The Merchant of Venice
In Venice, the epicentre of consumption, speculation and debt, Bassanio borrows money from his friend Antonio to finance his attempt to win the hand of Portia, a wealthy heiress. Antonio, in turn, takes out a loan from the moneylender Shylock. The loan will be repaid when Antonio’s ships return to the city. But if they should fail, and the money cannot be repaid, Antonio shall give to Shylock a pound of his own flesh. And they do fail. And Shylock will have his ‘bond’.
In some of his most highly-charged scenes, Shakespeare dramatizes the competing claims of tolerance and intolerance, justice and mercy, while in the character of Shylock he created one of the most memorable outsiders in all theatre.
The Taming of the Shrew
Two wealthy sisters in Padua must be married off. The modest, demure Bianca has no shortage of suitors, but who on earth will take the wild, ungovernable, ‘shrewish’ Kate? Perhaps the gold-digging Petruchio, as maddeningly strong-willed and perverse as Kate herself, will be equal to the task of bullying her to the altar.
Shakespeare’s outrageous comedy introduces one of theatre’s great screwball double-acts, a couple hell-bent on confusing and outwitting each other right up to its controversial conclusion.
In the household of the Countess Olivia, two campaigns are being quietly waged - one by the lovesick Duke Orsino against the heart of the indifferent Olivia; the other by an alliance of servants and hangers-on against the high-handedness of her steward, the pompous Malvolio. When Orsino engages the cross-dressed Viola to plead with Olivia on his behalf, a bittersweet chain of events follows.
Filled with a cast of unforgettable characters, Twelfth Night combines cruelty with high comedy and the pangs of unrequited love with some of the subtlest poetry and most exquisite songs Shakespeare ever wrote.
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