The Merchant of Venice

By William Shakespeare

Performances at Paraclete House at the Community of Jesus
Rock Harbor, Orleans, MA

Friday, December 4 – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 5 – 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, December 6 – 3:00 p.m., followed by a discussion 

Friday, December 11 – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 12 – 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, December 13 – 3:00 p.m., followed by discussion

On Sunday, December 6 and 13, there is also a luncheon available at 1:00 p.m., for an additional cost.

Reserve tickets 

Learn more about the play here!


Antonio, a royal merchant in Venice, finds himself sad and weary, in spite of his great fortune and his many friends. Among the party of young and lively bachelors that surround him is Bassanio, who asks Antonio to lend him 3,000 ducats so that he may travel to Belmont and woo the rich and beautiful lady, Portia. Antonio gladly agrees, but is short on cash as all his ships are out at sea, and conscripts Bassanio to find him a lender.

Portia, the lady heiress of Belmont, is also weary, plagued as she is by suitors who come from the world over to win her hand (and her considerable fortune), according to a contest laid out by her father in his will. Portia must marry the man who from a choice of three caskets, made of gold, silver and lead, correctly chooses the casket containing her portrait.

In search of a source for his loan Bassanio brings Shylock, the Jewish moneylender, to Antonio. Their history is rife with hatred: Antonio lends without interest, costing Shylock clients and income, and Antonio has made his revulsion to Shylock clear with verbal and physical insults. Nonetheless Shylock agrees to the loan, and in lieu of interest, convinces Antonio to forfeit a pound of his own flesh if he is unable to make good on his repayment of the 3,000 ducats. Bassanio takes the money and his friend Gratiano and leaves for Belmont. Meanwhile Shylock’s daughter Jessica expresses her great unhappiness and shame in her father’s house, and reveals her plan to steal her father’s money and elope with another Venetian bachelor (and a Christian), Lorenzo.

Back in Belmont the Prince of Morocco and the Prince of Arragon both choose the incorrect caskets, losing their chances of Portia and her fortune, and completely foregoing their option to marry in the future. In Venice the news is swirling: Shylock learns of his daughter’s betrayal, and of a rumor that Antonio’s ships have been lost at sea. Ignorant of this Bassanio sweeps into Portia’s house, wins her heart, and selects the correct casket, thereby winning her hand and her fortune as well. At the same time his friend Gratiano falls in love with Portia’s lady in waiting, Nerissa, and they also make plans to marry. Their happiness is suspended with the news of Antonio’s demise, his inability to pay the debt, and Shylock’s demand for his pound of flesh. Portia sends Bassanio back to Venice with enough money to pay the debt several times over.

Shylock has Antonio arrested for his failure to pay. Portia and Nerissa secretly leave Belmont for Venice too, disguising themselves as men. In Venice, Antonio’s trial is underway, with the Duke of Venice presiding. Upon Shylock’s refusal to accept Bassanio’s offer to repay the loan, the Duke announces that he has called for legal reinforcement from Doctor Bellario in Padua. Nerissa (disguised as a clerk) appears with a letter from Bellario, introducing “Balthazar,” the brilliant legal student he has sent to pass judgment. “Balthazar” (Portia, also disguised) arrives, reads the contract, attempts unsuccessfully to reason with Shylock, and determines that Shylock is indeed entitled to his pound of flesh. Shylock is thrilled until Portia quickly points out that the contract includes no blood; therefore Shylock must exact the flesh without shedding a single drop, or he will be arrested for it. Shylock attempts to recant and take the money, but Portia brings up another sticking point: as a Jew, and therefore an alien, Shylock has made an attempt on the life of a Venetian citizen, and has thereby rendered his own life forfeit. The Duke shows mercy, and allows Antonio to pass the final sentence: Shylock may keep half his wealth, but he must give the other half to Lorenzo and Jessica (with the promise of leaving it all to them upon his death), and he must become a Christian.

Not recognizing his wife, Bassanio offers “Balthazar” a tribute of his thanks for saving Antonio’s life. Portia takes the opportunity to ask for his ring – the ring she had given him upon their marriage, with the promise that he should never let it part from his finger. Reluctantly, he hands it over, as Gratiano does his to Nerissa (whom he also does not recognize). The women race back to Belmont arriving just before their husbands return. Portia welcomes back Bassanio, Gratiano and Antonio, but the news quickly surfaces that both new husbands have given away their rings. The two wives torture them with accusations of infidelity. Finally Portia reveals that it was her and Nerissa all along in the courtroom, that three of Antonio’s ships are safe and sound, and that Lorenzo and Jessica will receive a fat inheritance from Shylock. The celebration begins.

