It has been recognised for a long time that The Merchant of Venice is experienced as insulting by Jewish people, who constitute a minority in Western Europe and North America. So powerful, though, is the reputation of Shakespeare’s all-embracing ‘humanity’ that this scandal has often been set aside. Nevertheless, in 1994 a newspaper article entitled ‘Shylock, Unacceptable Face of Shakespeare?’ described how directors were acknowledging that the text requires radical alterations before it can be produced in good faith.1 David Thacker at the Royal Shakespeare Company was changing some of Shylock’s most famous lines and moving scenes around. And Jude Kelly at the West Yorkshire Playhouse was presenting a Portia ready to embrace racist attitudes in her determination to be worthy of her father and a Jessica weeping inconsolably at the end as she laments her loss of her Jewish heritage.
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