by William Shakespeare Directed by: Karin Beier
“Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive? Out of the question! Debts of flesh are a very different thing.” Elfriede Jelinek, »Am Königsweg« (By the King’s Way)
“Israel Peterman? I mean who is this guy? Mark my words … that Shylock will destroy this country!”
Ayad Akhtar, »Junk – The Golden Age of Debt«
Two new plays this season relate directly to »The Merchant of Venice«, and their authors Elfriede Jelinek and Ayad Akhtar both take the same perspective on the piece: Shakespeare didn’t just create an archetype of antisemitism that endures till today – there is also something that binds all the characters in the play together: money, the new power of the age, which infuses all human relationships – love as much as hate. These are golden times in Venice, at least for financial profiteers. Capital and goods are flowing freely, the mountain of debt is growing, and everyone seems to trust that this will continue endlessly. Then the fatal trade-off between the merchant Antonio and the moneylender Shylock occurs. Shylock demands a pound of Antonio’s flesh, should he not pay back his loan on time. Payment day breaks and Antonio appears to be headed for his doom, since Shylock mercilessly demands that their contract be honoured. The “Christian” opponents’ reaction to his insistence is an equally archaic act of violence. At the end of his black comedy, Shakespeare creates a coup that can be considered a masterpiece of ruthless power politics, and a strange happy end.
»The Merchant of Venice« is a splendid example of topically relevant world theatre which is unsurpassed in its provocative ambivalence.