The Fortunes of The Merchant o/Venice from 1596 to 2001
Byof Venice con-
Pages 32

Four hundred years after its first performance, The Merchant of Venice continues to draw audiences, spark debate, and offer new insights. In 200 1 alone, the Stratford Festival in Canada (cover and Figure 3) and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Figure 10) both mounted major productions, and more modest productions appeared across the land, as at Boscobel House on the Hudson River. In April, the Seventh World Shakespeare Congress in Valencia, Spain, offered a Spanish-language version of the play, directed by a German. Patrick Stewart, noted for his Shylock with the Royal Shakespeare Company and for his articulate analysis of the character, performed his own one-man show, Shylock: Shakespeare's Alien, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in the summer. And in October, for the first time since the BBC version of the play was broadcast in 1980, American television presented The Merchant of Venice in a film of the recent Royal National Theatre production. Over the last decade, there have been many productions, not only in English-speaking countries (in 1998 it played simultaneously in Stratford and in London at the new Globe), but around the world, on every continent and in every conceivable language. l Among Shakespeare's characters, only Hamlet has inspired more critical commentary than Shylock (Zesmer 116).