The Merchant of Venice: Tragic Dissonance in the Play and Film

The Merchant of Venice: Tragic Dissonance in the Play and Film

A Story by DarkAspen

Michael Radford, the director of the film The Merchant of Venice from the original play written by William Shakespeare, gave his movie a more dramatic showing of the play than Shakespeare did. Radford tilted the play in a more tragic dissonance instead of balancing it in a more comic harmony way by using Characterization, Love Plot(s), and additional Scenes.

            The tone of voice in play is lighter or comedic compared to the films tone, dark and serious. Two examples that are both in the play and the film are Shylock crying over his daughter Jessica and the scene where Portia and Nerissa trick their husbands Gratiano and Bassanio, by acting like judges during the Trial Scene. Even though the two scenes are both in the play and the film, they have very different tones. In the play Shylocks crying for his daughter doesn’t show as much. The scene shows that he is crying for his money instead of his own child. And the “trick” scene seems more lighter and funny. But, in the film, the scenes have more of a tragic tone. Shylock cries for Jessica instead of him crying for his money. And the trick scene is very dark and serious because of the promise both Gratiano and Bassanio broke to their wives. As a viewer to the film you feel sad and scared because you don’t exactly know how the director finished the work compared to the way William Shakespeare did.

            Shylock is a rich Jewish man who likes to make bonds with people. This bond is in the play and the film during the Trial scene where he is about to cut the heart out of Antonio’s chest. In the play you are guessing Shylock’s emotion and you’re not sure if there is a double meaning behind his words, but in the film Shylocks emotions are very clear and there is no second guessing on whether Shylock is either Dehumanized or Humanized. Shylock is humanized because he shows signs of emotion in the film. But is dehumanized because of a Flesh Bond plot that he has created with Antonio.

            Antonio is a merchant, a man with lots of money, and has strong emotions for Bassanio in the film. In the film the Love Plot that is more profound is the love between Bassanio and Antonio, but in the play the love plot is more profound toward Portia and Bassanio. The scene that you see where the Antonio and Bassanio love plot comes out is when they are both in Antonio’s bed chamber. Bassanio and Antonio kiss on the cheek at first then stare into each other’s eyes and then kiss on the lips. And the way you can tell that the love plot is shifted toward Bassanio and Portia is when Bassanio chooses the correct casket during the casket test. But in the end of both the film and the play Antonio ends up by himself.

            Now the last way that Radford tilts play in a more tragic dissonance is by using scenes. In the play Shakespeare has a scene where young Gobo plays and jokes around with his father, Old Gobo. Radford left this scene out of his film. He did so because he wants a more serious tone and wants to show that it’s not funny. But Radford does include scenes that were not in the play; wedding scene between Portia and Bassanio, the opening scene where the audience sees how the Jewish were really treated and the last scene where we see Jessica looking at the ring that she stole from her father and looks at the ring in remorse and regret.

            From reading the play and watching the film I have learned a few things about the writer and the director. I learned that William Shakespeare was a prejudice man because of the time period he lived in and that Michael Radford is a man who feels bad for what has happened and wants to change the past. And that’s what Radford does, changes that past. Not in a literal sense but in a visual sense, by his film The Merchant of Venice.



© 2010 DarkAspen

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Added on December 15, 2010
Last Updated on December 15, 2010




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