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The Merchant of Venice (Lincoln Center Festival)

From 17 critic and 25 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Great staging, Thought-provoking

About the show

The Lincoln Center Festival presents the Shakespeare's Globe production of the Bard's classic problem play, starring two-time Tony winner Jonathan Price as Shylock. More…

'The Merchant of Venice' has proved to be one of Shakespeare’s most challenging plays to transpose to modern tastes. Bawdy humor and romantic high jinks coexist with difficult questions of tolerance and intolerance, religious law and civil society, justice, and mercy. In the role of Shylock—as famous for his merciless insistence that a debt be repaid with 'a pound of flesh' as for his trenchant speech that asks, 'If you prick us, do we not bleed?'—Pryce enacts a highly sympathetic portrayal of the Jewish moneylender, at once a vengeful tyrant and a piteous, persecuted outcast.


"Pryce’s portrait of Shylock in the dark and powerful production is brilliant and tragic. He invests his character with so much humanity that the distances of time and space vanish...All the performances, under the direction of Jonathan Munby, are excellent, with particularly stellar turns from the three women…A brilliant production, and a performance that will stay with you long after the torches go out." Full Review

The New York Times

"A brooding, powerful production…Throughout the director Jonathan Munby’s lucid and strongly acted staging, we will remain aware that while this Shakespearean play is classified as a comedy and is poised ambivalently between light and dark, it will generally be the baser aspects of humanity that prevail...Mr. Pryce illuminates Shylock’s anguish so vividly, his face a contorted mask of spiritual suffering, that it all but erases any sense of contrasting light and dark in the play." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Jonathan Munby’s first-rate Shakespeare’s Globe production...Throughout, Munby keeps the disdain for Jews prominent...Pryce plays Shylock as a man of great dignity, despite (because of?) the hatred accorded him...During the parts of the play when the Shylock plot gets a breather and the competition for Portia’s hand and its aftermath takes focus, Munby hews to a more tradition approach every bit as successful as the enhanced Shylock episodes. He has a first-rate cast performing for him." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"The very best of what a traditional production can be, throwing light on the text but with enough new touches to preserve against boredom…Pryce’s Shylock rescued the role from being a 'comment' on race, and returned it to the story of a battered, angry and increasingly mad old man, pushed to savagery by the savagery around him…In this production he was rendered as a complexly as I’ve seen…The effect of the play was as of a punch to the gut." Full Review


"Live sightings of Jonathan Pryce are rare in New York...His complex, blazingly internalized Shylock is a reminder of how much we’ve been missing. Director Munby’s handsome, modest, stylistically jarring production is a mixed treasure. It is obnoxious in its audience-participation clowning, but harrowing in its violent juxtaposition of the merry Venetian gentiles and their unspeakably casual cruelty to the Jews." Full Review


"As the much maligned yet ethically questionable Jewish moneylender Shylock, Pryce's multifaceted performance is so nuanced that he dominates Jonathan Munby's mounting...During Pryce's offstage scenes, however, this 'Merchant of Venice' is disappointingly black-and-white. The romantic moments between the lovers never quite gel, with far too many of the performers fading into the background. Only in the climactic trial scene does this production come to life as a whole." Full Review

Time Out New York

"A stodgy, underwhelming affair. More or less Renaissance Venice in its period costumes and incidental music, Jonathan Munby’s staging is unfussy and direct, but rarely exciting...Pryce speaks his text with that mellifluous, subtly menacing delivery, shifting from complacent self-satisfaction to howling dismay. But his Shylock a generally passive, cerebral performance, all in the voice and very little in the body. Still, what a grand voice. Pryce is one of the last of the classically trained ... Full Review

Culture Whisper

for a previous production "It's not often you laugh out loud at Shakespeare…But Jonathan Munby's production of 'Merchant of Venice' had the Globe roaring with laughter. Delightful touches, audience participation and wry asides make the magic of Shakespeare's text accessible and engaging…Pryce gives an exquisitely nuanced portrayal of one of the most complex characters in the Shakespeare canon." Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production "Though the production might appear at the outset to be conventional, don’t be misled. Mike Britton’s richly brocaded costumes may be period-sumptuous, but this ever-problematic play forsakes sartorial pageantry to land with a telling sting in its tail. Suffice it to say that Mr. Munby and his largely expert company understand the difficulty in classifying as comic a play that is so dominated by the vilification of the Jewish moneylender Shylock." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "Jonathan Pryce, presents us with a Shylock of weight, gravity and considerable complexity…Pryce’s performance also sets the tone for Jonathan Munby’s production which is, for the most part, a refreshingly sombre, quietly moving affair...There is also good work among the generally revolting Christians...It is Pryce’s Shylock, however, who occupies the memory." Full Review


