Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Michael Radford's Adaptation: The Merchant of Venice


In viewing the film adaptation of Shakespeare's play, we can better visualize the nature of character and conflict as it develops through the five acts. Also, it is important to consider how the play is interpreted through the eyes of the director. We must keep in mind the various prejudices--which is to say, preconceptions or biases--that the director has in making the movie. In other words, what issues become central to him or her in crafting an adaptation of a play written centuries earlier?

With that in mind, please answer the following questions in complete sentences:

1. What is the central issue upon which Radford focuses in adapting the play to film?

2. How is Venice portrayed; How is Belmont portrayed? What effect does this create in terms of atmosphere and dramatic function?

3. Remember what I said about the value of male friendship in Elizabethan England? In Shakespeare's time it was valued over and above the marriage bond between a man and a woman. How does Radford portray the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio in the film? Be specific in referring to instances in the movie to support your answer.

4. Shylock. How can he be considered a tragic hero? Does the film have us sympathizing with him in a spirit of both pity and fear? How does the film portray his character? Are we supposed to feel a certain way towards him? Does Portia display any sort of remorse for the way he was treated in court? If so, how does that come across in her mannerisms?

5. Portia. What's your opinion regarding her role, her character in the film? Think about the suppressed role of women during Shakespeare's time and the way her character contrasts with opression. What is her protest? How does she protest?

6. Last question: Was this an accurate re-presentation of the play? Explain.


Gianni Campellone said...

1) I think the central issue upon which Radford focases on in the film is to accurately portray the film onhow it is presented in the book.

2)Venice is portrayed as a sad,dreary place,a dirty place to live in. Belmont however is portrayed as a beautiful place. It is certainly a contrast to Venice.These two cities create a good and a evil atmosphere to the play and in the movie.

3)Radford portrays male frindship with Antonio and Bassanio very strongly.Antonio is willing to give his life for Bassanio by funding him on his trip . Bassanio in turn shows his thankfulness with a kiss.Something in which today would seem gay.

Gianni Campellone said...

4) Shylock can be considered a tragic hero because of the way he is treated. Though he`s not a hero he is a tragic figure.The film does have us sympathizing with shylock .we do pity him because the way he is treated.We should feel hatred for him based on the play.

5)Portia`s role is to be the person who overcomes opression. In a society ruled by men she finds authority by dressing as a man. And only as a man could she exert her power.

MC-Devitt said...

1. I think that Michael Radford is trying to stress the importance of friendship, and love in the movie. He makes sure to portray the love scenes and the scenes where the men are together very carefully.
2. Venice is portrayed as a upscale, rich, dirty, place that is a mix of cultures. There seems to be a lack of love, especially with all of the women roaming the streets and partying going on. Belmont is portrayed as an almost fairytale land of perfection. It is an imaginary place where mens true values are brought forward. The extreme contrast in the two make an interesting twist in the play because each scene is back and forth between perfection and lack there of. It allows us to examine the ups and downs in our own real lives.
3. Radford makes sure to show the important male friendship by having the two constantly looking out for each other and giving up for the other. He has them kiss to seal their trust in one another.
4. The film show Shylock as a rich man who is looked down upon because of his religion and has his money and daughter taken way for the same reasons. It gives us reasons to side with him and sympathize for him, but it shows him just wanting to get back at everybody for their transgressions.
5. She is a beautiful woman that knows what she wants, but is honorable enough to keep her fathers will and let the suitor's have a chance at winner her. She protests this by trying to hint wrongly at chests.
6. The movies is a lot closer to the play than I imagined it would be. It has rather good character selection and they play their roles well. It is not line for line and the character are a little different from in the book but the way they are portrayed doesn't seem to affect the main plot.

Rob Gill said...

1.) I think that the central issue which Radford focuses on to adapt the play to the film is the feel of passion that the story gives you, both the love and hate.

2.) Venice is portrayed as the Jewish slums, very dirty and harsh. While Belmont is like a fantasy, it is a very idealistic society.

3.) The brotherhood between Antonio and Bassanio is very strong. Bassanio and Antonio look after each other. The kiss was a big example of their love and friendship for each other. Antonio willingly signs a bond that would give his life to shylock for money to support Bassanio's journey.

