52 in 52 Week 10: The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare


I loved this play! I don't think it is a comedy though. I would definitely put it in the "tragicomedy" category. Aha, I see that The Book of Great Books:A Guide to 100 World Classics agrees with me. :)    


Click image to view full cover                                                                                                                                                                                    This is the first time I have ever read it, but I saw the movie with Al Pacino as Shylock. Oh my, he was good as Shylock. Definitely worth watching (Warning: There is one unnecessary scene with women’s breasts that came out of nowhere. We have ClearPlay now. So, we don’t have to worry about those kinds of surprises anymore!).

What a play. It might be my favorite of the "comedies," but I have never read Measure for Measure but saw it on stage and LOVED the moral dilemma in that wonderful play! 

Portia is a strong woman in this play, but I feel like Shylock is the sympathetic character here. The court scene is so excruciatingly painful for me. The famous quote by Portia is contained in Act 4, Scene 1: 
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,It droppeth as the gentle rain from heavenUpon the place beneath. It is twice blest:It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. 
This quote makes me think of my thoughts about revenge last week, and this quote from Nelson Mandela:

"Resentment is like drinking poison 
and waiting for it to kill your enemy." 

When we extend mercy to another, we are blessed. Must ponder all of this more. 

I have such sympathy for Shylock. A part of me loves Portia strength but makes me so dislike her too. Did she extend mercy to Shylock? I think not! Shylock was a person who was in grief. He had "bullied" all his life. 

This leads me to think of the recent school shooting in Ohio. I don't condone school shootings, but I feel sympathy for some who have been bullied so mercilessly. (The jury is still out as to whether this boy was bullied.)  But again, I go back to extending mercy to others and you will be free!  Jesus could have exacted revenge with all of His power, but He chose mercy, and I am so grateful for that! 


Shakespeare is everywhere. Look what I came across just last week while studying the parable of the Prodigal Son and the subject of repentance in Luke 15:17-19:
"“But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” ’" (Luke 15:17-19, NASB95) 

To “repent” means “to change one’s mind,” and that is exactly what the young man did as he cared for the pigs. (What a job for a Jewish boy!) He “came to himself,” which suggests that up to this point he had not really “been himself.” There is an “insanity” in sin that seems to paralyze the image of God within us and liberate the “animal” inside. Students of Shakespeare like to contrast two quotations that describe this contradiction in man’s nature. 
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!

(Hamlet, II, ii) 

When he is best, he is a little worse than a man; and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.
(The Merchant of Venice, I, ii)
(Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Lk 15:11). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books)
I love Shakespeare! This is the last one from my list, but I came down loaded down with more CD's from the library. I am such a nerd, but there is something about Shakespeare that is so relaxing and challenging to my soul.


A word about audio versions! There is a new one by NAXOS AUDIOBOOKS that sounds fantastic (probably the best), and I listened to the first scene for free, but I am too cheap to buy it. The digital library didn't have one. So, I went and got a free version from Librivox, but halfway through it, I realized that my library probably had a CD version, and they have ALL the plays on CD. So, I am sorry I wasted my time downloading the Librivox versions. Some of the actors were very good in this particular play, but nothing beats trained Shakespearean professional actors! 


Here is the version I listened to:


The Merchant of Venice 

The cast was superb which includes: 


Portia - Hadyn Gwynne
Shylock - Trevor Peacock 
Bassanio - Julian Rhind-Tutt
Antonio - Bill Nighy
Gratiano - Will Keen
Lorenzo - Matthew Delamere
Jessica - Sara-Jane Holm
Nerissa - ALison Reid




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