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Shakespeare’s portrayal of Jews is topic of panel

Shakespeare’s Jewish characters and the interpretation of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice were a few of the themes addressed in a panel discussion held January 26 at the College’s Paramount Center and sponsored by ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage, in collaboration with the New Center for Art and Culture.

Emerson’s Executive Director for the Arts Rob Orchard welcomed the enthusiastic audience at the Paramount Mainstage and introduced the moderator for the evening: scholar, playwright, and American Repertory Theater Founding Artistic Director Robert Brustein, and the panelists: Academy Award–winning actor F. Murray Abraham, Shakespeare & Company Founding Artistic Director Tina Packer, and Theatre for a New Audience Artistic Director Jeffrey Horowitz.

Abraham talked about his own portrayal of Shylock in anticipation of his starring role in ArtsEmerson’s presentation of The Merchant of Venice this spring. “I love Shylock,” said Abraham, who has appeared in numerous Shakespearean plays. “I happen to like Shakespeare a lot.”

Throughout the lively, hour-long discussion, which was followed by a Q&A with the audience, it was clear that the panelists shared a deep appreciation and profound knowledge of Shakespeare. The panelists covered the anti-Semitic tones in Merchant, Shakespeare’s portrayal of women, and the history of Jews in literature.

At times, they respectfully and lightheartedly disagreed, as in the case of the question of whether Shakespeare was misogynistic. All the panelists, however, were in agreement that Merchant is a complicated play about outsiders—a theme that remains relevant in today’s society.

In association with Theatre for a New Audience, The Merchant of Venice opens March 29 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit »

photos by Maria Arabbo

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