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Shylock

Directed by Pierre Lasry

Canada | 60 minutes | 1999

This illuminating documentary looks at the history of Shakespeare's Shylock from The Merchant of Venice, the Jewish moneylender who seeks a pound of flesh as payment on a loan, within the context of the longer history of hatred against Jews. Hatred of Jews has been embedded in theology, malicious folklore, and literature for 2000 years, culminating in the Holocaust. (Some 50 productions of Merchant were produced by the Nazis in Austria in 1939). Since The Merchant of Venice's first production c.1597, Shylock the Jewish moneylender, who only appears in five scenes, has represented European attitudes toward Jews. The film examines this history and the great Shakespearean actors who have played the role of Shylock through the ages, including performances by Laurence Olivier, Dustin Hoffman, and Orson Welles. It also includes modern attempts to adapt The Merchant of Venice and confront its historical association with anti-Semitism. Shylock also shows how The Merchant of Venice was used by the Nazis to promote anti-Semitism, specifically in Austria before the war, but Shakespeare's general usefulness for the purpose of propaganda was recognized early and valued by the Third Reich.
Director Pierre Lasry
Countries of Production Canada
Year of Presentation 1999
Language(s)
Premiere Status
Runtime 60 minutes
Principal Cast Laurence Olivier, Dustin Hoffman, Orson Welles
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