Shylock is one of Shakespeare’s most intriguing creations who has been identified as a character who can fluctuate to extremes. Shylocks elaborate and complex nature has never been completely understood within the plays and movies, causing stage director and cinematic producers to alter his character continuously. During early Elizabethan times Shylock would have been played by a comedian who wore a grotesque false nose and red wig; cleverly these props were used to insinuate to the audience that he was a joke. Undoubtedly, this stimulated the audience to mock Shylock and not to take him seriously or sympathetically. Within the early 1800’s Shylock was seen as a pantomime figure rather than a victim of abuse. Further suggestions could be made that the props were used to communicate the villainy and evil nature of Shylock, which of course would have been met with glee by the Elizabethan audience.
As time evolved so did the perception of Shylock as a character. In mid-1800’s the actor Edmund Kean changed the way he would represent the character of Shylock. Rather than the traditional ‘pantomime’ figure he wanted to unveil a passionate, vulnerable, abused and victimised Shylock much to the shock of the director. In turn audiences felt sorry for him despite his cruel and constant insistence for flesh. Presented was a crushed and defeated figure who was exiled because of his religion. Later on in 1987 the views of Shylock seemed to have developed and adjusted once again. Here we saw the actor present a malicious, savage character unlike before. In conclusion Shylock is a character that has been examined so closely and in a variety of ways, he has now become this complex character with several aspects to him.