News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Malaysian Actress Plays Shylock

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Malaysian Actress Plays Shylock

Having a woman play Shakespeare's Shylock is certainly unique. Having a Malaysian woman play the role introduces possibilities to the imagination that are quite intriguing. Shylock, the greatest Jewish character in western literature, has always brought to light the contradiction that marginalized and demonized characters pose to the audiences who tacitly accept the marginalizing and demonizing of other humans.

In this Malaysian adaptation of The Merchant of Venice we have a woman play the role. Obviously women themselves in Malaysian society, not to mention still in the west, experience these same pressures. ...

What is unique about this Malaysian production is how the actors and director face up to the Jew Shylock's humanity. According to director Lam Ghooi-Ket:

“When Shylock says his piece about being a Jew – ‘Hath a Jew not eyes’, etc, you realise that perhaps he has been unfairly treated and does not deserve everything that has been doled out to him. In the end, you aren’t quite sure whether he deserves his comeuppance or is to be pitied. It’s a play that makes you think.”

“Jews were discriminated against so this might explain why Shyla behaves the way she does,” says Giri. “At the same time, it doesn’t really excuse her actions either.”
Contrary to the stereotyped view in the west that all Muslims and cultures hate Jews, these comments and this adaptation point to the fact that many other society's recognize the humanity of those who are demonized simply for being different.

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