If you would be directing a production of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, what would you tell the actor playing Shylock?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shylock makes the play intriguing because he is pitied and hated all at the same time. The actor who plays this villain must bring out both feelings from the audience. To do this, the actor playing Shylock must have very animated facial expressions, which are difficult to see from the audience's seating. He should also be very precise with different tones of voice when he is expressing the injustices that have been done to him as well as by the revenge he seeks. The best part in the play where he can do all of these things during the same scene is in act III, scene iii, where Shylock justifies his actions to hold Antonio to the contract he made. The audience must feel the sad words of anit-semitism when Shylock says, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” (lines 61-63).But then they must sense the harsh side of the man when he says, “And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” (line 63). The facial expressions and differing tones of voice would be a great way to present two or more conflicting feelings due to the confused nature of Shylock's monologue.

Later, the same techniques should be involved when Shylock defends his position in court so aggressively as compared to the sorrow that he feels when he is forced to give up his money and his religion. The audience should be able to sense Shylock's determination to follow through with harsh punishment as well as horror at the fact that he loses everything because of his hard-mindedness.

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The Merchant of Venice

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