The Merchant of Venice – Audition

The Merchant of Venice

 by William Shakespeare

Dates: TBC July 2019

Venue: TBC Oxford centre

Director: Daniel Whitley

About the Production

The Merchant of Venice is a story written for the financially muddled world of 2019. Its conflict between different styles of money lending is very reminiscent of the recent surge (and demise) of “pay-day lenders” such as Wonga. In our production, Shylock represents this style of banking – and would be presented as if chief of a pay-day lender. Antonio represents a regular banker who is unable to lend to Bassanio and takes him to a less scrupulous lender to raise the capital required. We’ll still be set in Venice, however this will not require accents.
One of the difficulties in a modern day staging of Merchant of Venice is how to deal with semi-arranged marriage element of Portia on her father’s behalf. By staging this family as if they are a member of a mob unit this becomes viable. We also have the potentially contentious issue of religion which, obviously, is paramount to the play. In this production Shylock’s religious beliefs will be more contextual rather than a plot driver, however the religious tensions will still, rightly, be visible in the production.

At this moment we are unfortunately not in a position to have our selected venue confirmed. However we can confirm we will be performing in a city centre location for two weeks either beginning 9th or 16th July 2019. Please only audition if you would be free for performances throughout those three weeks until the end of July. More information will be provided here and to all auditionees as soon as it is available.

One of the key advantages of staging specifically The Merchant of Venice in modern day is the flexibility this will bring in terms of casting age/genders. As there are very few relationships which require specific genders, except for Portia and Bassanio we are very open to the possibilities of changing character genders to suit whomever auditions.

Important Dates

First round auditions:

Wednesday 23 January, 7.30pm-9.30pm, Summertown URC

Wednesday 30 January, 8pm-10pm, Summertown URC (new date added)

Sunday 3 February, 6pm-8pm, Summertown URC

Recalls (by invitation only):

Sunday 10 February, 6pm-8pm, Summertown URC

Map to the URC


Bassanio needs money to court Portia, a wealthy heiress to a mob boss. He approaches his friend Antonio, who runs a small bank, for a loan. Antonio can’t give the money up front so suggests he should be a guarantor on Bassanio’s loan. They jointly approach Shylock, a pay-day lender, who has a grudge against Antonio due to competitive market forces and business rivalry. Skylock nevertheless agrees to the loan however requires a pound of flesh in the event of non-payment. Antonio agrees. Meanwhile, Shylock’s servant Launcelot decides to work for Bassanio and Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, decides to elope with Antonio’s friend Lorenzo. After Jessica elopes, Shylock is furious.

Portia’s father is in dire debt. Thus he concocts a scheme to bring money and intelligence into the family by offering his daughter as wife to a wealthy and intelligent suitor. The first suitor is wealthy however fails the intelligence test, which is a good job as Portia doesn’t like him anyway. Shylock discovers Antonio’s ships are probably shipwrecked and Antonio will not be able to pay the loan back. Meanwhile the second suitor also fails the intelligence test.

The third suitor is Bassanio, whom Portia likes immediately. She urges him to make the correct choices in the test so that her father will accept him as her husband. Bassanio makes the correct choice and the two agree to get married. Soon after, Antonio’s ships are confirmed lost and Shylock demands payment. He ignores the pleas to pardon Antonio, instead demanding a trial. The judge sends for a legal expert on the matter who turns out to be Portia in disguise, attempting to save the live of her husband’s business partner. After argument Portia declares the contract is legally binding, and Shylock can take his pound of flesh (however he is thwarted as he can not spill blood in the process). When Shylock agrees to take Bassanio’s money instead of flesh, Portia convicts Shylock of attempted murder. Antonio and Shylock come to an amicable agreement to the matter and Shylock’s charge is halted.

Roles available

As stated before, genders are flexible for all characters except for Portia (F) and Bassanio (M). Ages are also flexible, as such no age profiles are attached in the below list of characters. Some doubling of roles may occur.