4.) We are given the view of Shylock as a Jew money lender who is disliked by christians. This is a reason for us to feal sympathy for him and to be on his side. We show pity for Shylock While the play tells us different. The play tells us we shouldnt like shylock for the same reasons that he was hated for in the society.

5.) I think that Portia seems to be almost supressing the men in a sense. She brings them in to try and win her love with a pick of a chest. She even tricks some men into picking the wrong chest. She really wants her true love Bassanio by her side for the rest of her life so she plays a couple of tricks to make this happen for her, while still trying to follow her fathers will as close as possible.

6.) I think that the movie was a great portrayal of the play. Usually movies will guide you in a different direction than a book would go, but this play seeing it acted out gave me a better understanding of the book. Some of the wording in the book was cleared up with the way it was said in the movie and the surroundings, the movie gave me a better understanding of what somethings being said in the book ment.

Matt Engle said...

1. I think the central issue for Radford in adapting this play to film are themes of love, frinedship and revenge. It demonstrates love in the movies many marriages and people lving one another. There is friendship and the saxrifices we make for our friends such as Antoino's lending Bassanio 3000 ducats. There is aslo a hnit of revenge which is shown through Shylock's willingness to get back at Antonio.

2. Venice is protrayed as a very populated city and is a city that is in somewhat of turmoil. There were people on the streets and people were walking around half dressed. Belmont however seemed to be a very nice, serene, and majestic place. There was no turmoil in Belmont just peace and serenity. This creates the effect of atmosphere in showing the difference between a city in turmoil and a city that is not.

3. Radfird definitely shows a relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. There is firstly the lending of the 3000 ducats by Antonio to Bassanio. It seems to me that Antonio and maybe even Bassanio like each other in an almost homosexual way.

4. Shylock could be considered a tagic hero because he suffers great humiliation and hate from Antonio. Yes it does have me synpathizing with him because of all of the degrading and condescending he has gone through. We are originally supposed to see him as the bad guy but to me he is protrayed as a tragic hero. People sucha s Portia do show some remorse for him because all of his life has been crulety and humiliation all becuase he was a Jew.

5. Portia seems to be a very prominent women and the saviour of Bassanio. Although women in her time were very much suppressed, Portia protested to this through her prominent figure throughout the play. Portia is a woman of her father's word but when she sees som ething she desires, she will give it all she has to attain it.

6. I think it was a fairly decent representaiton of the play. Most of everything in the book happened exactly the same way in the movie. The only thing that was a little different was the tragic hero role that Shylock took in the movie but not in the book.

Gianni Campellone said...

6)I think the movie was a good re-presentation of the book. The lines were straight out of the play. The movie also kept on track.The directers didn`t cut out any sceans nor add anything that wasen`t in the play.
The movie was just like the play down the the last word.

Alex Drost said...

1. I think the central issue for the film was the love. Love was portrayed at various points, between Bassanio and Portia, Gratiano and Nerissa, Bassanio and Antonio, and the suitors coming to Belmont.

2. Venice is portrayed as a dark and gloomy place. Most scenes, if not all, are gray and cloudy, or even raining. Belmont is joyous and bright, with the sun shining always. These portrayals of the places set the attitude in that place; Venice is sad with Bassanio gone and Shylock in debt while Belmont is upbeat with love and marriage.

3. Antonio and Bassanio are good friends who would put their own life on the line for the other person. Antonio risked his life for Bassanio for the money form Shylock. While, Bassanio felt he had to leave Portia or postpone their marriage to save Antonio in Belmont.

4. I personally feel sympathetic towards shylock because the Christians treat him horribly and he does have emotion. Shylock is disrespected and does not deserve that harsh treatment. We haven't seen the court part of the movie yet.

5. Portia is a free, boundless woman in Belmont. My opinion is that she is a carefree young lady looking for a husband but cannot do so without the burden of the will. Portia's freedom and superiority to many characters is quite the opposite to the other women during this time.

6. Watching the movie, I felt that it was a great interpretation of the play. Certain actions were performed that the book just does not show. The true emotion of Shylock's speech and Bassanio's vow of love came out during the video.

Pat Monteith said...

1.It seems to me that the issue he really focused on was the lack of love for the Jews. Shylock (who in the movie is Al Pacino if im not mistaken) really shows the frustration of being a Jew in a moslty Christian society.

