If you were the Notorious R.B.G.—that’s the definitive moniker the kids are using these days for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—what would you do during your time off from protecting people’s rights? How about trodding the boards?
Yes, Bader Ginsburg will be part of a very special production of The Merchant of Venice in July, playing the presiding judge in a mock trial of the Shakespearean villain Shylock. Bader Ginsburg, who recently turned 83, will assume the role for a special “show within a show” in Italy, where the litigants will also be portrayed by famous lawyers.
R.B.G’s performance is timely, too, as this year marks two centennials: it’s been 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, and 500 years since the origins of the Venetian Jewish Ghetto (the ghetto from which Shylock would have hailed in The Merchant of Venice).
Given R.B.G.’s strong Jewish background, it is unclear whether she will accept “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” as a valid defense against controversial terms of moneylending (not that that famous speech appears during the trial anyway). In all seriousness, given Merchant‘s controversial reputation as an anti-Semitic play over the years, and many (usually unsuccessful) attempts to reclaim it, this intersection of a Jewish woman in a position of power in a space associated with Jewish oppression is an ingenious way to explore this play publicly.
Also, it’s further proof that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is perf.