The Duke of Venice
The Duke of Venice knows that he cannot risk Venice’s livelihood by denying Shylock’s suit, but is less than happy at the fact.

The Prince of Morocco
The Prince of Morocco is a suitor to Portia’s hand.

The Prince of Arragon
The Prince of Arragon is a prince of Spain and a suitor to Portia’s hand.

Antonio is a merchant of Venice who has invested deeply in overseas ventures, to the extent that he no longer has any ready money left.

Bassanio is a young gentleman of Venice who has squandered all his fortune and is therefore in dire need of a rich wife.

Solanio is a friend of Antonio’s, who once mercantile concerns are dismissed as a cause of the man’s melancholy leaps on love as the reason why.

Gratiano is a friend of Bassanio. A great talker, he is almost impossible to shut up, and can be unmannerly, to the extent that Bassanio only allows him to accompany his trip to Belmont on condition that he keep himself under control.

Salerio is a well-connected merchant of Venice, and a friend of Antonio and Bassanio.

Lorenzo is a friend of Bassanio. In love with Shylock’s daughter Jessica, he helps her run away from her father’s, with the aid of Graziano and Salerio.

Shylock is a Jewish moneylender in Venice, who detests and despises Christians.

Tubal is a wealthy Jew of Venice, who lends Shylock enough to make up the full three thousand ducats the latter lends to Antonio.

Launcelot Gobbo
Launcelot Gobbo is a quick-witted young fellow who is originally Shylock’s servant.

Old Gobbo
Old Gobbo is an old man, blind or as well as, and not entirely comfortable with long words.

Leonardo is one of Bassanio’s servants. He is sent out to do some shopping for his master when the latter receives the money from Shylock.

Balthazar is one of Portia’s servants.

Stephano is a servant of Portia’s. He announces her return to Belmont, supposedly from her religious retreat.

Portia is an extraordinarily rich heiress of Belmont constrained by her father’s will to accept in marriage whichever suitor successfully passes the test of the three caskets.

Nerissa is Portia’s lady-in-waiting, verbal sparring partner, and friend. 

Jessica is Shylock’s daughter. She does not have the happiest of home-lives with her father, finding it only relieved by Lancelot’s jesting.

The Jailer is charged with keeping an eye on Antonio to prevent him from running away before having paid his debt to Shylock.

Portia's Servant
Portia’s Servant announces to her that various of her suitors have decided not to risk having to swear never to marry if they choose wrongly in the casket trial, and are therefore leaving.

Antonio's Servant
Antonio’s Servant is sent to fetch Salerio and Solanio when Antonio learns of the extent of his losses.

Audition Process

There will be three first round auditions and then recall by invitation only. In the first round, we will be working on speeches and scenes from Shakespeare, however not necessarily from Merchant of Venice. There will be no need to prepare anything in advance.

The sessions will run for two hours and you will be given the opportunity to work on a range of scenes with a range of different actors. It will be a relaxed and informal process – no need to stress!

Recalls will be by invite only, please note not being invited to the recall does not necessarily mean you will not be cast. Ahead of the recalls, you will be sent scenes you’ll be working on during the evening. There is no requirement to learn them, however familiarity with the texts will be ideal.

Accessibility concerns

If you have any specific needs with regards to access or any other issues, please do get in contact with us ( and we will help if we can.

What if I can’t make those dates and times?

If you are interested in auditioning, but are unable to come to any of the given dates, please contact us ( and we will try to see you at another time, if possible.

It would be helpful if you could bring a completed audition form, but forms will also be available at the auditions.

All OTG auditions are run according to the OTG audition policy and harassment policy .


Rehearsals will begin in April with three rehearsals a week, likely to be Monday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Not everyone will be called to every rehearsal. A rehearsal schedule will be devised as soon as possible after casting is completed.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch –

Character Synopsis: ©2005-2016 Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this information under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. Terms at