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Masterpiece Theatre; Merchant of Venice, The

The Merchant of Venice, Reel 1 of 2

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Masterpiece Theatre
Merchant of Venice, The
Program Number


Series Description

Program premiered in 1971 with The First Churchills. Hosted by Alastair Cooke. Intended as a showcase for the best of British television drama. Spawned MYSTERY! in 1980. Current executive producer Rebecca Eaton. All promotion of program done by Frank Goodman & Associates (see below). Synopsis, cast information and producers listed by individual title. Series release date: 1971

Program Description

This acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare's most controversial play stars Henry Goodman (Broken Glass) as Shylock, the money-lending Jew who famously demands "a pound of flesh" in payment for a forfeited loan. Goodman's performance in the Royal National Theatre's stage version won the Olivier Award for Best Actor, London theatre's equivalent to Broadway's Tony. Director Trevor Nunn (Oklahoma! My Fair Lady, Nicholas Nickleby) won the Best Director Olivier for his daring update of the play to early 1930s Venice, with its decadent cafe culture and vibrant Jewish quarter. "It was that very period when anti-Semitic thought and behavior was becoming current and even -- it's ghastly to think it -- voguish and the subject of wit and amusement," says Nunn. "The Holocaust... was just coming down the pike." The merchant of the title is Antonio (David Bamber), who borrows the enormous sum of 3,000 ducats from Shylock to fund the marriage quest of his friend Bassanio (Alexander Hanson), who seeks the hand of the beautiful heiress Portia. In lieu of interest and partly in jest, Antonio agrees to forfeit a pound of his own flesh if he cannot make repayment on time. In a celebrated courtroom scene, Shylock demands his due, a payment which will certainly kill the merchant. Shakespeare concocted Shylock as a comic villain, but he went beyond caricature to create a complex human being struggling with conflicting motives.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “Masterpiece Theatre; Merchant of Venice, The,” WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 11, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_8C588ED83A574B2ABF6E21B31A3B81BB.
MLA: “Masterpiece Theatre; Merchant of Venice, The.” WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 11, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_8C588ED83A574B2ABF6E21B31A3B81BB>.
APA: Masterpiece Theatre; Merchant of Venice, The. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_8C588ED83A574B2ABF6E21B31A3B81BB
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