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