Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shakespeare in Spanish......


Since my years at college, I’ve always been a Shakespeare’s fan. Last saturday I was greatly excited to go to the theater in Granada for the first time and see a performance of The Merchant of Venice in..Spanish. Although I do speak Spanish, let me tell you, I had to make big efforts to grasp every word and not being lost in translation.
I was impatiently waiting for Shylock's most famous cue, which we had to learn by heart at school:


Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?
If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?



The plot is the following :

The story is set in Venice. A young gentleman, Bassanio asks his friend Antonio to lend him some money in order to seduce a beautiful heiress called Portia. Antonio who loves Bassanio cannot refuse. He’s a wealthy man and has ships and merchandise busy at sea but needs to borrow the money from Jewish moneylender Shylock. The latter despises Antonio who insulted him previously but nevertheless accepts the deal on one condition : if Antonio cannot return the money on time, then Shylock will prevail 1 pound of flesh on Antonio's body......

(if you don’t know the play…then I let you discover it...)



portrait of Shylock and his daughter Jessica by Maurycy Gottlieb



Although this play is classified as a light comedy, overtime I see it more as a drama and its antisemitic aspect bothers me. In fact the audience didn’t laugh too much. In Shakespeare’s time, English law forbid Jews from living in England so it is assumed that Shakespeare used a commonly spread negative image of Jews in his play. In fact, you might wonder, did Shakespeare mean to laugh equally at Christians ?


pic : the red curtain at Teatro Isabel La Catolica in Granada.

15 comments:

willow said...

I love Shakespeare, too, Lala. The Merchant of Venice is one of my favorites. It is meant to be a comedy, but I think it is very dark and thought provoking. Al Pacino does a good job as Shylock in the recent film version.

The Gottlieb painting is wonderful!

Stephanie said...

I have not seen many Shakespeare plays, but I know it takes a while to get into the dialog...so I can imagine in Spanish it would be likewise as hard.

I love your new banner!

Elizabeth said...

I think there were some Jewish families in London.
Shakespeare wanted to show that prejudice is wrong and that all humans have the same feelings.
George Eliot's 'Daniel Deronda' - a wonderfully long novel deals with Jews in 19th century Londn and is a really good read, if you haven't read it already?

Vanessa said...

I used Shylock's lines for a declamation piece in my high school class! How nice to read it again, it has been a while.

sealaura said...

Wow, how I would love to show my students Shakespeare en español! they would love it.

A Cuban In London said...

I have often heard that Shakespeare had certain anti-semite feelings, although mostof his biographers have had conflicting ideas on the subject. I think that it's wrong to judge a man of yesteryear by today's morals.

I loved the play when I first read it, but I've got 'Othello' in the queue of 'To-reread-books', so, 'The Merchant...' will have to wait.

Greetings from London.

tangobaby said...

Hi Lala,

I can imagine the difficulties in reinterpreting Shakespeare in another language. I have to take it slowly even in English.

The Merchant of Venice is surprisingly one of the only plays I have not read or seen performed. I think being raised Jewish that I just did not want to see it, but I'm sure I was being oversensitive and should try to find a production of it.

I tend to be much more of a fan of the history plays. I just rewatched the Ian McKellan adaptation of Richard III again this weekend. I'm normally not a fan of the movie versions of Shakespeare's plays, but this one is so inventive that it's become one of my favorite versions.

High Desert Diva said...

I've yet to see a live (Shakespeare) performance. I can't imagine having to translate, too. Bravo.

Sara said...

Hi Lala, I enjoyed this post. I wonder, do they speak 16th Century Spanish in the play...since Shakespeare wrote it in 16th Century English?? An interesting thought.

I'd like to add my "yes" to Elizabeth's recommendation of Daniel Deronda...I have not read the book but I saw the British screen production of it. It's a fabulous story.

When I was in high school our class was taken to San Diego to see "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. That was my first experience with his plays and I loved it.

Relyn said...

I love Shakespeare so much! The Merchant of Venice is one of my favorite of his plays. So thought provoking. Emotion provoking, too. I think one of the largest parts of Shakespeare's genius was to be able to write something that could be interpreted in so many ways. My husband I and took a Shakespeare class together in college and we read The Merchant of Venice. I found Shylock to be such a sympathetic character. My husband found him to be utterly despicable. Fascinating. We read the same play.

I would never classify The Merchant of Venice as light comedy though.

I could go on and one, but I did want to say this. I never interpreted the play as an attempt to further or condone anti-semetism. Just the opposite. I thought it pointed out how unjust and horrifying it is. Maybe I'm in the minority on that one though. It would be an interesting conversation.

Yoli said...

Love this, wish I could have been there to see it. I have an MFA in Theatre.

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