The Trinity Shakespeare Festival goes into full swing this week at TCU with a couple of Shakespeare plays that are grouped in with his comedies, though only one of them fits snugly into that category. That would be The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare’s only play that concerns itself with contemporary English middle-class life and one that continues the adventures of Falstaff, the drunken carousing comic genius of the Bard’s Henry IV plays. Rumor and speculation surround the origins of this play, as well as why such a great character is stuck in such substandard slapstick hijinks, but the play can still be vastly entertaining if done correctly.
Much more complicated is The Merchant of Venice, which has a romantic plot involving a wealthy heiress that the great majority of scholars, critics, and theatergoers ignore in favor of scrutinizing the character of Shylock and what the play says about Jewish stereotypes, anti-Semitism, and the place of foreigners in society. Productions have been all over the map about Shakespeare’s intentions, and while some have positioned Shakespeare as taking a modern, enlightened attitude toward the Jewish villain, others have wound up stoking audiences into an anti-Semitic fury (most of them without meaning to). How will Trinity Shakespeare handle this troubling material?
The Trinity Shakespeare Festival runs thru Jul 1 at TCU’s Walsh Performing Arts Center, 2800 S University Dr, FW. Tickets are $10-25. Call 817-257-8080.