for a previous production "A cogent, funny and sympathetic telling of Shakespeare’s play…Munby avoids the great questions of the play and steers a course through the waters of sympathy, self-interest and capitalism. The result is a richly amusing take on the play, which is involving and clear, but which never achieves great heights of lyricism or drama, happily accepting ‘everyday’ as its overall pulse...Pryce presents a memorable, complete and completely flawed Shylock." Full Review

Liverpool Echo‎

for a previous production "Jonathan Munby, who directs with narrative clarity, plays the comedy for all its worth, throwing the reverse side of the coin into sharper relief…While Pryce is luminous, there’s ne’er a duff note among the assembled cast…Pryce’s real-life daughter Phoebe impresses as Shylock’s estranged child Jessica...It’s handsomely staged by designer Mike Britton...Munby balances the forces of light and dark equally before blindsiding the audience in the closing minutes." Full Review

A Younger Theatre

for a previous production "Director Jonathan Munby constructs his production to lend a sympathetic ear toward Shylock, and the famous speech, 'Hath not a Jew eyes?' is particularly sombre when unfolded using Pryce’s voice…Yet the production avoids too much melancholy by making the most of the humour, with light comedy in the form of mistaken identities and impossible suitors." Full Review

The Independent (UK)

for a previous production "Jonathan Munby’s clear-headed production of 'The Merchant of Venice' treads a fine line between solid and sparkling: there’s no flashy concept, but there are flashes of directorial insight...The casket scenes are also inflated to the maximum cartoon caricature, with dim-witted suitors mincing and sword-waving about the stage; hilarious or tedious depending on your sense of humour...But Munby knows how to balance the comedy with tragedy." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

for a previous production "The production is typically polished and fluently performed by the ensemble, but as an interpretation it's an exercise in cognitive dissonance…For viewers untroubled by the queasy contradictions on display, there's much to recommend about this otherwise energetic, word-perfect and thoughtful production. Pryce Sr. is, of course, in every way the star of the show. Here, he gives a performance rich in gravitas and grace that finds the dignity and pride in Shylock." Full Review

The Telegraph (UK)

for a previous production "The most sympathetic Shylock I’ve seen…Do we struggle to understand how he could murderously insist on his ‘pound of flesh?’ A little…Yet Pryce doesn’t disappoint…It’s always more of a duty than a pleasure this play, but Munby ensures it’s not hard-going and that the lighter and darker elements combine in a seamless whole...Boasting gorgeous period attire, the production does more than glisten – even if it’s not absolute gold." Full Review

The London Evening Standard

for a previous production "Some impressive individual turns don’t quite manage to mesh all this into a compelling whole. Pryce is excellent, with a notable gravitas and richness of performance. There’s particularly lovely work from Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Nerissa...She offers a delicious range of expressive looks and gestures. I’m always struck by how mean 'Merchant' can be...This is a society with a skewed value system and we leave the Globe pondering this anew." Full Review

Clever, Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you want to see an exquisite show.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy the Bard's plays.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Profound

See it if You like Shakespeare and enjoy examining human relationships

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare

Great acting, Great writing, Masterful

See it if You love Shakespeare and, specifically, "The Merchant of Venice." This is a masterful production, brilliantly acted.

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Absorbing

See it if I might be a tad biased cause I know some cast members but I thought this production was amazing and very relevant to our political climate

Don't see it if you don't like the play itself and don't like Shakespeare done in time period costume/set/music. J.Pryce and cast were stunning though

Clever, Great acting, Refreshing, Intelligent, Great staging

See it if you like THEATRE not social commentary. Shakespeare intelligently played without trying to be High brow. Flexible set, flexible approach

Don't see it if You think Shakespeare Holy Scripture, not be tampered with; if you think Shylock is a tragic character, if you don't have a sense of humor

Riveting, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Clever, Profound

See it if You love Shakespeare and language and want to see a masterful performance from Jonathan Pryce as Shylock.

