1: Images, examples of Shylock’s appearance onstage, 1814, 1905, and 2011.
These three images offer three different ways that Shylock’s visual appearance has been represented onstage.
Suggested Activity: Before showing any of the images to students, have them draw or describe, in as much detail as they can, how they would imagine Shylock appearing on stage. What would he wear? What would he carry? What would his hair, eyes, and nose look like? Would he be tall or short, fat or thin? Have a discussion about why the students think of Shylock in one way or another, and how different appearances might change the way the character is perceived. Next, show them these examples of historical Shylocks, and ask them to analyze them carefully, attending to all those visual details they have discussed, and to speculate about how each of the different actors might perform the role. Ask them to consider which elements of these representations of Shylock align with, or run counter to, racist stereotypes. For more advanced students, ask them to find evidence in the text to support each of these different visual representations of the character.
Sources: Henry Meyer, “Edmund Kean as Shylock,” 1814, mezzotint, 12 in. x 9 3/8 in., National Portrait Gallery, London, UK, https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw37677/Edmund-Kean-as-Shylock?search=sp&sText=shylock&firstRun=true&rNo=15. Redistributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.
Alexander Corbett, “Arthur Bourchier as Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice,’” 1905, bromide postcard print, 4 7/8 in. x 3 1/8 in., National Portrait Gallery, London, UK, https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw160635/Arthur-Bourchier-as-Shylock-in-The-Merchant-of-Venice. Redistributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.
Gerry Goodstein, “F. Murray Abraham as Shylock,” 2011, in Berkshire On Stage, February 23, 2011.