How would a modern audience respond to Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice'?

Essay by mehr March 2004

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A modern audience would respond to Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' differently to the early 1600s audience because the play is meant to be comedy. The first audience would laugh and a modern audience wouldn't because the language is difficult to understand as many words have changed. Main differences would be would be the vocabulary and terms used in the 17th century.

'Launcelot says ' turn up your right hand at the next turning, but at the next turning of all on your left, marry at the very next turning turn of no hand, but turn down indirectly to the Jews house.'

There is just a slight difficulty in understanding the play for the modern audience, but this would not pose a problem in understanding a delightful play such as 'The Merchant of Venice'.

The main themes of 'The Merchant of Venice' are racism, revenge and love.

Racism is towards Jews i.e. Shylock mainly because he has money and is of a different religion. As many people of different religions in that period were called unbelievers.

Signs of racism are seen when Antonio spits on Shylock's gabardine and calls him 'cut throat dog.' Shylock couldn't do anything because Christians had different rights to Jews at that time.

When Bassanio wanted to borrow 3000 ducats from Antonio to woo Portia, but Antonio's money is overseas, so Antonio went to Shylock, the money lender. Shylock asked why he should lend him money after everything he had done. Antonio says he will still call him names and spit on his gaberdine. Shylock agrees to lend 3000 ducats to him but if the money isn't back after 3 months Shylock will take a pound of flesh from Antonio's body - nearest to the heart.

This shows...