The Merchant Of Venice by William Shakespeare (REVIEW)
A Critic’s Meta-Review 5/5
And so now, we begin our discussion of the enigmatic elephant in the realm of the written word, the great William Shakespeare, with one of my personal favorites: The Merchant Of Venice. As I write this review, I am currently wrapped in a sweatshirt (a rather tight one, at that, but insulated with enough fleece to keep the billowing autumn breeze from shivering me timbers, and also worth wearing just because of what I am about to reveal next) that has on it a picture of Mr. Shakespeare, donning a pair of sunglasses, with the phrase “I put the LIT in LITERATURE” circling said picture. If it wasn’t so darn tight, I would wear it more often; alas, this is the price I must pay in order to put my fetish for wordplay on full display. I mean, what am I gonna do about it? Get it re-tailored?
Well, seeing as I’m a little strapped for cash, that does not seem like a feasible option. Maybe I’ll go get a loan. But wait — I don’t really own anything of value. Think…think…what could I possibly offer as collateral? Ah, eureka — I know just what will do! I’ll offer the lender a pound of my flesh. There we go. Surely that would never backfire; don’t be ludicrous, guys. If you’re going to be anything, be Ludacris (circa 2004). Now there’s a real stand up guy.
All jokes aside, I do think that the whole Shylock character is a bit more than a tad anti-Semitic, and serves to reinforce some of the same old canards used by the Nazis to justify stuffing six million Jews in gas chambers without batting an eye. I’m not blaming our pal Billy Shakes — far from it. I guess I’m really just blaming the Nazis for taking things too far, as usual. It’s just like those plantation owners that would quote from The Bible in order to justify slavery. It ain’t like Jesus ever signed off on any of that stuff; similarly, I find it hard to fathom that Shakespeare would have been cool with the Shoah.
All that being said, Shylock really is a brilliantly written character — and I’m not just saying that because I had to memorize his famous monologue (“If you prick us, do we not bleed?!?”) during my freshman year of high school in Honors English class (yeah, you read that right — your boy can read real good…real good, indeed). Actually, maybe I am — it’s a great monologue.
Al Pacino does it best, in my opinion, but what else is new? The man has range.