October 4th, 2011

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Shylock and Jessica, The Merchant of Venice

I think I have already said how much I love The Merchant of Venice - it is one of my three favourite Shakespeare plays; the other two being Othello and The Tempest. I have always felt a deep empathy and sympathy for the character of Shylock - in fact I would argue that I am as passionate a Shylockian as I am a Sherlockian (unfortunately, Shylockians do not exist!).

Shylock is an alien and an outsider - a Jew in Christian society. Shylock, although he does not have that much stage time, is the star of the piece - he has all the best lines. His key speeches show his humanity. He is a living, breathing human being, with feelings and emotions just like everyone else. He is a human, not a cur. Played the right way, the play shows why Shylock ended up filled with hatred and revenge - because of the way he was treated by Christian society. Shylock, for me, is a sympathetic character, whom you empathise with and feel for.

Anyway, I thought I would post a painting and a photo that shows a side of Shylock that is rarely brought out - that of the loving and doting father.



Picture credit: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definitions/shylock

Maurycy Gottlieb (1856-1879) was a Jewish painter of Polish-speaking Galician Jews from the western part of Ukraine. At twenty, he won a gold medal from a Munich art competition for Shylock and Jessica (the painting above), showing a scene from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. He based Jessica's face on that of Laura Rosenfeld, to whom he had proposed marriage. However, Rosenfeld rejected his proposal, and wed a Berlin banker. Gottlieb then planned to marry Lola Rosengarten, but when he heard about Rosenfeld's marriage he committed suicide by exposure to the elements, dying of complications from a cold.



The National Theatre photo may well have been based on Maurycy Gottlieb's painting and, even if not, bears a striking resemblance to it. This particular NT production is one of my all time favourite versions of The Merchant of Venice and stars Henry Goodman as Shylock and Gabrielle Jourdan as Jessica.
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Shylock, The Merchant of Venice

And staying with the Shylockian theme ...

Shylock is an alien and an outsider - a Jew in Christian society. Shylock, although he does not have that much stage time, is the star of The Merchant of Venice - he has all the best lines. His key speeches show his humanity. He is a living, breathing human being, with feelings and emotions just like everyone else. He is a human, not a cur. Played the right way, the play shows why Shylock ended up filled with hatred and revenge - because of the way he was treated by Christian society. Shylock, for me, is a sympathetic character, whom you empathise with and feel for. Let us give it up for Shylock!

This is Mychael Barratt's take on Sherlock.



Picture credit: http://www.ponyhide.com/mychaelbarratt/shakespeare.html

And this is a photo of Henry Goodman as Shylock in the National Theatre production from 1999. Henry played Shylock as a sympathetic character in the vein that I have outlined above. Henry is 100% authentically Jewish but also 100% sympathetic. Your heart really goes out to him, as an outsider and an alien, trying to make his way in Christian society. He kills off the accusations once and for all that this play is anti-Semitic. It is not, if Shylock is played in the right way, as Henry Goodman does. That is why this is one of my favourite versions.



Photo credit: http://www.culturevulture.net/Television/MerchantofVenice.htm
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2011 Richard Lancelyn Green Lecture: Following the Footprints



The 2011 Richard Lancelyn Green Lecture will take place on Thursday 6th October 2011. This year's speaker is Sir Christopher Frayling, a historian, a critic, a writer and an award-winning broadcaster on network radio and television. His television series include Nightmare - the birth of horror (on BBC1), which included an episode on the writing of The Hound of the Baskervilles and an accompanying book: this led to his annotated edition of The Hound for Penguin. Last year, he was inducted as a BSI in New York under the name "Vernet".

"Following the footprints..." is an illustrated lecture about that gigantic hound and matters arising.

For further details follow the link:
http://www.sherlock-holmes.org.uk/event_info.php?id=258

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend as I am going to the National Theatre's Annual Dinner on that day.