Don't see it if Vivid depictions of awful anti-Semitism are going to be too upsetting for you.

Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Great staging, Exquisite

See it if You enjoy Shakespeare performed by the world's best company, love the character of Portia, are open to a play that in part reflects its age

Don't see it if You are determined to see the play as biased rather than exploring stereotypes, or you hate Shakespeare

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging, Intelligent

See it if You like Shakespeare problem plays, Jonathan Pryce, updating a classic, outstanding production values.

Don't see it if You don't like nearly 3 hour Shakespeare plays, anti-semitism as a theme, updating of a classic.

Great acting, Resonant, Absorbing, Great writing, Masterful

See it if you like excellently performed Shakespeare in a mostly traditional staging.

Don't see it if you've seen the play too many times already or if you have no interest in Shakespeare.

Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if M of V presented by a group of actors dedicated to his plays - Shakespeare's Globe; Jonathan Pryce as Shylock;original music and dance

Don't see it if Abuse of Jews in plays upsets you; You cannot follow Elizabethian dialogue and syntax; You think that Shakepeare's plays are dull and boring

Must see, Intelligent, Profound, Great staging, Relevant

See it if u wish a strong prod., a great Shylock & a chance to make sense of this difficult play. It's worth your 3 hours and the cost. Venue is good.

Don't see it if u can't be bothered, only willing to pay for perfection, have no patience, no love of verse. Has 3 brilliant scenes, set is effective, dark.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Relevant to today's world

See it if you want to see a spectacular performance by Jonathan Pryce. Not everyone in the cast is up to his level of performance. Stunning staging.

Don't see it if you are not a fan of Shakespeare. Or if you don't like classical drama that resonates in today's world.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Intense

See it if Jonathan Pryce

Don't see it if Cast were all above average but few others were exceptional

Great acting, Powerful ending, Discomfiting, Masterful, Relevant

See it if You're looking for a top-notch version of this problem play. Price makes Shylock understandable; his final scene is terrible and poignant

Don't see it if You dislike Shakespeare (this is a long one); you're sensitive to blatant anti-Semitism (of its time, but still uncomfortable)

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Epic

See it if You like extremely competent British Shakespeare, want to see the comedic side of Merchant brought out without losing the pathos.

Don't see it if You think the whole play should be dark because of its main theme. You don't like audience participation or breaking the 4th wall.

Delightful, Entertaining, Great acting, Classic, Underwhelming

See it if you're a great admirer of Shakespeare, want to enjoy the feeling of a traditional Renaissance Globe experience, or love Jonathan Pryce.

Don't see it if you dislike altered endings of classic plays, are sensitive to harsh depictions of Jews, have trouble understanding Elizabethan English.

Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see a masterful portrayal of Shylock and a play that is all too relevant today. The humor is played up, so you will laugh, too.

Don't see it if you want your heroes and villains to be clear cut. No one is 100% likable or unlikable in this version.

Absorbing, Great acting

See it if Well directed, well acted, well mounted. A uniformly fine production---excellent Jonathan Pryce.

Don't see it if Shakespeare is not your interest.

Intelligent, Relevant, Great acting, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if You like decent English actors speaking Shakespeare, traditional setting with traditional costumes, fan of the High Sparrow,

Don't see it if You expect dazzling, innovative staging, want more than adequate acting, an evening that never catches fire, community-accepted antisemitism

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Ambitious, Thought-provoking

See it if a well staged performance of this challenging play

Don't see it if the themes are upsetting to you.

Difficult play, Serviceable production

See it if you want to hear WS well-spoken. A solid production, but unexciting. If you need MOV for your bucketlist, a good opportunity. Great costumes

Don't see it if you dislike audience participation (house lites kept on low). Bad case of nepotism w/ Phoebe Pryce. Difficult plot to make effective.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful

See it if You like Shakespeare, well done, well acted, true to the text and spirit of the play.

Don't see it if If you prefer reality TV

Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Funny, Edgy, Relevant

See it if you love shakespeare, and want to see a new twist to Merchant of Venice.

Don't see it if religion is a touchy subject for you.

Absorbing, Great writing, Original, Great acting, Riveting

See it if You are a Shakespeare fan and interested in an interpretation that differs from the norm.

Don't see it if You dislike British productions.


See it if You have never seen this play before

Don't see it if Just don't waste your time and money

Cast & Creatives (22)