The Merchant of Venice on the German stage and the 1995 “buchenwald” production in Weimar

Gad Kaynar-Kissinger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Shylock as a Touchstone: The Merchant of Venice on the German Stage From the Enlightenment to our own day, German-language productions of The Merchant of Venice have reflected the always problematic state of German-Jewish relations. All German-language productions of The Merchant of Venice, along with their reception by German critics, reaffirm Elmar Goerden’s contention that “Shylock ist ein Lakmustest für den Status deutsch-jüdischen Miteinanders” (Shylock is a touchstone for the state of German-Jewish coexistence). This observation is profoundly and poignantly applicable to the Israeli director Hanan Snir’s production of The Merchant of Venice at the Weimar National Theater (April, 1995), a hallucinatory and transgressive theatrical event for both spectators and participants, in which I served as one of the two Israeli dramaturges. The different motivations on the part of both the German theater and the Israeli team for mounting this production were, as we shall see, deeply influenced by the intricate critical reception history of The Merchant of Venice in the German theater. A more recent German-language production of the play by Israeli director Avishai Milstein at the Theater Freiburg (March, 2011) sustains this problematic approach to The Merchant of Venice. Milstein’s reading seems to be in accord with our own globalized, capitalist, value-eroding Zeitgeist: The spirits at the stock market of Venice are rather high. The merchants in their grey suits carry attaché cases, pig heads under their arms and a joyful “Morning!” on their lips. … Shylock [Israeli actor Doron Tavori] stands out among these bored Venetians as a stranger, the Other. The fatal idea of Antonio’s pound of flesh is nothing but a brilliant joke of Shylock’s, invented on the spur of the moment. Otherness, the essential name of the game in this stage interpretation, is communicated linguistically. German is not the only language spoken on stage; Shylock speaks English, the international business language, and at times uses Hebrew and even Yiddish. But in spite of the director’s contemporary multicultural concept, in which everyone on stage, not only the Jew, is a stranger and acts his part as one, the weight of history proves inescapable.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWrestling with Shylock
Subtitle of host publicationJewish Responses to the Merchant of Venice
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9780511845789
ISBN (Print)9781107010277
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'The Merchant of Venice on the German stage and the 1995 “buchenwald” production in Weimar'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this