The Merchant Of Venice

The Merchant Of Venice

A BBC Radio Shakespeare production
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Summary

In this BBC full-cast production of The Merchant of Venice, love, bigotry, greed, and justice are entwined.

Shakespeare's classic play explores the eternal themes of love and hate, mercy and justice, with parallel stories centred on the moneylender, Shylock, and the lovers, Portia and Bassanio. Shylock's angry insistence on the repayment of his debt from Bassanio ends in the Venetian courts, where he demands his pound of flesh. Portia meanwhile, a wealthy young Venetian woman, must marry one of her many suitors. Her late father's will has set the challenge by means of three caskets: one gold, one silver and one lead.

Warren Mitchell stars as Shylock, with Martin Jarvis as Antonio, Samuel West as Bassanio and Juliet Aubrey as Portia.

This superb production of Shakespeare's dramatic and complex play is directed by the award-winning Peter Kavanagh, and features specially-composed music by the renowned Barrington Pheloung.

BBC radio has a unique heritage when it comes to Shakespeare. Since 1923, when the newly-formed company broadcast its first full-length play, generations of actors and producers have honed and perfected the craft of making Shakespeare to be heard.

In this acclaimed BBC Radio Shakespeare series, each play is introduced by Richard Eyre, former Director of the Royal National Theatre. Revitalised, original and comprehensive, this is Shakespeare for the modern day.

About the author

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, and was baptised on 26 April 1564. His father was a glove maker and wool merchant and his mother, Mary Arden, was the daughter of a well-to-do local land owner. Shakespeare was probably educated in Stratford’s grammar school. In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, and the couple had a daughter the following year and twins in 1585.

Shakespeare’s theatrical life seems to have commenced around 1590. We do know that he was part of the Lord Chamberlain’s Company, which was renamed the King’s Company in 1603 when James I succeeded to the throne. The Company acquired interests in two theatres in the Southwark area of London, near the banks of the Thames - the Globe and the Blackfriars.

Shakespeare’s poetry was published before his plays, with two poems appearing in 1593 and 1594, dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. Most of Shakespeare’s sonnets were probably written at this time as well.

Records of Shakespeare’s plays begin to appear in 1594, and he produced roughly two a year until around 1611. His earliest plays include Henry VI and Titus Andronicus. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice and Richard II all date from the mid to late 1590s. Some of his most famous tragedies were written in the early 1600s; these include Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra. His late plays, often known as the Romances, date from 1608 onwards and include The Tempest.

Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1623 and is known as ‘the First Folio’.
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