2.Hmm well it seems to me that all of the times they show Venice in the movie its raining, which brings upon a sort of darkness about the place. In Belmont, however, it always seems sunny...and of course because Portia lives there, it makes the scene selection superb :)

3.Well one specific scene that portrays more of a love between a mans friendship than a man and a woman's relationship was when Bassanio kissed Antonio. Also how Antonio felt when Bassanio was gone for a short period of time, almost as if Antonio was longing for Bassanio.

4.Actually, i do not see Shylock as a tragic hero at all; if anyone the tragic hero would be Bassanio. Regarding how to feel towards Shylock i do sympathetic because overall he does not seem as bad of a guy as portrayed in the novel. He really just seems like a guy who is trying to get by being a Jew in a Christian society. We have not gottin to the trial part of the movie yet.

5.I think she is a really neat character in the story in that she is not at all like other women(so it seems) because her beauty is not shown through her showings of her breasts, but of who she is personality wise. All of the women in the movie other than a couple (portia and Nerissa)act whorish.

6.I think it was pretty acurate (from what we've seen so far) there are bits and pieces, however, that are either cut or slightly stray from the novel.

Pat Monteith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Kelly said...

1. The central issue that Radford focuses on in the film is that of love. The different displays of love in the film are Bassanio's love for Portia, Antonio's love of Bassanio, and Gratanio's love for Nerissa.

2. Venice seems to be portrayed as a dirty and gloomy city, while Belmont seems to be clean and filled with hope. This hope is the hope that Portia will find her true love. The effect that this makes displays how events unfold in the city. Belmont is bright and beautiful, like Bassanio's love for Portia. Venice is depressing because Antonio is being held by Shylock and almost killed.

3. Bassanio and Antonio have a very rare friendship. They would be willing to die to save their friend. Antonio risks himself by giving Bassanio the money to support his trip to Belmont.

4. Shylock can be a tragic hero because he is a charcter who has a tragic flaw; his lust for revenge. The film portrays his character as a "better person" than the book does. In the book, he seems evil, but in the movie I feel bad for him cause you see how poorly he is treated. Portia shows remorse because she realizes how badly he has been mistreated and she feels pity for him.

5. I think that Portia is very sure of what she wants in her husband but she is confused about how to get it. She wants Bassanio to choose the right case but she doesnt want to cheat her oath by telling him which one to pick. She is not like other women of her time because she is a strong character.

6. I think that this was an accurate re-presentation of the play because the dialogue in the film was exactly how it was in the novel. I also liked the film version of the play because it gave me a better picture of the setting.

p.drisk said...

1. I think that the central issue Radford was dealing with was interpreting the play into modern day language that everyone would understand.

2. Venice is portrayed as a kind of dim, dirty, noisy place whereas Belmont is portrayed as a light, clean, quite place. In the movie Venice is sort of a hell and Belmont is like Heaven, in Venice Shylock wants to kill whereas in Belmont Bassanio is peaceful and in love.

3. Bassanio and Antonio’s relationship seem to be a strong one in which even Antonio bets his life for the sake of Bassanio. In the movie Bassanio is more moved in hearing his friend Antonio being tried by Shylock in court for his death then getting married and inheriting a fortune.

4. Shylock can be defined as a tragic hero because he had everything going for him, even the life of his enemy, but then he lost everything he loved: his money and his daughter. I don’t think the film has any pity for Shylock because he seems to be greedy. I think the film portrays Shylock as a kind of villain in the way that he wishes to kill Antonio and seems to be very greedy with his ducats. Portia feels no remorse towards him because he wishes to kill her husband’s best friend and does not feel shame in doing so.

5. Portia in the film is a woman with class. Portia, in the book, is sly in the way she disguises herself as a man to go to court to help Antonio. Portia protests herself in the way that she dressed up as a man to feel that she has a say in court to.

6. Yes this was an accurate representation of the play minus all of the boobs. I think that the acting in the movie was really good and helped portray the characters attitude.

Phil said...

1. I think the central issue that Radford focuses on is the prejudice against Jews. He really focuses on Shylock and the oppression on all the Jews in Venice. Also he cast Al Pacino, the biggest star in the movie, as Shylock which shows he cares about Shylock and the character a lot.

