i’ve always had a fascination with shylock, the villain/victim antagonist of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. for my 10th birthday, my parents bought me an illustrated book of Shakespeare’s stories written in prose. my favorite one was The Merchant of Venice because there was an excellent illustration of Shylock – dressed in gray garb with curly hair and sharp nose – checking to see if his knife was sharp enough to cut a pound of flesh. i liked the story because as much as Shylock seemed despicable as a character, there was a very human quality to him. i think it was easy to identify with the feeling of being an outsider who constantly gets taunted and picked on, which was how i felt for some time in elementary school. the ironic thing was that the kids who picked on me in elementary school were Jewish. and yet, i still like Shylock.
here’s the oft-recited Shylock speech, which i’ve watched a bunch of times in the course of writing my paper on two adaptations of The Merchant of Venice – John Sichel’s 1973 BBC version with Laurnece Olivier as Shylock and Michael Radford’s 2004 version with Al Pacino as Shylock. both are very excellent, although it’s best to know the play inside out before you actually watch the movies.
“To bait fish withal: if it feed nothing
else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced
me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at
my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my
nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends,
heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I
am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a
Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections,
passions? fed with the same food, hurt
with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
healed by the same means, warmed and
cooled by the same winter and summer as a
Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we
not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we
will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a
Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a
Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance
be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The
villainy which you teach me I will execute, and it shall
go hard but I will better the instruction.”
you have to watch when Olivier says “scorned my nation.” damn, so exciting.