The Merchant of Venice Movie- Personal Response

I enjoyed The Merchant of Venice. It wasn’t predictable like many stories today and its movie adaptation helped me comprehend the story and visuals without going out to the theatre. The film was cleverly directed, keeping the original play’s verbal essence and rhythms while providing a different take on specific relationships between characters. These factors, along with the incredible acting by all the actors involved, made the film version of The Merchant of Venice so captivating.

The verbal rhythms of the play can be hard to understand when just reading The Merchant of Venice. A play’s entire script is meant to be heard and read aloud, therefore if you were just reading it it’s clear that even the most perceptive reader would miss some of Shakespeare’s cleverness. Watching The Merchant of Venice, however, shows us these beats and melodies in the speech. For example, on page 95 of the book, there is an argument between Portia and Bassanio over the lost ring. There is so much power in having this epistrophe dialogue audibilized, “If you did know to whom I gave the ring, / If you did know for whom I gave the ring, / And would conceive for what I gave the ring, / And how unwillingly I left the ring,” (l. 193-195). It had me appreciating Shakespeare’s ingenuity. And the directing decision of having it go from Bassanio’s whispers to then Portia’s near-yelling tone along with choosing to skip the 4 lines that break up the repetition helps to shove the importance of the ring into the viewers’ faces. It puts us in this uncomfortable spot where we realize how much it must’ve hurt for Portia to have asked for the ring as the doctor and receive it from Bassanio who gave it up for Antonio.

This decision by Bassanio also adds to another relationship that is purely interpreted by the director. The homosexual tones between Antonio and Bassanio was a very smart decision to help portray loneliness of Antonio. The start and end of The Merchant of Venice were the same, with a depressed Antonio. This comparison would not be the same had Bassanio and Antonio’s relationship not been as close. As homosexuality wasn’t acceptable at the time, the two could not have married. But that does not stop them from sharing secret tender moments. It’s during these moments that we see Antonio happy. Bassanio alleviates his loneliness and depression, and we understand that from the first moment when Bassanio enters the scene. But over the course of the play, Bassanio goes and courts Portia and they are to be wed. Antonio helps Bassanio with this endeavour because it’s what he wants, showing us Antonio’s love for Bassanio. But when Portia and Bassanio become a couple, Antonio is left alone, just as he was at the start, and it’s the director’s answer to the question “In sooth I know not why I am so sad” (p. 1, l. 1).

In the end, watching the film was very helpful in visualization and audibilizing the play. As someone who enjoys film, I found that it was overall very well shot with great cinematography choices, which made it much easier to appreciate the story. The storyline itself I found to be very fun while also eliciting deep emotions and powerful thoughts, and I can see myself watching the movie again in the future.