Walking with Shylock in Venice
Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
The Merchant of Venice, (Act 1, Scene 3)
To be precise in Campo San Giacometto, at the bottom of Rialto Bridge! Here the commercial exchanges between the Serenissima Republic and the East were carried out; here the Mudas, the caravans of ships loaded with goods for markets all over the world, were set up, so much so that behind the church there was the Loggia dei Mercanti, replaced by the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi after the big fire of 1514.
And here is where we met Romena Brugnerotto, the local Venetian tour leader who would be leading us along the labyrinth of Venice, chasing after a legendary “character”: Shylock, the imaginary Venetian Jewish moneylender, the main antagonist of William Shakespeare‘s comedy The Merchant of Venice.
After a short but interesting introduction on the history of Campo San Giacometto and the Rialto market, Shylock made his appearance, in all his charismatic and powerful presence, addressing us with the first of his monologues!
“…Shall I bend low and in a bondman’s key, /
With bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness,
Say this; / ‘Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last; / (F)
You spurn’d me such a day; another time
You call’d me dog; / and for these courtesies
I’ll lend you thus much moneys’?..”
(Act 1, Scene 3)
And this is how this fun and engaging new tour in Venice started!
Shylock ran away and off we were, chasing after him!
For the next hour and half we were taken on a short gondola ride crossing over the Gran Canal, we walked along the narrow alleyways of Venice, we stopped every so often to catch up with the always running and panting Shylock, listening to his ranting and speeches, masterly portrayed by the Italian actor Solimano Pontarollo, till the gran finale in the Ghetto of Venice, where the original play takes place and where the tour ended!
A whirlwind new tour, full of fun facts about Venice and beautifully acted monologues from one of the most famous plays by Shakespeare.
Shylock appears as an extremely negative character, confirming the anti-Semitic atmosphere that was breathed in England between 1500 and 1600. But with the monologues that Shakespeare puts in the mouth of the Jewish money lender, he seems to give back a little credit to this bad antagonist. In fact, Shylock’s words not only teach us that men are all the same, but also lets us understand that he has suffered multiple wrongs and abuses by Antonio, only because he is a Jew. To some extent it is possible to feel empathy and pity for a character that, up to this point, has been so negative!
Even though we know Shylock is fictional and that, as far as we know, Shakespeare spent all his life in England and Italy was something he had probably just heard or read about, it is incredible how Venice was such an inspiring place for him. Venice is poetry itself: its unique environment, streets, places and canals provided the perfect landscape for two of his greatest masterpieces, Othello and The Merchant of Venice.
Shakespeare hides at every corner: all you need to do is bring out all of your spirit of adventure and let yourself get lost around the magical city of Venice, under the watchful eye of Shylock and Romena.
This new tour is organized by Ornella Naccari, a Venetian event organizer, and her agency, On view, which had previously worked on Shakespeare’s themes for the Shakespeare project in Veneto. Solimano Pontarollo, is an Italian actor from Verona and is a very good interpreter of Shakespeare’s works. Romena keeps the group together, leading her guests in the search of Shylock.
The tour takes place in English on Request once a week, for information and costs write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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