The Merchant Of Venice, one of Shakespeare’s most contentious plays, resonates throughout the ages. The central theme of intolerance in all its forms continues to have relevance for us today, as we attempt to understand wars that are raging due to religious and ethnic differences.
Where such emotions manifest, prejudice, revenge and violence are never that far away and therein lies the drama of the play. However, though The Merchant Of Venice is most famous for the main theme of revenge and mistrust, there is another, parallel story. The story of Bassanio and Portia and their wooing in Belmont casts light on the very dark machinations in Venice.
With language that is some of the most emotive in Elizabethan English, the two threads interweave as Portia disguises herself as a lawyer to help Antonio, The Merchant. This is a play of the emotions and Shakespeare masterfully manipulates us through light and dark until we come to the realisation that there are no real heroes in this play, no winners.
Most famous for his portrayal of the very opinionated Alf Garnett in Till Death Do Us Part, Warren Mitchell heads the cast of this BBC Radio 4 audiobook available as an MP3 download and as a CD. The cast also includes such acting talent as Martin Jarvis, Samuel West and Juliet Aubrey as Portia and features music specially composed by Barrington Pheloung, composer of the theme music to Morse and the film Truly, Madly, Deeply.