Letter: Wesker and Shylock

Sir: Arnold Wesker's trenchant attack on Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice ("Shame on you, Shakespeare", 21 July) is made to look foolish by the production currently running at the National Theatre.

Henry Goodman's brilliant performance as Shylock is subtler than Wesker's arguments. It doesn't claim that Shakespeare's text is either anti-Semitic or anti-racist. Instead, it pursues suggestive connections between Shylock's anxious love for his motherless daughter and his embattled position in fiercely racist Venice.

His portrayal charts the painful progress of Shylock from a personal wound (the loss of his daughter) into public vengeful hatred. In its detail and humanity, it carries understanding and sympathy throughout this journey without ever losing sight of its pointless folly. This makes the production both topical and poignant.

Such nuances are more easily explored in drama than polemic. Even so, it is strange that Wesker does not mention this extraordinary production.



Battersea Arts Centre

London SW11