2. In the film adaptation of "The Merchant of Venice" the city of Venice is portrayed as a realistic place of sin and misery. Outside it is always cloudy and raining or on the verge of rain. By night and day there are ho's with there titties hanging out all crazy like. In Belmont though it is a romanticists island of happiness and wonder. There is always a glow and sunshine around Belmont. This shows a contrast between the ups and downs of the play and the plot within the cities.

3. Bassanio and Antonio are really tight within the movie. They are always kissing and hugging and giving the nod of acknowledgment from afar. They even pledge oaths and stuff for each other. The biggest moment of male bond is Antonio putting up his flesh for Bassanio and when he thinks he has to have the flesh taken from Shylock he wants Bassanio at least to see him do it.

4. In the film Shylock and the whole Jewish community of Venice are portrayed as oppressed and hated by the Christian majority in the city. Shylock himself is portrayed as mean but only because of the meanness towards him by Christians. In the book Portia does show Shylock some remorse. She will show him mercy after he refused mercy for Antonio.

5. Within the story of the "Merchant of Venice" Portia contrasts the oppression against women in her relationship with Bassanio. Bassanio is the man and is noble, but Portia has all the bling-bling and even bails out Bassanio;s friend Antonio because Bassanio couldn't.

6. I think the movie was a good re-presentation of the book. It followed the story and plot exactly and focused on the important themes within the story. especially the Jewish oppression which I think the director wanted to show specifically because of the prejudices in todays society with blacks and Muslims.

Chris Thiers said...

1. I think that the director focused in on love (obviously) between lovers and friends. However, I also think that he really focused on anti- semitism in Venice. He really focused in on all of the prejudices that Shylock experienced (getting spit on, laughed at, humiliated, etc.) and showing him differently than in the book as an old man crushed by the loss of his daughter, his money, and pride and hungry for revenge.
2. The city of Venice was portrayed as a foggy, sort of back alley place full of violence and prejudice and where lots of prostitutes walk around with breasts exposed. Belmont was portrayed as a sort of Eden or Utopia where beauty thrives. There is a great contrast between these two cities and the director portrayed it very well.
3. The director showed the love and friendship between Antonio and Bassanio well. There was one instance where Bassanio kisses Antonio full on the lips after he decides to help Bassanio find money . There is also a scene that truly shows their friendship where Antonio pledges a pound of his flesh if his debt is not paid within the appointed time.
4. Shylock could be considered a tragic hero. He undergoes much prejudice and one cannot help but understand his longing for revenge. The audience feels pity for Shylock and all that he goes through but also regards with some fear in his vicious revenge. I think Portia sees this when she is at the trial and tries to find other solutions that would give him a very profitable bargain for his unpaid debt but one that would not threaten Antonio's life.
5. I think that the character of Portia in the movie was very good. I expected her to be a little bit more strong-willed but it showed her frustration and her sad isolation as various suitors opened the caskets.
6. I think that this movie was a very accurate re-presentation of the book. It had very good actors and it was easier to see the play because it showed their emotions. It is harder to tell the emotion of the character while reading Shakespeare's play because they were meant to be seen, not read. It also gave good insight of what life was like for Jews in Venice and how anti-semitism affected their lives.

Sean Gillespie said...

1) After watching the movie I feel that the central theme upon which Radford bases the film is that of love. The refers not only to successful love such as between Bassanio and Portia, Gratanio and Nerissa,Lorenzo and Jessica, and Bassanio and Antonio, but also the love lost between characters such as Shylock and Antonio and Portia and her suitors.

2) Venice is protrayed as a city which induces a gloomy and hopeless feeling. The city is itself is very dark and dirty and many of the occurences within Venice are either depressing or lead to depressing instances. Belmont is depicted not realy as a city, but instead only the island and Portia's mansion are show nad Belmont has a very uplifting feel. This set up the movie and introduces Portia as an uplifting character and Venice as a place of bad occurences.

3) Radford portrays Antonio and Bassanio as the absolute closest of friends. This gets even to the point where they could be considered gay in today's world. Of course the most prominent instance of this "love" is when they kiss.

4) Shylock could be see as a tragic hero because he was persecuted all his life and lost his daughter. He now has the opportunity, in Antonio, to gain a "victory" and extract revenge upon the Christians. In the book Portia show simpathy towards Shylock because he has been so persecuted, but in the movie we have not gotten that far yet.

5) Portia's role is very different from the role of many women in that time because she is bold enough to stand up for what she believes in. She diguises herself as a man and becomes a part of Antonio's trial even though women were not allowed to do so.

