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Shylock: a performance history with particular reference to London and Stratford-upon-Avon 1879-1998

O'Connor, John (1999)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

This thesis charts the performance history of Shakespeare's Shylock from the earliest recorded interpretations to those of the present day . After a survey of the most significant early productions of The Merchant of Venice', starting with Granville's adaptation in 1701, I refer to every major professional production of the play in London and Stratford-upon-Avon from 1879, the year which saw the first performance of Henry Irving’s landmark interpretation of Shylock at the Lyceum and the opening of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford.
While many of Shakespeare’s characters hold special challenges for the modem actor, Shylock is unique in the extent to which he is influenced by the weight of history, and by twentieth century European history in particular. There is a focus in this study, therefore, on the changing: sensibilities which have influenced theatrical interpretation of the character through the ages, and especially on the differing extents to which actors have attempted to present Shylock as a sympathetic character. It has not been possible - and neither would it have been proper. in my opinion - to exclude from my study references to the ever-changing manifestations of anti-Semitism in the world outside the theatre, nor to the enduring discomfort which many people still experience at seeing stage representations of Shakespeare's Jew. Accordingly I have included a brief account of the theatre's response at the time of the Nazi persecutions, as well as more recent examples of the controversies that this play has the power to engender.
Reflecting upon the ways in which productions have in their different ways met the challenge of presenting Shakespeare's Jew to post-Holocaust audiences, I conclude the study by proposing the notion of 'honest' and ‘dishonest' interpretations.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Wells, Stanley W. (1930-)
School/Faculty:Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Humanities
Department:Shakespeare Institute
Subjects:PR English literature
PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1788
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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