Shakespeare the anti-semite

Al“The debate is so old it should have its own place in the Shakespearean canon. Is Shylock, the Jewish moneylender who demands a ‘pound of flesh’ from a debtor, a villain or a victim? Every time The Merchant of Venice is staged, the debate is restaged along with it. Does Shakespeare’s play merely depict anti-semitism, or does it reek of it? Is the Bard describing, even condemning, the prevalent anti-Jewish attitudes of his time – or gleefully giving them an outlet? The papers of a million A-level students are marked forever with such questions.

Yet now they have a new force. Because the Merchant is playing in a new medium, making its debut as a full-length, big-budget feature film – complete with a top-drawer Hollywood star, Al Pacino, in the de facto lead.”

More here by Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian.