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The Merchant of Venice      TV PG
Airing Monday, October 8, 2001, on PBS
(Check local listings.)

Masterpiece Theatre premieres its 31st season and its new Monday night timeslot with an acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare's most controversial play, The Merchant of Venice.

The Royal National Theatre production stars Henry Goodman as Shylock, the money-lending Jew who famously demands "a pound of flesh" in payment for a forfeited loan. Goodman's performance in the 1999 stage version won the Olivier Award for Best Actor, London's equivalent to Broadway's Tony Award. Trevor Nunn, director of the National Theatre, won the best-director Olivier for his daring update of the play to early 1930s Venice.

Shakespeare concocted Shylock as a comic villain, but he went far beyond caricature to create a complex human being struggling with conflicting motives. Nunn sets the story partly in Venice's decadent café culture and partly in the city's Jewish quarter, Europe's original ghetto.


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