Hello, everybody, today I am going to do a compare and contrast of David Suchet and Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of Shylock, in The Merchant of Venice. Well, not the entire portrayal, but simply their take on Shylock’s “human” speech.
Here is a video clip of them both doing the speech on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-35G7DOFrOo . The speeches stop at 3:43.
While they really are wildly different in portrayal, at the heart, Suchet and Stewart communicate generally the same thing – Intense emotional strain, a deep anger that vents itself, and a calculating, cold-blooded, justification of revenge.
First I will take a look at David Suchet’s portrayal, which is roughly 1 minute and 56 seconds long. Suchet’s Shylock is an utterly furious Jew with an extremely emotional plea for justice and a deep hunger for blood and revenge. His speech is very much directed to Salarino and the surrounding audience with a strong, passionate, Middle Eastern anger. There is a mingling of half disbelief at the treatment he receives form Christians and a hint of justification and cruelty, but the prevailing experience is a long time of hurt and anger boiling over in full-fledged furry. His speech is longer, drawn out, zealous and bristling with deep-seated rage.
Patrick Stewart’s speech is fairly shorter than David Suchet’s, lasting approximately 1 minute and 22 seconds. Steward’s Shylock is acidic, callous, and uptight in his cynical anger and has a sense of almost talking to himself, rather than to Salarino or his audience. He is very constrained and very British in his hatred. He seems to have a cruel anger that has been building up inside him for years and is finally spewing out like poison. I feel he does have a slight “entitlement mentality,” and seems practically insulted during the speech. There is also a hint of the comical or insane in the loud, fast, choppy way Steward spits out this bitter speech.
I believe the largest difference in the two portrayals is that Suchet’s is extremely Jewish, while Stewart’s is entirely British. Also, there is a 34-second time difference, which, because of the differences of voice speed, completely changes the tone of the speech.
I, personally, like David Suchet’s portrayal better. I find it more accurate – being that it is more Jewish I find it more real, and less like a speech in a theater somewhere. But then, of course, I am a bigger Suchet fan than I am a Stewart fan, so I may be a little biased.