Shaul Bassi, “Shylock in Venice: Staging Shakespeare in the Ghetto”
Two landmark anniversaries will coincide in 2016: the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and the 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, a place that would give its name to such segregated areas worldwide and serve as the historical backdrop for Shakespeare’s most controversial play, The Merchant of Venice. Founded in 1516, the ghetto became an historic crossroads for international Jewish experience and a cosmopolitan site of dialogue between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. The setting and the play are fundamentally ambivalent artifacts of European civilization, having been both instruments of intolerance and catalysts for cultural exchange. This lecture reflects on the legacy of the Ghetto and the international effort now underway to stage The Merchant of Venice there for the very first time in July, 2016.