Merchant of Venice
|Narrated By:||A Full Cast|
|Date:||19 March 2005|
In Shakespeare’s most controversial play, the opposing values of justice and mercy must be resolved. Antonio promises money to help his friend Bassanio woo Portia. He borrows the sum needed from the cruel Shylock, but there will be a dreadful penalty if the loan is not repaid.
The golden world of Portia’s Belmont calls forth some of Shakespeare’s most lyrical love poetry. But the dark shadow of Shylock is never far from the heart of this brilliant comedy as it moves toward its courtroom climax.
Portia is played by Hadyn Gwynne and Shylock by Trevor Peacock. Julian Rhind-Tutt is Bassanio, and Bill Nighy is Antonio.
“Transforming any play into sound alone is a challenge, and one that is met by this Arkangel production…Like many of Shakespeare’s comedies, its core a love story, but it is far more than that. The play is a controversial examination of justice, mercy, and prejudice. All the actors give strong performances…Trevor Peacock’s portrayal of Shylock stands out among those of a solid cast. Peacock uses a sly voice for Shylock, saving his best for the comedy’s climactic courtroom scene.”—AudioFile
Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Some time between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. At age 49 around 1613, he appears to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, which has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs and whether the works attributed to him were written by others. These speculations are often criticized for failing to point out the fact that few records survive of most commoners of his period.
Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were primarily comedies and histories, which are regarded as some of the best work ever produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances and collaborated with other playwrights.
Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. However, in 1623 John Heminges and Henry Condell, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare, published a more definitive text known as the First Folio, a posthumous collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's. It was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Shakespeare is hailed, presciently, as "not of an age, but for all time".
In the 20th and 21st centuries, his works have been repeatedly adapted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.