Extraordinary in itself, the 2016 performance of The Merchant in the Venetian Ghetto produced an equally extraordinary collateral performance. Staged in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, a ‘Mock Appeal in the Matter of Shylock vs Antonio’ was heard by a bench presided over by Ruth Bader Ginsberg. A curious aspect of the Appeal was that Portia made an appellee. This essay investigates the decision to try Portia. What cultural, political, religious needs were served by bringing Portia into court? Thinking about Justice and Mercy, law, bonds, and love, this essay asks: when the verdict was pronounced, was antisemitism recuperated by misogyny?
Keywords: Adaptation • Shakespeare’s comedies of love • Children reading Shakespeare • Ruth Bader Ginsburg • Shakespeare’s trial scenes • The Merchant of Venice in the Ghetto • The Merchant of Venice • Mock Trial: Shylock v • Antonio • The quality of mercy • Portia