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The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare

29 Jun - 7 Jul 2018

Shaun Hughes


Performances

Fri 7:45pm, Sat 2:45pm, Mon 7:45pm, Tue 7:45pm, Wed 7:45pm, Thu 7:45pm, Fri 7:45pm, Sat 7:45pm

Synopsis

The Merchant of Venice is a truly great but controversial play about sex, love, betrayal, honesty, money and forgiveness. Though classified in the Folio of 1623 as a comedy and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare’s other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps best known, particularly in the 20th and 21st Centuries, for its dramatic scenes, harsh treatment of the Jewish characters and famous speeches. It is for some a play that celebrates tolerance and for others an anti-Semitic work.

Synopsis: The play opens in Venice with the merchant of the title, Antonio, bemoaning his life; despite his wealth and status, he has not been lucky in love. A very close friend, Bassanio, needs a loan of three thousand ducats so that he can woo Portia, a wealthy heiress of Belmont. He approaches Antonio for a loan, but Antonio’s wealth is invested in his mercantile fleet, which is currently at sea. To assist his downcast friend, Antonio goes to a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who agrees to make the loan, but it must be repaid in time or Shylock will exact a pound of flesh from Antonio. Antonio agrees even though Bassanio begs him not to under such conditions. Hearing of Bassanio’s suit, Launcelot Gobbo, Shylock’s serving-man, leaves Shylock’s household to become Bassanio’s servant.

Under the terms of Portia’s father’s will, all suitors are challenged to a love test and must choose from 3 caskets, one gold, one silver and one lead. One of the caskets contains a portrait of Portia. To marry Portia and thereby obtain her wealth, all suitors must pass the test and choose the right casket. The Princes of Morocco and Aragon fail the test by choosing the wrong caskets and are rejected. In Venice, a young friend of Bassanio and his follower Gratiano, Lorenzo elopes with Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, who steals her father’s money and jewels and the lovers flee to Belmont with Bassanio. Bassanio immediately takes the test and chooses the correct casket and Portia, full of love, agrees to marry him immediately.

Meanwhile, two of Antonio’s ships have been wrecked and Antonio’s creditors are asking for payment. Consumed with grief at the loss of his daughter and wealth, Shylock demands the letter of his bond. Word comes to Bassanio about Antonio’s predicament, and he hurries back to Antonio’s side, leaving Portia in Belmont. Accompanied by her maid, Nerissa, Portia secretly follows him, determined to find a way to help her new husband.

In the Duke of Venice’s court, Shylock demands his pound of flesh from the recently arrested Antonio. Portia decides to help the best way she can and arrives disguised as a lawyer to defend Antonio. Making a passionate speech about the nature of mercy, Portia states that Shylock can have the pound of flesh as long as he doesn’t draw a drop of blood; Shylock is defeated. More-over, for conspiring to murder a Venetian citizen, Portia orders that he should forfeit all his wealth and convert to Christianity. Portia returns to Belmont and awaits the arrival of her husband, eager to reveal her part in his triumph in court.

Audition

Audition Sat 10 February 2018 2:00pm foyer
Audition Sun 18 February 2018 2:00pm foyer

Characters

Antonio A merchant of Venice (middle age/mature) is enigmatic, as are his feelings for Bassiano. A successful businessman, he is thoughtful, kind and supportive of friends, but is also aloof from the happiness around him and follows the Venetian custom of belittling religious outsiders. Many modern productions have found the source of Antonio’s melancholy in a an unrequited love for Bassiano.

Bassanio A friend of Antonio and suitor to Portia (20s/30s). Bassanio is a charming playboy. He spends money without thought to obtain his objective. He has a persuasive tongue and uses it freely. Born into a high ranking family but not into wealth. He can played as a callous fortune hunter or an amiable, pure hearted young man.

Lorenzo Friend to Bassanio (20s/30s). In love with Shylock’s daughter – Jessica. Determined to steal Jessica away from her home at any cost. A supporter of religious intolerance, he asks Jessica to convert to Christianity before he will wed her. Like Bassanio, a noble, but not wealthy.

Gratianio A drinking friend to Antonio & Bassanio (middle age). A loud mouth drinker, bigoted and quick to fight. He does have a warmth hidden deep inside, as he marries Portia’s maid, Nerissa at the end of the story.

Salerio & Solanio Female friends of Bassanio & Antonio (any age). Two parts normally played by men, however, in this production they can be played by women. Gossips who enjoy spreading news, true or false.

Portia An heiress of Belmont (20s/30s). Intelligent and lonely. Feels objectified by her father’s will, but tolerates his demands. A strong and courageus woman, able to hold her own as a male lawyer in court. Truly in love with Bassanio.

Nerissa Portia’s maid (any age). A loving and supportive maid and confidante to Portia.

Prince of Aragon Suitor to Portia (any age). A foppish and snobby man come to marry Portia for her wealth.

Prince of Morocco Suitor to Portia (any age). A sun tanned warrior prince. Keen to obtain status and wealth by marrying Portia.

Shylock A Jewish money lender of Venice (middle age). A troubling character, he is a successful widowed money lender. Strict father to Jessica. A strong minded man of business with a guiding faith, he has obsessively built his life around his daughter, his faith and his wealth, when these are threatened, he descends into a kind of madness and demands the fulfilment of his ‘merry bond’.

Jessica Daughter to Shylock (20s/30s). A Jewish girl in love with a Christian. She gives up everything and steals money from her father to pay for her elopment. A thoughtful girl well aware of the consequences of her actions, but unable not to follow her heart.

Launcelot Gobo Shylock’s (comic) serving man. (20s/40s). This role has elements of stand-up comedy. Launcelot has been Jessica’s only friend and acts as go between for her and Lorenzo. Outspoken and can comment on the action.

Old Gobo Launcelot’s blind, bumbling father. (60s upwards). One comedy scene.

Tubal A Jewish contemporary friend of Shylock. Sent by Shylock to find Jessica, has one important scene. The role is sometimes enlarged and can be an opportunity to show the Jewish Community’s re-action to Shylock’s obsession with the fulfilment of his bond.

The Duke of Venice (30s upwards) Authority figure who presides over the trial. Can be male or female.

Plus several named servants with a few lines each.

For a list of audition pieces, please call Shaun on 07971 815883. Please note: the ages above are playing ages and not set in stone. The ages given are just a guide. If you want to audition for a role, please do so, no matter what age or gender.