BSS: The Merchant of Venice (5-9 Feb 2013)

Performances are Tuesday 5th of February to Saturday 9th at 8pm, with a matinée at 2pm on Saturday the 9th at Theatral Espace Scarabaeus (map).

Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” is a wonderful and complex piece of theatre which confronts such current human issues as love, hate, prejudice, and above all, religious intolerance, the fear and distrust of the “other”. Money and debt are central themes in this play.

The plot revolves around a Venetian merchant who can’t repay a loan from a hated moneylender. Bassanio needs money because he has spent all his fortune and is in debt everywhere especially to Antonio, who has bailed him out on more than one occasion before. He asks Antonio again for more money (a business deal, an investment, a way to recoup his losses) to finance his pursuit of the rich Portia. If he wins her he can restore his fortunes and pay off all his debts.

Antonio’s own wealth is tied up in ships heading back to Venice. He raises the money for Bassanio by borrowing from Shylock, a Jewish merchant he has previously refused to do business with. Shylock loans the money because he wants Antonio above all people to be indebted to him because for once he will be on an equal basis with him.

Antonio’s fleet is wrecked at sea and the once-rich man becomes unable to repay this debt. Shylock is contemptuous of him as well as furious – Antonio’s superiority over Shylock is at an end. On discovering the elopement of his daughter with a friend of Bassanio’s his hatred for Antonio and all Christians, and his desire for revenge, turns him to the bond – the ‘security’ he demanded for Antonio’s loan – a pound of flesh to be taken from Antonio.

This production is set in late 1920’s Venice and Belmont and the main characters are all in some way connected to the Mafia. The Duke being the head of the mafia and the ultimate dispenser of “justice”. Setting it in the late 1920s gives an opportunity to reflect on the very

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