6) So far, up to the point in the movie we have reached the movie is very accurate in regards to the book.

Rlonergan said...

1) I think that Radford concentrated on two different issues: love and revenge. Shylock is a vengeful character and this plays a great role in the movie's representation of the play, and the love and companionship between Portia, Bassanio, and Antonio also greatly impact the movie.

2) Venice is usually portrayed as the normal bustling city (with the exception of the canals, of course) occasionally giving it great beauty but sometimes turning it into a place of dread, such as during the thunderstorm. This creates an emotional response from the viewer depending on the mood.

3) Bassanio and Antonio are very close in both the play and the movie. This is shown through Antonio's desire to see Bassanio before his death, through Antonio's willingness to help Antonio and through Bassanio's willingness to ask for that help, and through the scene in which they kiss each other.

4) Shylock can be viewed as a tragic hero in that he was always ridiculed and now he is getting his revenge for all of the nasty things that were done to him, such as Jessica leaving him and being spat upon. I believe he is still supposed to be the hated character though because of his lack of mercy and his cruel demeanor throughout the movie. We did not yet reach the court scene, so Portia's reactions to Shylock have not yet been seen.

5) During Shakespeare's time, women belonged at the home and had no role outside of it. Even in the home, women were to be almost servants to men. Portia fights this oppression - for example, she takes efforts to help herself gain the husband which she actually desires instead of the awful ones, and she commands Bassanio to always wear the ring.

6) I believe this movie was an accurate representation of the play because it captures the mood of every major part of the play and even expands on it in many cases. For example, in the scene in which the men are begging Shylock to take mercy, Shylock's actor in the movie really captures the mood, and in my opinion this was done as well as- if not better than- the play called for.

Mike McKibbin said...

1. The central issue upon which Radford focuses is love. The film emphasizes the love between Nerissa and Gratanio, Portia and Bassanio, and the lack of love between Antonio and Shylock.

2. Venice is not portrayed as a gloomy, unpleasant place. Belmont is portrayed as the opposite, a Utopia. A deliberate contrast between the two is made.

3. The relationship between Antonio and Bassanio seems to be strong, with Antonio guaranteeing a pound of his flesh to Bassanio. The friendship between the two is very close.

4. Shylock can be viewed as a tragic hero. He is held in contempt by all of the Christians in the city, even being spit upon. We are supposed to feel pity for him. as nothing positive happened to him during the movie.

5. Portia seems to oppose the other women in the movie, by standing up for herself. By dressing up as a man, she shows that she opposes the way women were treated at the time.

6. While the movie was somewhat biased toward Shylock, it seemed to be an accurate representation of the play. It addresses all major themes encountered in the play.

B-Hilz said...

1. I think the director focuses on the prejudice of jews and also making the play easier to understand.

2. Venice is portrayed as a dirty city where bad things are happening. Belmont is a beautiful island isolated from society. There is much more calmness in Belmont because they don't get involved in society's issues.

3. In the movie Antonio is more focused on the friendship than Basanio is. Basanio is more focused on his own gain.

4.Shylock is pitied when his daughter runs away. But he looses his money as well and he seems more concerned about the money than his daughter. He is also outraged when he sees Antonio without his money.

5. Portias character is different because she boldly runs Belmont. In a position where men usually take. She does however shy away from her power when she dresses up as a man because she is not bold enough to do this a herself.

6. The film was a great re- presentation of the play. I found it easier to understand by watching the movie then reading the book.

Tom Rose said...

1) The central issue upon which Radford focuses in adapting the play to film is the prejudice against jews by the Christians.

2) Venice is portrayed as sort of 'dirty' with prostitutes, crime and jews where as Belmont is portrayed as clean and fresh. This sets up a contrast.

3) Their relationship is very 'brotherly' in terms of Antonio sacrificing his own flesh for his brother Bassanio.

4) He can be viewed as a tragic hero because he loses his daughter and his money. They display him as a wise elderly Jew. We're supposed to feel sympathetic towards him in the movie as he gets spat upon, etc.

5) She sticks up for the fact that in Shakespeare's time women had no prominent role whatsoever in society. She protests this fact. She makes Bassanio always wear his ring.

6) It was a pretty accurate re-presentation of the play, highlighting some different facts in different manners.