As well as looking at how we’ve staged The Merchant of Venice, which you can do in the Productions section, it’s important to think about what you would do if you were staging the play. And, if you can, to perform parts of it yourself.

We encourage you to look at the play, or scenes in the play, and think through the decisions a director makes with their actors:

  • Where is the play set?
  • How are the characters connected?
  • What do the characters want?

Here you can find some key things to think about before staging the play yourself. Even if you’re working towards an exam or preparing for an assignment, it’s important to think about different ways of reading lines or words and taking a look at the key decisions a director needs to make could really help your essay responses.

  • Key Decisions to make

    There are certain things that every director and creative team have to consider when staging The Merchant of Venice. The way you answer the questions can create incredibly different interpretations of the play.

    Family and Loyalty

    • There are two fathers and their daughters in the play, although we don't meet Portia's father. How do the two daughters relate to their fathers? Are there any key comparisons between the young women that you would want to draw out?
    • How will you set up and stage the family homes? How can you portray the relationship each person has with their home?
    • There are friendships in the play that are sometimes just as close as family. How will you demonstrate the separation of Lancelet Gobbo from Shylock's family given that he has served them his whole life? How will you portray the reliance of friends like Antonio and Bassanio or Portia and Nerissa on each other?


    • Religious divisions in the play are crucial. How will you interpret these? What does it mean to be a Jew or a Christian in the world you create and how can you convey this onstage?
    • How will people from different religious groups treat each other in the world of your play? How can you indicate that religion is important in this location?


    • What is the role of women in the worlds of Venice and Belmont? Is it different in the two places? What are Portia and Nerissa's expectations of men?
    • How much freedom do each of the women in the play have and how can you show this? Are there any roles that are traditionally played by men that you would like to see played by women? If you changed this, what would the impact be?
    • How will you stage the scenes where women are dressed as men, making this believable?
    • In your setting, what are the rules about how men and women interact with each other?

    Within each of these choices, there are lots of key moments and scenes to explore.

    Going back through the Investigate section and looking at the different performances we’ve had at the RSC, think about these two areas:

    • How the place and time productions are set in affect the representation of women and men on stage. Does their behaviour change?
    • How important does religion appear to be and is its influence visually obvious?

Teacher Notes

This page looks at some of the key decisions a director makes.

Challenge your students to think about how they would want to tell the story of The Merchant of Venice. How would they respond to the questions here?