The paper evaluates the various contexts within which the audience can read the play by Shakespeare and watch the film produced in this modern day, about a decade ago. Given that the two vary in the period of production, it is inevitable to have differences in the intrinsic and extrinsic contexts of the literary works. Some applications in the play could not be included in the film because of the technicalities involved in the production of films. At the same time, there may be some modifications to enable the audience receive the content of literary work in a better way. The material involved in the two situations is easy to adapt to changing circumstances and flexible in the sense that it can use different mechanisms to deliver the same message. The discussion questions in the film and the play may apply as historical questions, essay questions, artistic contexts, and cultural ideas. In addition, the literal content of the works is important sources of ideas and reference for acting exercises and research projects that can engage students and teachers actively in a passionate argument.
On the same note as the play, the film does not take a particular stand between a comedy and a tragedy. It does stand out as a problem either. Besides Shylock’s treatment, the film fails to assert its place well with the author. It is not clear whether the film stands for good or for the ill in the society, which is also a characteristic feature of the play. In the film, there is random switch between tragedy and comedy, an element that makes it hard to clarify the play as either of the two. The manner in which the film ends is likely to cause a lack of satisfaction for the viewer. Especially a person in the audience who has not read the play may feel that it is incomplete to a certain extent. The element compares well with the suggestion that the play ends as a perfect fairy tale that may have a feature of incompleteness. Therefore, the suggested fairy-tale ending and the incomplete ending of the film create important centers of comparison.
The portrayal of the main protagonist in the play and the main character in the movie bring out the difference between the play and the film. In case the movie fail in honoring the author, it is because of the manner in which it portrays Shylock, the protagonist in the original play. The character maintains his role as a protagonist in both works although he was quite semi-sympathetic and antagonist in Shakespeare’s original play. Daniel holds that when Shakespeare wrote the play in the sixteenth century, “the role of the Jew and their character was different from their character or role in the modern society.” In the author’s era, the Jew was a natural villain, who was not easily likable within the society. They had a tendency to oppose the norms of the society and go against what all people regarded as a normalcy within the community. Today, the role of the Jew centers on anti-Semitism. The opposing viewpoints of societal racial groups symbolized by the social conflicts between the religious groups in today’s society may be the cause of for a change in the roles played by the Jew. Egan holds that, “Today, unlike the past, the overall perception of the Jew as a villain does not hold.” It is purely a matter of circumstances. The difference in the roles of the main character in the film and the play emanates from the changing times and attributes of society. The period between the two literary works may have led to some reconciliation in ancient social conflicts, which do not exist today. Therefore, the producer had to make slight changes to the roles played by the protagonist so that his portrayal could suit the needs of a modern society and audience. Otherwise, the relevance of the film could not stand if the main character failed to play a role that addresses issues in today’s society.
The film and the play also differ in terms of the sequence of the plot. In this context, it is important to note that time also plays an important role in the way the two works approach the issue of the plot. In the original play, the early printed scripts included bare directions on the theatrical stage. The actions that end up in the mind of the reader is the work of the description given to the characters by the author. On the other hand, the play and the film have a different setting in terms of the setting. Some of the contents described by Shakespeare in the play are bare to an extent that a modern day producer may find it difficult staging them in their original form in a modern movie. For instance, one of the characters in the play is a victim of rejection because of racial differences and his origin in Morocco. Today, there are several campaigns against racism and such portrayals in a modern movie may be difficult for the producer as they may sour controversy. In fact, it explains the producer’s elimination of this scene from the film yet it is in the original play. Therefore, changes in the plot of the film may be a result of the necessary adjustments that the producer had to make to suit a modern a context. Some contents of the play cannot be portrayed in their bare form.
Most importantly, there is a similarity in the thematic content of the play and the film, which makes it possible to have both of them available to an audience living in different ages and centuries. The original play explores the tension among people, which stems from inevitable differences in culture and religion. Such differences and conflicts are evident in today’s society with variations in beliefs in the most popular religions of the world, Islam, and Christianity. Shakespeare says in the play, “Shylock attempts to dress in the same manner as Christians and act as they do because he wants the rest of the society to accept him.” Although the play centers on the differences between the Venetians and the Jews, it has relevance in a modern setting by talking about two cultures that do not accept and understand each other. They even find it pleasant to torture others. Critchley and McCarthy quote from the play that, “Man could never do without blood, torture and sacrifices when he felt the need to create a memory for himself. “ Variations in beliefs and customs are the cause of the differences, and the film is a success because the play has relevant thematic content that a modern audience can connect to as they watch the film.
The differences and similarities of the film and the play are evident. Most of the differences emanate from the difference in the setting of the audience leading to varying needs. On the other hand, the similarities between the play and the film are the result of the thematic content of the two literary works.
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