Sunday, October 8, 2017

My Favourite Shylock

A post from one of our keen members, Peter Medd, on one of Shakespeare’s most intriguing characters.

In 2016, I heard an ABC interview of Warren Mitchell by Margaret Throsby — about a year after Mitchell’s death. It was a re-broadcast, first recorded in 2001 during one of Mitchell’s many Australian visits. (He had dual British and Australian citizenship.) The interview was amazing, of course, covering Mitchell’s extensive acting career and other skills. (He was a good clarinet player!) Sadly, he could also tell the most appalling anti-Semitic jokes.

The interview caused me to want to watch The Merchant of Venice, recorded by the BBC in 1980, and starring Mitchell as Shylock with John Nettles (Midsomer Murders) as Antonio. In viewing earlier performances of Shakespeare’s plays, it always surprises me how many modern day actors started or at least helped their careers by performing in Shakespeare. For example, in a BBC (2004) version of The Merchant of Venice, I saw in the crowd a very young Kris Marshall as Gratiano. (Marshall was recently in the BBC series Death in Paradise.)

I would have liked to see the role of Shylock played by an orthodox Jew, but I haven’t tracked down any recent ones. However, Jacob Adler (1855-1926) was noted for his sympathetic rendering of the character.

Wikipedia turned up this photo of Adler as Shylock in a late 19th century performance of The Merchant of Venice.

(Credit: Byron Company (photographer) - Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection )