Tips for viewing The Merchant of Venice

1. There is textual evidence that Shakespeare was anti-Semitic, but anti-Semitism is not the primary point of the plot.

2. Shakespeare uses stereotypes about Jews to mock his audience and to mock anti-Semites.  Most of all he is pointing the joke back in the faces of the bigots.  "Who is the merchant and who is the Jew?" is one of the central lines of the text.  And it is no accident that the play is named after the merchant, not after Shylock.

3. Shakespeare shows most of the play’s Christians to be mean, hypocritical, and full of lies.  They have every bad quality that they accuse the Jews of having, and more.  This is a very dark comedy.

4. The stories concerning the rings should be followed carefully.  The film mentions briefly (too briefly, perhaps) that Shylock treasured and kept the ring from his wife.  Compare this to how the Christians treat their rings.

5. The homosexual and lesbian implications of the story are explicit rather than some postmodern reinterpretation.

Elsewhere on the cinematic front, Yana has been watching the Star Wars trilogy for the first time ("…so these are the ones where he has the breathing problem").  I’ve been amazed how readily and appropriately the episodes have made the transition from "slick futuristic vision" to "dark tale of collapse, decay, and clunky technological malfunction."  I can hardly wait for May to roll around.


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