In Venice, money talks louder than almost everything. Louder than love. Louder than hate. Louder even, than religion. But the voice of the law has the final word. Everyone’s fate hinges upon the legal wrangling of Shylock and Portia.
As Mitchell Butel, who is playing Shylock for Bell Shakespeare, points out: “The sentence meted out at the end is because of the law; it is not witness to the prosecution, it is not secret identities revealed – it is about the actual legal question.”
Shakespeare was way ahead of his time here. He mastered courtroom drama long before To Kill A Mockingbird, Perry Mason, Ally McBeal or Boston Legal were even dreamed of. “Courtroom dramas are great because they’re mini theatres,” says Butel. “You’ve got a set-up, you’ve got an audience, you’ve got a sense of performers, and there’s that notion of ‘How do we make order of chaos?’ I think that is the ultimate modus operandi of a court, just like it is in theatre.”
“All that glisters is not gold.”
Act 2, Scene 7