Film Spotlight: Al Pacino as Shylock

Dinner and a Movie Package

images  I believe Shylock is one of the more interesting characters created from William Shakespeare and The Merchant of Venice one of my favorite plays. Have you seen the 2004 film version starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, and Lynn Collins? Directed and adapted by Michael Radford, I consider this one of Al Pacino’s best acting performances.

merchant   I’m intrigued with the character Shylock because he is a perfect example of the dynamic character. He’s an unsavory, complicated man. You appreciate his cleverness while disliking his actions. He’s a character who is misunderstood and abused by Christian society. He’s reckless and selfish but encompasses strength of conviction. You find yourself admiring his fearlessness while cringing at his harsh need for control. His passion is money and control and vengeance. Shylock is Jewish, and this is what turns the man from victim into villain.

merchantofvenice  Shylock is destroyed by the society that surrounds him. Society creates a monster and the monster attacks. How many times throughout the play was Shylock referenced as an evil soul, cut-throat dog, cruel devil, inhuman wretch, fiend, and bloody creditor? Those definers establish Shylock as a scoundrel and an antagonist. Shylock’s antagonist was Antonio portrayed by Jeremy Irons. To Shylock, Antonio represents all Christians. When Shylock demands a pound of his flesh for payment of a loan, it is a legal request in 1600s, yet morally cruel.

images  However, is the payment crueller than the segregation and degradation upon the Jews in Venice? It is possible to see the human frailty of this angry character. He loses his daughter Jessica to the Christian named Lorenzo. She steals Shylock’s jewels and money and runs away, betraying her father. Shylock was a stern, over-protective parent and one could sympathize with Jessica for running away, but did she have to do it with a Christian and involve herself in a plot to destroy Shylock? Everyone is against him. Wouldn’t we all explode after enduring so many indiscretions?

images The language of Shylock is great and cultivates his character. Shylock’s use of repetition creates dramatic tension and elucidate his wit. For example, in Act 1 Scene 3, he repeats: “three thousand ducats, well”; “For three months, well”; ‘Antonio shall become bound, well”; “Three thousand ducats for three months, and Antonio bound”. At other points in the play, his repetition reveals other aspects of his personality. For instance, he shows his enthusiasm when he praises the disguised Portia in court when Shylock thinks she will grant him his bond, Shylock repeats, “O wise young judge, O noble judge”. In agony, Shylock repeats, “My daughter, O my ducats!” Finally, when he demands his money from Antonio he repeats, “I will have my bond!”

merchantofvenice

These repetitions add to his character because they are annoying for others to hear, and they show his emotional state. If you are a fan of Al Pacino and want to see him act exceptionally well along with a top-rate cast and intelligent script, I highly recommend you rent and watch this.

13 thoughts on “Film Spotlight: Al Pacino as Shylock

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    1. hahah. Funny, Scarface is one of my least favorite films, even though I know it’s a classic and he acted great, I just disliked all the gore and subject matter.
      Glad you stopped by 🙂

  1. Can’t believe I haven’t see The Merchant of Venice as I LOVE that cast. I like Jeremy Irons (you do too right Cindy?) I should give this a shot. I like Scent of a Woman too, perhaps one of my fave from Pacino. I’m not too fond of him in the super violent stuff he did like Scarface, etc.

      1. Ahahaha, I don’t know if I want to marry him. I’d take his Die Hard brother Alan Rickman first 😀 Remember they played villainous brothers in Die Hard 1 and 3?

          1. Yeah, it’d have been nice to see ’em together in flashback scenes perhaps. Jeremy played the younger brother of Hans Gruber, surely one of THE most iconic villains ever. I still think Alan was far more memorable in that franchise, but yeah, it’s interesting to see Jeremy cast as his brother.

    1. Hi there, welcome! I appreciate that. He was great in the role. So was Jeremy Irons, though. The whole cast and production was one of the best I’ve seen. Please come back soon 🙂

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