If I were the director of the court scene of the play ‘the merchant of Venice’ I would set the scene in Venice where there is hatred towards Jews to emphasize that Shakespear has been hateful towards Jews by making Shylock play the Jew in the play. In designing the court I would put the judge above everyone in the court and I would make Shylock’s seat lower than everyone else’s to make him feel lower than everyone else.
In my choice of props I would place crosses all over the courtroom to emphasize it is a Christian place. When the Duke enters the courtroom I would make everyone rise to show respect and be silent. When Shylock enters the courtroom I would make everyone remain seated and make Shylock bow to the Duke and the audience to make Shylock as a Jew feel lower than Christians.
I would imagine that as Shylock is about to enter the court he is happy and walking up and down to show he is bursting with confidence to let his story out, to get his pound of flesh.
If I got an actor to play Shylock’s part through his body language I would make him keep moving his hands around to show he’s ecstatic. I imagine if Shylock walked into a courtroom full of Christians the Christians would ‘boo’ at Shylocks entrance because he is Jewish and there is a negative persona towards Jews throughout the play. As Shylock enters the courtroom, full of Christians, I would want them to boo at him and swear at him to show their hatred and disaprovence of him as a moneylender and a Jew.
The attitudes of the people of Venice over time will make Shylock become resentful towards Christians.
In act 4 scene 1 lines 16-34 the feelings that the Duke shows towards Antonio is that in line 23 Duke says ‘this poor merchants flesh thou wilt not only lose the forfeiture but, touch’d with human gentleness and love’ where Duke is trying to make Antonio look innocent and make everyone feel sorry for him, moreover the Duke says ‘the poor merchant’ which tells that Duke has sympathy for Antonio. From line 30 Duke shows his hatred towards non Christians by saying ‘commiseration of his state from brassy bosoms and rough hearts of flints, from stubborn Turks and Tartars, never trained to offices tender courtesy’ where Duke is basically trying to imply that non Christians have no sympathy for human life.
The reason Shylock gives for wanting his pound of flesh is he says ‘it is my humour’ and he says ‘lodg’d hate and a certain loathing I bear for Antonio’ where Shylock is expressing his hatred for Antonio. In act 1 scene 3 lines 98-121 it tells us how Antonio has treated Shylock in the past; Shylock says ‘many a time you have rated me about my money’s and my unaces’ Shylock also says ‘you call me misbeliever, cut throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gaberine’ which informs us that Antonio has been spiteful towards Shylock from the beginning. The kind of tone of voice I would direct an actor playing Shylock to use for this particular part is a tone filled with anger and arrogance to show Shylock is angry because Antonio has no choice but to come to Shylock for help which will make Shylock feel more higher in society than Antonio.
In Act 4 Scene 1 lines 70-83 Antonio says that Shylock character is stubborn by saying ‘You may as well go stand upon the beach and bid the main flood bate his usual height’ where Antonio is trying to say that you cannot reason with Shylock there is no chance, because it is impossible to reason with the sea tide! Antonio also gives examples of things which are impossible to reason with such as ‘you may as well use question with the wolf, why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb; you may as well forbid the mountain pines to wag their high tops, and to make no noise when they are fretten with the gusts of heaven’.
Antonio also states that ‘as we seek to soften that-then which what’s harder ?-his Jewish heart!’ Where Antonio is saying Shylock is like that because he is a Jew! This encourages the audience to develop an element of dislike for Shylock. After Shylock made his speech for his case to be heard in lines 89-103 I would direct the Duke to shout at him and get angry at Shylock because Shylock hasn’t got the right to comment on Venice in such a hateful manner. In lines 128-138 Gratiano abuses Shylock I would make the actor deliver these lines while standing upright and pointing at Shylock looking at him in a bloody rage. The actor playing Shylock should be in a state of shock and in a furious rage. The words which are said by Gratiano tells us that his character is prejudice against Jews also he is not afraid to express his hatred towards Shylock and has affection for Antonio.
