There are in the region of thirteen film adaptations of The Merchant of Venice, with the earliest (1908) being an American silent film with William V. Ranous as Shylock and Julia Swayne-Gordon as Portia. However, the problem is that many of them are filmed excerpts of the play and not, in any significant way, efforts to re-present the play through the medium of film. The BBC produced the earliest television version in 1947, with Abraham Sofaer as Shylock and Margaretta Scott as Portia, which was followed by an Italian film in 1952 and three television productions in 1955, 1972 and 1980 (Davies and Wells, 1994, pp. 18–49). Two theatrical productions, one directed by Jonathan Miller with Laurence Olivier as Shylock and Joan Plowright as Portia (1969), and the other by Trevor Nunn with Henry Goodman as Shylock and Derbhle Crotty as Portia (2000), were subsequently reproduced as video recordings and will serve as examples for our analysis. There are two other video productions of the play that are readily available. They are: Cedric Messina — director; Frank Finlay — Shylock; Maggie Smith — Portia (BBC, 1972); and Jack Gold — director; Warren Mitchell — Shylock; Gemma Jones — Portia (BBC/Time Life, 1980). Both television productions suffered the fate of many televised productions of the time in that they are generally regarded as anodyne attempts to place the entire canon on televisual record. Warren Mitchell’s casting as Shylock should have been important if only for the fact that it offers the example of a Jewish actor playing the part. However, Mitchell presents Shylock in precisely the manner that Antony Sher sought to avoid — ‘the stage Yid’ — and the serious attempt to deal with anti-Semitism is dissipated.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- The Play on Screen
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number