Regular price: $12.59
Buy Now with 1 Credit
Buy Now for $12.59
It's very exciting to see the Naxos Shakespeare recordings appearing on Audible in the new enhanced format. If you can manage the extra space they take up, small enough in the grand scheme of things, the improvement in sound quality is well worth it. The crispness of the music and voices, and the stereo effects, come through particularly well in this recording.
That said, this is a tough play. Portia is probably the most appealing character in the bunch, but even she has a dark side: she is, after all, the main engine of Shylock's downfall. Anthony Sher gives a somber and dignified performance as Shylock: not necessarily a man more sinned against than sinning, but a man plenty sinned against.
Shakespeare, here as always, remains an unblinking observer of all sides of the moral equation. The Christians spit on Shylock, call him dog, do their best to make his business fail -- one of the only businesses that, by law, he was allowed to engage in. (It's an intriguing biographical footnote that Shakespeare's own father was brought up at one point on charges of usury.)
Shylock is no passive victim: he fights back with the one tool left him, the commitment of Venice to the rule of law. On the other hand, the awful judgement meted out to him at the end of the trial scene -- an economic straitjacket and a forced conversion -- is allowed to stand: I've seen the play done where Shylock is played as a stereotypical Jewish villain who gets a well-earned comeuppance. The attempts of many recent productions to build sympathy for Shylock are supported but are not required by the text itself. However nuanced the production -- and this one is finely nuanced -- this ambiguity about its sympathies makes it a very hard play to digest.
In other words, thought-provoking, unsettling, and worth every minute.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
There is something about Shylock that I absolutely love. He is huge. His hatred and his disdain for Venice's Christians throbs like a heart ready to burst. There is no rest nor slumber to his antipathy. Somehow, this wicked caricature of both man and race I still, however, adore more than the self-righteous charm of the aggrieved Christians and the obviously biased "Doctor of Laws".
I want desperately to somehow tie this review into the current administration, but I'm not there yet. Close. There is something there. Something that steams, swells and billows. Something from the dark corners of the Oval office that screams "I'll have my bond; speak not against my bond: I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond..." No. Perhaps Shylock isn't Trump or Bannon. Perhaps Shylock is those angry voters who are willing to watch it all burn because they are tired of being screwed by the left or the right. They know their anger will eventually cost them everything, but there is a moment when we all want a pound of flesh.
“I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano!” (Act 1, Scene 1)
“It is no mean happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean.” (Act 1, Scene 2)
“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?" (Act 3, Scene 1).”
“So many the outward shows be least themselves. The world is still deceived with ornament.” (Act 3, Scene 2)
“The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.” (Act 5, Scene 1)
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
This begins well- there is music, backround noises... it sounded good; Roger Allam was a satisfactory Antonio and the Bassiano had almost enough charm... But then it never boiled- never even heated up
The first warning that this was not going to be a fun spin through a Shakespeare comedy was when Shylock first spoke- for Shylock in this version is a very, very, very serious charecter. Not a single one of his jokes is played for a laugh- from first to last he is stern, sober and completely unlovable- he has no shades or moods- he is always grim and revengeful- his charecter never grows and he never grows in the least sympathetic- or in the least interesting. By producing such a PC Shylock they rip the living heart out of the play.
The next crashing failure was the clown, Launcelot- I don't think they were even trying to be funny. It seemed as if NAXOS had decided that this was a nasty, anti-semitic play and though they would record it faithfully, yet noone was to laugh in the process.
Emma Fielding as Portia broke the rule and did manage to sound amused, even manage a little laugh-but I don't think that she and her Bassiano even managed to convince themselves that they were in love, let alone the listener...
And so it dragged on, there was never any chemisty, never any real feeling, the court scene had no tension... No charecterisation- Lorenzo, Gratiano, Salerno etc. all remained interchangeable young men to the end.
In short it is just a faithful reading, the actors never really seemed 'off the book.'
5 of 7 people found this review helpful
This is one of my favourite plays and it was beautifully executed here. the performance did not detract from the story.