portrayed each of his characters and managed to keep any of the anti-Semitic feelings he may have felt out of the performance.
I think he created 3D characters and I would think that when the play was performed in front of what was probably a anti-Semitic audience in Elizabethan times the sympathies would have lay solely on Antonio, where as now a days I think they also lie with Shylock ;#8211; Pitying him for the way the Christians treat him, the loss of his daughter and his money.
Act 4 Scene 1 p115
The Duke’s palace in Venice
In this scene there are seven characters.
To begin with it is Duke, Antonio and Salario, Shylock enters later.
In the beginning and throughout the scene all of the characters except Shylock feel sorry for Antonio and think Shylock is being unfair.
Duke describes Shylock as ‘an inhuman wretch, incapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy.’
I think that Shylock is much more complex than that but I will come to that later.
When Duke questions Shylock as to why he is holding such a bond, Shylock gives no answer and is very evasive in his speech. I feel that this is not because he doesn’t want to explain but because emotionally he can’t, he feels anger for Antonio not just because Antonio is Antonio but because he feels resentment for a great number of things including the Christian faith to which Antonio is a part.
Shylock is extremely angry and claims that no amount of money will deter him from wanting his bond.
He claims he will feel no regret as he states to Duke ‘what judgement shall I dread doing no wrong’. Then he starts ‘scapegoating’ ‘you have among you many a purchased slave.’ Line 90 page 119.
Shylocks Mental State
I have researched Shylock’s state of mind and come up with a couple of conclusions.
I have found two main reasons for both Shylocks’ defensive attitude and general hatred towards Antonio and Christians.
The psychodynamic ideas I have found focus on the emotional and motivational reasons for prejudice. In my research scapegoating seems the most fitting for Shylock’s attitude.
The process of blaming others for your own problems is called scapegoating. ‘If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge! The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.’ Act III page 77 line 54.
This can happen after the frustrations of living build up in certain people and lead to hostile feelings which need to be released ;#8211; his daughter leaving ;#8211; could cause anger, but I think the fact that she ran off with a Christian taking Shylock’s money and jewels upset him most – I think Shylock is extremely interested in material possessions because he feels safer but as I may have mentioned earlier Shylock’s aggression cannot be directed at the cause because there are too many and too complicated.
Aggression can then be displaced on to those less powerful Antonio ;#8211; in debt to Shylock ;#8211; so the defence mechanism of displacement is used as an outlet for frustration ;#8211; making Antonio pay his bond.
On the whole the person acting as Shylock should appear slightly unstable.
Continuing with the scene
Nerissa enters (disguised as a lawyer’s clerk).
Shylock sharpens his knife on his shoe (at this point he should be at the front centre stage with the spotlight on him) .
When Gratiano viciously attacks Shylock with many verbal obscenities
(Shylock should appear unconcerned and continue sharpening his knife and not stopping – as Gratiano continues ranting the other characters should either be nodding and agreeing with what Gratiano is saying or they should mutter amongst themselves about similar things.)
Bellario has presented a letter, which is read, and just after the reading Portia enters (disguised as Doctor Balthazar, followed by officials).
Portia appeals unsuccessfully to Shylock to show mercy.
Portia – Do you confess the bond?
Antonio – I do
Portia – Then must the Jew be merciful
Shylock – On what compulsion must I? Tell me that.
Portia – The quality of mercy is not strained.
I think this means that Portia is saying that she can’t make Shylock show mercy but if he does it is a good thing.
Again later in her speech she says ‘we do pray for mercy’
Shylock realises that Portia is agreeing that the demand made in the bond must be met when she says ‘there is no power in Venice can alter a decree established’
Shylock is extremely happy ;#8211; ‘oh wise young judge I honour thee’
Once more Portia tries to change his mind but to no avail.
Portia judges that Shylock can have his bond so Antonio prepares to die.
Portia asks if Shylock has the scales to weight the pound of flesh ;#8211;
Make Shylock seem like the wrongful party at this point becase it should show that he will enjoy killing Antonio, He should hurry to a box, which contains
the scales and He should make a show out of retrieving them (Produce them with a flourish and use over exaggerated movements.) and should almost skip back to where Antonio is sitting and carefully place them in front of him, smiling maliciously.
Whether Elizabethan or modern-day, I think the audience should really feel sorry for Antonio and his friends.
Shylock should act as though stifling laughter when Antonio shows a look of pure fear at the sight of the scales because he should finally realize that Shylock will do any thiung to get his bond.
Portia asks if there is a surgeon present but the proposal of having one is soon thrown out of the window when Shylock says that it is not ‘nominated’ in the bond
Antonio bids a touching farewell and prepares himself for death.
As Antonio prepares to die Bassanio and Gratiano both confess that they would sacrifice their wives to save Antonio.
Shakespeare is using dramatic irony to lighten the mood by playing on the knowledge that the audience know both Bassanios’ and Gratianos’ wives are both present in the room disguised as the Doctor and Lawyer’s clerks.
To these comments Portia still disguised as the Doctor says ‘your wife would give you little thanks if she were to hear you make that offer.’
Narissa joins in and says ’tis well that you make that offer behind her back’.
To hearing the confessions of these two supposed loving husbands Shylock says ‘these be Christian husbands! I have a daughter :
Would any of the stock of barabbus, had been her husband rather than a Christian.’
This proves that Shylock is still upset about his daughter and Bassanio and Gratiano had just proved what Shylock believed true of Christians.
Finally, just before Shylock prepares to cut the flesh from Antonio Portia speaks once more and gives the reason that Shylock can have his pound of flesh but not a ‘jot of blood.’
When Shylock realises that he is beaten he tries to take the offer of thrice the bond but Portia says that all Shylock will get is a penalty.
Shylock must give half his money to the state and the other half to the party he doth contrive against.
Antonio declines the money and says Shylock may have it.
As another part to his penalty Shylock is told he must become a Christian.
Duke tries to offer Portia a dinner to thank her but she claims she has to go to Padua right away.
Exit Duke and his train
Bassiano and Antonio try to pay Portia but she declines she will not take the 3,000 ducats they offer but agrees to ‘Take some remembrance of us as a tribute’. She took a pair of gloves from Bassiano, as a tribute, and asked for the ring Bassiano is wearing (it is the one Portia gave him as his wife).
Bassiano says he cannot give the ring to the Doctor because he promised that he would neither sell, nor give, nor loos it.
Portia and Narissa leave
After the woman leave Antonio convinces Bassiano to give the ring to the doctor.
So Bassiano runs out to give the ring to the His wife although he still believes that she is the doctor.