Friday, May 15, 2009

Shylock in the 20th and 21st centuries: Global Perspectives

*British Shakespeare Association*
*11th-13th September 2009
King's College, London and Shakespeare's Globe*

Shakespeare’s plays change over time and acquire new meanings in the specific cultural and medial contexts in which they are read, performed, or adapted. In this process, some plays even change genre. This is particularly true for /The Merchant of Venice/. After the Second World War, many directors have found it no longer possible to stage the play as a comedy. The conflict between Venetian society and the Jewish moneylender as well as Shylock’s cruel revenge and his final punishment evoke uncanny associations with the long tradition of European anti-Semitism and, in particular, the Holocaust. There have been heated debates as to whether the play should be banned from schools and theatres altogether, so that when it is staged, productions often turn into political events and aesthetic concerns seem to be of secondary importance at best. Despite these general problems raised by /The Merchant of Venice/ at the beginning of the 21st century, it should not be ignored that there are considerable differences between e.g. German, American, Israeli or Taiwanese /Merchants /as well as between productions by Jewish and non-Jewish directors. It thus seems crucial to pay close attention to the cultural or national contexts of the respective productions since it is these localizations that give the play its respective meaning. Shylock has entered the stage as a tragic hero and a villain; his Jewishness has been stressed or ignored; and he has been played as a victim of the Holocaust, a modern businessman or a migrant. Taking its point of departure from these multifaceted representations of Shylock, the seminar seeks to address the various and contradictory responses of directors, filmmakers, and critics worldwide to Shakespeare’s ‘problem play’.

*Please send your proposal (200 word max) to: Sabine Schuelting* ( )
/Proposals should be submitted by 31 May 2009./


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