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The Merchant of Venice (Saini, 2019)

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The Merchant of Venice

The Punjabi production of The Merchant of Venice was directed by Vijeta Saini, a graduate student at Northeastern University, in collaboration with B.A.M. Khalsa College, Garhshankar and its student run theatre group, The Struggler Theatre Group. The first performance of the production was staged on September 2, 2019.

The staging of the play came into being and was driven by the question, “How do people see Shakespeare in Punjab?”. The director, intrigued by the wide-spread presence of Shakespeare in Punjab, aims to explore what the audience finds eccentric, fascinating or relevant in the play with respect to their culture, and how does it affect their reading of the play. To study these aspects of intercultural spectatorship, a survey was conducted after each of the four performances of the play, and interviews were organized with cast members and willing spectators.

The play was translated by Mz. Pardeep Kaur, a graduate student, in Punjabi. She introduced some colloquial Punjabi phrases in the script to compensate for the jettisoned iambic pentameter. She worked rigorously to make the play accessible for both its urban and rural audiences, and the team is thankful for it.

Since the play was staged on a micro-budget, primarily self-funded, and within a course of ten days, the director decided to stage it in the Nukkad Natak format. It helped her to do away with particularities of a traditional set and use the characters to construct a quasi-stage for the duration of the play. The stage was divided into Belmont and Venice by physically placing the characters in a way that they would stand parallel to their counterpart on the other side of stage (Fig. 1). For instance, Shylock and Portia were positioned at the end of the semi-circle to physically represent their outsider-ness on the stage, and Lorenzo and Morocco both of whom are potential suitor stood parallel to each other. Each scene was followed by all the characters turning to their left and stomping their feet on ground to create a tap sound. This was done to achieve a marching effect and to illustrate the movement of characters from Venice to Belmont, except Shylock who was made to turn right to show his gradual movement outside the circle of the play.

(L to R= Shylock, Jessica, Lorenzo, Salarino, Antonio, Duke, Bassanio, Gratiano, Prince of Morocco, Nerissa and Portia)

Fig. 1


The production tried to retain the plot of Shakespeare’s play, but had its characters dress in Punjabi attire to break the forth wall in order to force the audience to think what are they watching and where. The play was heavily governed by the politic of vision and place in trying to address the questions it sought answers to.

Script in Punjabi
Script in English (coming soon!)

Director: Vijeta Saini
Script Translated by: Mz. Pardeep Kaur


Antonio: Rajan Cheema
Bassanio: Baljinder Singh
Portia: Lovepreet Kaur
Nerissa: Ekta
Shylock: Ritu Raj Sharma
Prince of Morocco: Kanwar Jai Singh
Jessica: Harmandeep Kaur
Lorenzo: Bagga Singh
Salarino: Kulwinder Singh
Gratiano: Happy
Duke: Sunil Rana

Sound: Prof. Gurpreet Singh Kalsi and Priya Kaushal.
Videography and Photography: Harish Kalyan and Honey Studio, Garhshankar, Punjab.
Venue: B.A.M. Khalsa College, Garhshankar, Punjab.

Contact Information

Collaborating College’s Website:
Director’s email:

Special thanks to Prof. Kanwar Kulwant Singh, Prof. Harpreet Kaur and Prof. Gurpreet Singh for their help throughout this project, and Prof. Erika Boeckeler and Prof. Vanila Khanna for their moral support.

Please feel free to email the director with any questions you have. She’ll be happy to answer.

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The Merchant of Venice

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