As Duke reads the letter from Bellario the expectations that the audience expect from Balthazar is that he is qualified and ‘acquainted with the cause in controversy between the Jew and Antonio the merchant.’ Which means he knows what’s happening between Antonio and Shylock so he can make good judgement upon the situation. In the letter that Bellario writes about Balthazar, the words and phrases, which are intended to give a good impression about Balthazar are ‘we turned over many books together’ which means that Balthazar knows as much as and is as well as informed as Bellario. It also says in the letter ‘he is furnished with my opinion’ which I interpret as Balthazar has the same opinion as Bellario.
Moreover it says ‘I cannot enough commend’ which means Balthazar is so great Bellario cannot put him on an even higher stature. In addition it also states in the letter ‘let his lack of years be no impediment, for I never knew so young a boy with so old a head’ whereby Bellario is saying even though Balthazar is young he is very educated or wise as if he were an old man. As Venice is strictly a male dominated society in business and in law; The actress playing Portia who is dressed as Duke will be thinking of things such as will the court and its audience believe I am Duke, is my costume persuasive enough for them to believe I am a man, what are the chances of the court thinking I am a women and will Shylock and Antonio except the judgement I give.
In the play, the main themes of the play are that of justice and mercy. Portia gives a speech about mercy and justice in act 4 scene1 in lines 180-193, Portia says ‘it dropeth as the gentle rain from heaven’ where Portia is trying to say mercy is a gift from above. Also Portia says ‘it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown’ which I interpret as the person who is merciful, is better than a king who doesn’t have mercy. Portia moreover says ‘it is a attribute of god himself’ where Portia is saying mercy is one of god’s qualities. In extent Portia states ‘though justice be thy plea, consider this, that in the course of justice none of us should see salvation: we do pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us to render the deeds of mercy’ where Portia is saying even though you want your pound of flesh have mercy. If I were the director I would make an actor deliver these lines in a compassionate and quiet tone of voice. The body language I would direct the actor to use is the actor constantly moving their hands.
Act 4 scene 1 illustrates the opposition between appearance and reality when Portia disguises herself as a male; the other characters in the play that are not what they seem are Nerrisa and Jessica (Shylocks daughter). Nerrisa dresses up as a male to deceive the court; and Jessica disguises herself as a male (boy) to escape from her father’s home. The characters who have deceived others is Portia when she wanted back her ring which she gave to Bessanio, she dresses up as someone else and persuades Bessanio to give her the ring. Bessanio had a conversation with Portia but does not recognise her, I would direct the person playing Portia to keep on moving so it is not possible for Bessanio to get a clear view of Portia’s face; I would also make Portia wear the complete opposite of clothes she would usually wear. Moreover I would make Portia use a soft tone of voice so Bessanio could not make a comparison between Portia and the person deceiving Bessanio voices.
One of the central themes of the play is that of justice. In lines 207-220 Bessanio says to Portia ‘I will be bound to pay it ten times over on forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart.’ Bessanio also says ‘Wrest once the law to your authority; to do a great right, do a little wrong, and curb this cruel devil of his will.’ In the first statement Bessanio says he will pay Shylock his money ten times over; he also swears on his hands, head and heart he will pay him. In the second statement Bessanio asks Portia to use her power and do a greater right than a wrong and disappoint Shylock (the devil). Portia’s reply to Bessanio was ‘it must not be there is no power in Venice that alter a decree established’ where Portia is saying its not possible to ignore the contract that Shylock and Antonio made. When the actors read lines 240-60 the gestures I would direct them to use is that the actress playing Portia should have her hand on or next to her heart and Shylock should be getting the scales ready to weigh a pound of flesh.
When the actor playing Antonio reads lines 260-77 I will make him read the lines slowly and with a soft tone of voice also I will make Bessanio put his hand on Antonio’s shoulder. I would make the actor Bessanio look shocked and upset. Bessanio and Gratiano both say they would sacrifice their wives for Antonio; the thing that the two men don’t know but the audience does is that both Bessanio and Gratiano wives are in the court. This makes the mood of the scene a funny situation for the audience but an embarrassing scenario for Bessanio and Gratiano because they both say that they would sacrifice their wives for Antonio, which would make their wives resentful. Shakespeare changes the emotional balance at this point because the scene was getting serious so Shakespeare thought he could add some comedy to the play (scene).
