The Merchant of Venice


Play by William Shakespeare.
Bassanio, an impoverished gentleman, is in love with Portia, a wealthy Venetian heiress, and wishes to win her hand. To help him out, his friend Antonio, a Christian merchant, borrows 3000 ducats from Shylock, a Jewish money-lender, who asks him for a pound of his flesh if the loan goes unpaid. On the day the repayment is due, Antonio is unable to comply and Shylock insists the clause be applied. But, with great presence of mind, Portia, disguised as a young lawyer, outwits the wily money-lender and saves Antonio’s life. Ridiculed, stripped of his wealth and betrayed by his daughter, who has joined the Christian camp, Shylock goes off alone while the young people, far from the burden of business and vexations of the law, celebrate their happiness to the joyful but serious strains of music which evokes, not only earthly harmony restored, but the celestial harmony it echoes.


Published in French in the “MCLA” series

Stage Productions

First performed in Nantes at L'Espace 44 in January 1995
With Michel Blanc
Produced by Jean-Luc Tardieu

Le Figaro – “Sweet and sour”
“Shylock is a tragic role in a comic play,” Michel Blanc insists. “He has the flaws people have inflicted on him. The contract he proposes isn’t evil: he agrees to lend money to Antonio and Bassanio but they despise him, so it’s a kind of vengeance on his part. The Merchant is a combination of sweet and sour, and that’s unusual in France. There are moments of intense drama and others that border on comedy.”
Caroline Jurgenso
Le Canard enchainé - “The Merchant of Venice”
... So immediate and up-to-date is Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s magnificent new translation that it instantly draws the audience in, seamlessly bridging the gulf of four centuries.... If the storm of (well-earned) applause could help the show go on tour and come to Paris, justice would be done!
Bernard Thomas
Le Point - “The Merchant of Venice”
“I struggle with English but I talk very good Shakespeare!” quips Schmitt. He discovered the Bard’s plays by listening to recordings of the Royal Shakespeare Company at the British Council in Lyon, and his adaptation is thoroughly up-to-date: vocabulary, humour and metaphors all have a modern feel, while unabashed cuts give the play a marvellous edginess. “I want the 1995 audience to be in the same state of discovery and surprise as the 1596 audience,” explains Schmitt. “Adapting Shakespeare is about overcoming the distance.” A choice that’s perfectly in synch with Jean-Luc Tardieu’s production.
Christophe Barbier