Is Shylock a devil in MOV

Summary of The merchant of Venice

The end of the Elizabethan age

With the beginning of the 17th century, the Elizabethan Era came to an end in England. queen Elizabeth I. ruled the United Kingdom for more than 44 years, from 1558 to 1603. During this time England experienced an impressive political and economic boom. The country replaced Spain as the strongest seafaring nation and became a major European power. The growing prosperity of the bourgeoisie also contributed to national self-confidence. One consequence of the economic boom was the gradual and finally final permission to conduct credit and interest transactions, which previously opposed Christian moral teaching. However, these shops retained their bad reputation among the population for a long time.

Elisabeth's father Henry VIII had already broken with Rome in 1534 and founded the Anglican Church; in Elizabeth's time the country emancipated itself even more clearly from Catholicism. This did not, however, overcome the widespread anti-Semitism of the English. The Jews, officially banned from the country since 1290, should not be allowed to resettle in the United Kingdom until 1655. Nonetheless, intellectual and religious tolerance slowly increased in the Empire and had a stimulating effect in many ways, particularly in the fields of art and theater. William Shakespeare's London was a modern, lively and intellectually curious city with a population of around 200,000. Elisabeth was considered a great patron of art and drama. Under her reign, the venues became places of experience for broad sections of the population. There was a real theater boom, accompanied by an artistically fruitful competition between professional actors.


The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare probably wrote between 1596 and 1598. Almost nothing is known about the exact conditions in which it was formed. At that time Shakespeare was already one of London's most famous playwrights. He was a member and partner of the drama group "Lord Chamberlain’s Men", which mainly performed his own plays and performed several times a year at court. For the plot of the Merchant of Venice Shakespeare brought together two motifs that were known from medieval sources. The fairytale-like choice of bride with the help of different boxes appears in some collections from the 15th century. And the story of the Jewish usurer with a claim to a pound of human flesh was also circulating in Shakespeare's day. An Italian collection of novellas from 1558 already contains a Schwank that links both motifs - albeit without any depth - with one another. As a further suggestion, Shakespeare could also read the well-known play The Jew from Malta (around 1590) of his contemporary Christopher Marlowe have served. The central figure there is a wealthy Jewish trader who, after the confiscation of his property, becomes a multiple murderer.

Impact history

The piece first appeared in print in 1600. The envelope lured with the reference to the "extreme cruelty of Shylock, the Jew". And although The merchant of Venice Due to its romantic framework, Shylock is still considered a comedy today, and is the character who increasingly became the central character in the productions of the following centuries - and at the same time the main challenge in terms of acting and interpretation. At first, the Jew remained a clearly anti-Semitic villain, sometimes distorted into a comic caricature. In the 19th century, however, a rather tragic understanding of the figure broke through. Famous British theater actors like Edmund Kean and Henry Irving aroused sympathy for Shylock as a driven victim. In the corresponding adaptations, the comic part of the plot was often severely shortened, the last act sometimes completely deleted.

In the years of National Socialism, the work became a propaganda instrument, as Shylock seemed to be an ideal illustration of the wickedness of the Jewish race. After the Second World War, the playability of the piece was therefore questioned - especially in the German-speaking world. If the material was staged anyway, then with a lot of understanding for Shylock's motives and victim role. First directors of the modern directorial theater like George Tabori and Peter Zadek conquered a new freedom in relation to the material. The difficult classification of the play in a genre and the problematic figure of the evil Jew has the interest of the film industry in Merchant of Venice always braked. The first theatrical version of the sound film era did not come out until 2004: Directed by Michael Radford played Al Pacino Shylock as victim and perpetrator at the same time. To this day, the anti-Semitism of the text is irritating. Shylock is still seen as the core figure of the Merchant of Venice viewed, which makes it impossible to understand the play only as a comedy.