While reading lines 94-308 I would direct the following actors to say there lines in the following manner: Bessanio should speak in a sad tone of voice because he thinks he is going to lose his friend Antonio. Gratiano should speak in a very angry tone of voice to show the audience that he has got hatred in his heart for Shylock. Portia should remain calm but firm because she is the head figure of the court. Shylock should have a happy tone because he is ready to get his pound of flesh. Antonio seems sad and ready to die. When Portia agrees to let Shylock take his pound of flesh he becomes very exciteted and anxious to cut Antonio when Portia stops him just before he cuts Antonio. While reading lines 316-40 the gestures, which should accompany each statement Portia makes, is when she says ‘therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh’ Portia could hand a knife to Shylock.
While saying ‘shed thou no blood; nor cut thou less, nor more, but just a pound of flesh’ Portia should look at Antonio pointing at him. While saying ‘if the scale do turn but in the weight of a hair, thou digest, and all thy goods are confiscate’ Portia should take a hair from her head and show it to Shylock. In lines 316-40 three quotations which shows Portia is charge of the events are ‘the Jew shall have all justice’, ‘why doth the Jew pause’ and ‘he shall have merely justice, and his bond.’ While reading Shylocks lines between lines 294-342 his first responses are that he is praising Portia because he thinks he is getting his pound of flesh, when he finds out that he is not going to receive his pound of flesh he wants three times the bond for a sort of reparation; when it becomes apparent that he is not going to receive three times the bond he asks for the original sum borrowed and leaves.
In lines 342-59 Portia says to Shylock ‘Jew, the law hath yet another hold on you, it is enacted in the laws of Venice, if it be proved against an alien that by direct or indirect attempts he seeks the life of any citizen, the party that he doth contrive shall seize one half of his goods; the other privy coffer of the state. And the offenders life lies in the mercy of the Duke only’ In that statement Portia is saying to Shylock that Venice has still got another hold on him, she also says that if you try take a life of a citizen of Venice, the citizen is permitted to take half of the offenders property and the other half goes to the state of Venice. Moreover she says that his life is at the mercy of the Duke only.
When the actor playing Gratiano says lines 360-3 the gestures he should use to say these words are he should use his finger and run it across his neck to represent death. Shylock should show his anguish when saying lines 371-3 by holding his hands together like he’s going to be handcuffed to represent his life getting taken off him. In lines 376-86 I can tell that Antonio has not given up his prejudice ways because he says ‘he presently (immediately) become a Christian’ which tells us that Antonio is still not happy Shylock is Jewish and wants him to turn Christian. Shylock should speak his last words in a voice filled with frustration and fury. As Shakespeare gives Shylock virtually nothing to say as he exits the play so if I were the director I would make Shylock say to Portia and Antonio that they are racist and Portia should not be in the position of power she is in. As Shylock leaves the stage for the last time I would direct him to leave with his head down also with an upset face.
Both Portia and Nerissa talk of adopting manly behaviour in Act 3
Scene 4 to go with their disguises for the trial. When Portia appears as a man in the trial scene she uses language differently by using jargon (specialized or technical vocabulary of a profession) such as statements like ‘I have spoke thus much to mitigate the justice of thy plea’ also ‘there is no power in Venice can alter a decree established’ moreover ‘it is enacted in the laws of Venice.’ Portia also has an authoritive and masculine voice, she also acts like a man in the way she uses body language.
Shylock receives judgement but not justice, we know that he doesn’t receive justice because he lent three thousand duceets to Antonio and in return he does not receive his pound of flesh or gets his money back but losses half his wealth and on top of that he must give up his religion and turn into a Christian. Also in his will he must give all his possessions to his son Lorenzo and his daughter, when Shylock is dead. The qualities of mercy which are displayed in the court scene is by Antonio when he says ‘to quit the fine for one half of his goods’ where Antonio is allowed to take half of Shylocks possessions but he gives it back to Shylock under some conditions ‘he presently become a Christian, of all he dies possessed, unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter’ which shows that Antonio did not want to take Shylock’s lively hood.