Shylock as a stage character has been the subject of many various interpretations. For Fritz Leiber he was almost a tragic hero, while George Arliss played the role as a fawning and thoroughly wicked villain. In this latest production of "The Merchant of Venice" now playing at the Tremont, Mr. Maurice Moscovitch gives what seems to this reviewer to be the most intelligent estimation of the Jew of Venice that has been presented in recent years. Neither one extreme nor the other, Shylock, as Mr. Moscovitch portrays him, is a very complex character, a man who commands at once scorn, pity, and admiration.
The lines as Shakespere wrote them indicate that he intended Shylock to be a mixture of good and evil. At one moment you laugh at his tears for his daughter and his ducats, but the sincere lament that follows immediately after for the loss of Leah's ring certainly arouses anything but scorn. Again, when Bassanio and Antoncate comedy, and Shylock a wretch who gets his just deserts, but he is not a stage villain of Gothic blackness. Instead, Mr. Moscovitz shows a fusion of contradictory emotions: gile and hate mixed with love and sincerety, a true Shakesperean character.
Another excellent point in this production is the finesse of the technique of Mr. Moscovitz, and for that matter, that of Miss Selena Royle as Portia. The great lines of Shylock are spoken with such sureness and understanding that their greatness is of strike their bargain with Shylock, Mr. Moscovitz very subtly insinuates the true hate and venom of one who has been "spurned as a strange cur". He mingles his fawning and bitterness with laughter of the very cruelest variety. The play remains a dell-part of the character and not mere genius in the poet. In other words, this is Shylock.
As for Portia, as soon as she becomes sure of herself, she is a very charming and vivacious young lady who was worthy of the most superlative of Bassanios. Miss Royle being a very lovely young woman in her own right, she plays her part with such sensitive appreciation that she very adequately balances Mr. Moscovitch. It seems to be the intention of the producers to emphasize only one star, but Miss Royle happily prevents such a narrow intent from becoming real.
The remainder of the cast unfortunately falls below the level of the principles, although Maury Tuckerman as Launcelot Gobbo and Geoffrey Ward well as Bassanio are above the average. The opening performance was marred by several of the minor characters forgetting their lines and a general uncertainty about the mechanics of the piece, but with a few more performances, the entire cast should be able to support Mr. Moscovitch adequately. The use of the same scenery used by George Arliss several years ago provides a very beautiful background upon which to present so much good acting. If the company can get properly organized and Mr. Moscovitch not made too preponderant, there is no reason why this should not become one of the truly superlative productions of "The Merchant of Venice."