in Australia a recent production of the Merchant of Venice changed the ending—
what have I done?
the Jew’s daughter wails, collapsing on the stage, dropping out of both marriage plot
and conversion trance, delayed
reaction to the previous scene, her bareheaded brokenhearted father robbed and spat upon.
critics wonder if this is okay
which is how I read about it half a world away. a few years ago I was invited by friends
to a Shakespeare reading party
the play was The Merchant of Venice and though we’d been going back and forth
about possible nights
the host decided to push it back another week and then the date happened to fall
on Yom Kippur
or more precisely Kol Nidrei—the annulment of vows—a legal procedure as prayer
which gathers new meanings
through Jewish history of persecution—think conversos during the Spanish Inquisition
unswearing what oaths
they took to survive, gathering in secret to pray just once to their actual god.
the Merchant of Venice was/is a Nazi favorite
broadcast over the radio just after Kristallnacht, and then in 1943 when Krauss entered
as Shylock, the audience shuddered—with a crash
and a weird train of shadows, something revoltingly alien and startlingly repulsive crawled across the stage.
I texted to say I couldn’t come
but more importantly this party couldn’t happen. right away my friend replied
Shakespeare is dialectically beyond
anti-Semitism so I said fuck you but we did read a different play on another night
over rum punch and a ham.