I have chosen to direct Act IV Scene I because it is very much a climatic scene. It has lots of potential to produce an excellent piece of theatre due to the emotional pace of the scene, and the extremely passionate language used. May different characters display different views, which can be portrayed to good effect on stage. Shylock should be made to appear like the villain throughout the scene, and I would want my audience to be glad that Shylock loses his bond at the end of the scene.
He should come across as an evil, greedy man, who has no emotions, and is not sensitive to the pain of others. Sadistic is a word the audience should think of. Antonio should remain a heroic figure through the scene, with the audience feeling love towards him. He should gain more respect and admiration by accepting death gracefully and should make it clear that he is quite prepared to die. Gratiano should also be another favourite of the audience.
His character should come across as a courageous man who is vehement in his defence of Antonia and his detrimental attacks on Shylock towards Shylock. Antonio, Bassanio Gratiano and Solerio (including any other friends of Antonio) should enter in a line from stage right on a diagonal. They should then remove their hats and bow low to the Duke who should be seated in a throne like chair accompanied by an advisor/servant.
This reflects the Duke’s position in society. The Duke should then walk towards Antonio and place a hand on his shoulder on the line: “I am sorry for thee. This shows the audience how admired Antonia is in Venice, even the person with the most authority in Venice, who should be impartial, shows pity and sympathy for Antonio. To further emphasise the fact that the Duke is on Antonio’s side, and that Shylock is despised by all in Venice, the Duke can say the word “Jew” in line 14 with contempt, as if spitting the name out of his mouth.
When responding to the Duke’s speech asking for mercy (lines 16-34) Shylock should be aiming to tease and anger the Christians. He can do this by smiling and shrugging his shoulders on the line “But say it is my humour. Effectively he is saying, “I am going to kill Antonio, just because I want to. Because I feel like it. ” This would be sure to enrage characters like Gratiano, and would make the audience’s loathing for Shylock even greater. Gratiano could stand with his fists clenched and in a threatening position, i. e. chest out and leaning slightly forward. This reflects the fact that he Christians have no legal power over Shylock, that he is the one in charge, a d that all they could resort to would be physical violence.
After Bassanio verbally attacks Shylock, calling him an unfeeling man,” Antonio should be standing behind and slightly to the right of Bassanio (not directly behind, or he would be masked) He can then place his hand on Bassanio’s shoulder, pulling him back a little on line 70. Antonio’s speech starting on line 70 is quite important, as it is the first sign of how Antonio is reacting to the situation in this scene. “You may as well use question with the wolf, Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb;” This means that Antonio thinks Bassanio is wasting his time, and translated into a modern English phrase “Talking to a brick wall.
He doesn’t expect Shylock to change his mind. At the end of this speech, he says, “let me have a judgement, and the Jew his will. ” He should say these lines slowly but confidently, with an expression of calm on his face. This shows that he is unafraid, and accepts his sentence with few or no qualms. This heightens respect and admiration for him from the audience. Later on in the scene, a messenger comes with news. Bassanio is slightly encouraged by this, and should deliver his line 111 with an encouraging smile and with both hands on the upper half of Antonio’s arms, to signify support.
He can then lower his voice, and make it more heartfelt and meaningful on the lines 112 and 113. These are important lines, as it highlights once more the close friendship between Antonio and Bassanio. Antonio should then hold onto Bassanio’s upper arms, so that they are both holding each other. Antonio’s voice should be low but heartfelt for lines 117 to 118, and he should look deeply into Bassanio’s eyes. All of these actions make it a more poignant moment, and stimulates the emotions of the audience. Gratiano’s rage should be demonstrated clearly lines 128-138.
“O, be thou damn’d, inexecrable dog! His voice should be loud and filled with venom, his face contorting with an expression of pure hate. Gratiano, in effect should be the voice of the audience. He should be their representative, reflecting their views. Shylock then uses the power of the law he has to further anger and provoke the Christians by saying “Thou but offend’st thy lungs to speak so loud:” He is telling Gratiano not to waste his breath. This line should be delivered in an uncaring way and with a smirk on his face. The uncaring nature shows that Gratiano’s words can’t hurt him, and the smirk further angers the Christians.
After Portia enters and discovers who Shylock is, she attempts to persuade him to show mercy. Just before she delivers line 181, Portia should take three brisk steps towards Shylock so she is closer to him, and she should stand up at full height to demonstrate authority. The next few lines of her speech should be delivered slowly and clearly to make sure Shylock and the audience hear every last word. Portia should be aiming to persuade Shylock by elevating the virtue of mercy, making it sound a saintly quality. Portia should demonstrate this by inflexion, making sure that her voice is appealing to Shylock and not threatening him.
Line 192 is especially important, as she mentions God. She should emphasise the word God and pause after the line is complete. On the second sentence of line 199, Portia should take a step back from Shylock, as the emotive and poignant part of the speech is over. She should then walk around the back of Shylock so that she is stage right on the same side as Antonio. This symbolises that she doesn’t want him to die, and is on his side. When Portia is looking through the bond she should find out halfway through that the bond is void. Her expression should be one of surprise and delight so that the audience knows that she has found something.
When Portia asks whether or not there are scales ready to weigh Antonio’s flesh, Shylock should answer immediately with a smile “I have them ready. ” This shows his eagerness to kill Antonio. Antonio’s response to Portia’s question asking whether he had anything to say should be delivered in a calm and peaceful way. Antonio does not want to hive Shylock the satisfaction of seeing him grovel. He should take Bassanio’s hand and hold on to it on line 262 to show his affection. During His speech from line 261 to 278, Bassanio should have a tear in his eye to show how sad he is at the prospect of losing his best friend.
Bassanio should then show his devotion to his friend in return by offering the life of his wife in exchange for Antonio’s, as if that would solve the problem. This is a man willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for his friend. He should embrace him at the end of line 284 to demonstrate this. Gratiano and Bassanio both say they would sooner condemn their wives to death before seeing Antonio die. They do not, of course, realise that their wives are in fact in the same room disguised as a Barrister and a Clerk. When Portia says: “Your wife would give you little thanks for that, If she were by to hear you make the offer.
She can say this in a mildly offended and sarcastic voice, to increase the humour. She could also raise her eyebrows at Nerissa to further the humour, as this would show the audience the communication between the real Portia and Nerissa even while they are Barrister and Clerk. It would give the audience the feeling that they were in on the joke too. On line 302, Portia should become passionate in her speeches. She has given Shylock the chance to show mercy and he has refused it, so she wants to bring him down from his high.
She can do this by having a victorious smile on her face, and by proclaiming the laws of Venice in a formal way, as if addressing a court. Gratiano can be so happy and vindictive, that he should deliver his line 310 with glee, and also irony towards Shylock because he uses words very similar to the ones Shylock uses when talking to Portia earlier. His emotions and feelings should mirror that of the audience if the scene has been successful up to now. Shylock, sensing that things are not going his way, should be stifling anger, and wanting to leave quickly.
Therefore he should say his lines “I takes this offer then: pay the bond thrice, And let the Christian go,” In an angry voice, with a quick pace. When Portia announces that Shylock must give his wealth to the state, Shylock should be a broken man. He should hold himself with less dignity, and seem slightly disorientated, as he should be in shock. That audience should not feel sorry for Shylock at the end of the scene, but they should not want him dead either, as they will have taken into account Shylocks speech lines 371 to 374 with an great air of self pity, but they should not forget his eagerness to murder Antonio either.