A couple of people were expressing fears and anxieties about tomorrow’s pods, mostly I suspect due to low confidence, so for a brief time only (until I get a message from one pin particular) I am putting up a handful of ideas for you to scrawl down and take into the pod. You’ll still have to have some ideas of your own prepared but this should give you some ammunition to get you started.
1) Whether Shylock is a good or positive character is almost irrelevant. Shakespeare’s real achievement is making him a believable, complex character. The same person can be prejudiced enough to say “I hate him for he is a Christian” and later deliver his amazing “hath not a jew eyes” soliloquy. We like him because, like all human beings, he is not perfect, and we can all relate to that.
2) Portia is interesting because she defies the expectations of her own period. In Shakespeare’s day women were not expected to be strong characters, indeed they were even forbidden from acting on the stage. But here we have a female character with wit, intelligence and cunning. It is a woman that undoes Shylock’s bond – a radical idea at the time. Remember, none of the men knew how to get Antonio out of his situation.
3) The prejudice in the play is quite appalling to us as modern readers, but the play was written as a comedy so the audience of Elizabethan London were expected to laugh at Shylock as a pathetic, money-grabbing character. It reveals a lot about Shakespeare’s society, and how far we have progressed, that Shylock can now provoke ANY sympathy in the audience.
4) Shakespeare show his genius in writing almost the entire play within a rigid iambic pentameter, a foem of poetry that must have every line go de-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de-dum. How remarkable that even within this tight frame he manages to create such colourful and provocative characters.
5) Should we really be delighted that Shylock’s daughter not only wants to leave him, but also to rob him and disgrace her mother’s memory? She’s no better than her father in seeking revenge but we still seem to think she’s the one who has been wronged.
6) The punishment of the court is grotesque. How can it ever be considered fair that, after a man has had all his money taken off him in punishment, he must also give up his religion. This cannot ever be acceptable. If it happened in today’s courts the media would go absolutely bananas at the disregard for his right to personal faith.
7) Shylock becomes blinded by revenge. In the court scene, this is what causes his downfall. His desire for revenge is greater than his desire for money, and if he had been able to let the offences against him go he would have been much richer and justice would have been done.
I hope these are of some use. Remember, it’s only a conversation and EVERYONE is entitled to their opinion. You can always finish a point by saying, “That’s a fair point but I disagree.”