Cast & Staff

Cast & Staff


(in order of their appearance)

Antonio Christopher Kanaga
Salerio Kate Shannon
Solanio Peter McKendree
Bassanio Ryan Winkles
Lorenzo Peter Haig
Gratiano, Aragon Kyle Norman
Portia Rachel McKendree
Nerissa Stephanie Haig
Shylock Sr. Danielle Dwyer
Launcelot, Tubal, Morrocco, Duke Brad Lussier
Jessica Ellen Ortolani


Sr. Danielle Dwyer

Technical Director
Chris Kanaga

News & Reviews

News & Reviews

“The Merchant of Venice,” Elements Theatre Company, Orleans: While Shakespeare’s play itself is problematic, this production was impeccably acted and beautifully designed. It was clear the company had dug deeply into all aspects of this play and era.  —Cape Cod Times “Top Favorites” for 2015 Year

A “them against us” mentality seems to be sweeping the country. All you have to do is listen to the news. Depending on your vantage point, the “other” might be perceived as the police in minority communities, Muslims in Western countries, illegal immigrants at our borders and in our cities.
There is all too much demonization taking place and too few efforts at understanding. ​This past week in Chicago, a theater troupe from the ecumenical Community of Jesus in Orleans, Mass., has been . . . [READ MORE]  —America Magazine

Encountering the Other in Shakespeare

By Judith Valente, America Magazine

A “them against us” mentality seems to be sweeping the country.


Powerful 'Merchant of Venice' in Orleans

By Douglas Karlson, Cape Codder

The attention to detail characteristic of productions at the Community of Jesus begins even before you enter the theater grounds at Rock Harbor, as friendly volunteers carefully direct cars via an elaborate arrangement of blinking lights and flashlights.


Element's 'Merchant' seeks to enlighten audience

By Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll, Cape Cod Times

ORLEANS – Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” doesn’t seem an obvious choice for staging at this holiday time of year until you read a program note for the Elements Theatre Company production by Sister Danielle Dwyer, the director.

She points out that this show straddles both the season of Hanukkah and the Christian season of Advent, and she links the fact that both are celebrations of light to Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote that only light can drive out darkness.


Elements Theatre Company presents "Merchant of Venice"

By Barbara Clark, Barnstable Patriot

For the past year, Elements Theatre Company in Orleans has been focusing on the words and works of William Shakespeare, a major project looking toward the 400th anniversary of his death, to be commemorated in 2016.

The theatre company continues this journey with words as they perform Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” from Dec.


A Striking ‘Merchant Of Venice’ From Elements Theatre Co.

By Ellen Petry Whalen, The Cape Cod Chronicle

Even though Shakespeare never goes out of style, in times of uncertainty the Bard’s powerful words can ring more true.


From the Director

From the Director

Dear Friends,

In this time of turmoil, when peace and safety are at odds with the events of a day, we look at this play in a new light.

This run of The Merchant of Venice straddles both the Jewish season of Hanukkah and the Christian season of Advent – both celebrations of light.  Both seasons recall saving moments in history that gave to a people relief and peace from the tensions and dangers of the world in which they lived.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

In a play that does not shy away from hatred and love, that illuminates the motivations and choices that shape the lives of those characters making them, and thrusts them into places and predicaments they never thought they’d be, we see anew, that what motivates the heart is the most important thing.

These motivations play out most directly in the relationship between Shylock and Antonio – a “merry” bond is struck between them. In the text it reads as a joke when proposed by Shylock and, in hubris, Antonio accepts it, ignoring the protests of his friend, Bassanio.  As the play progresses, situations change dramatically and dangerously and the bond that seemed to be made in jest, grows fangs and drives them both to the edge of murder.  Who can know what lies in the heart of a man?

Once again Shakespeare offers us a story that can be seen and taken as a reflection back, both on us as individuals, and of the world; a cautionary tale.  This story shines truth on the human relationships that live in small communities, in larger cities, and in even larger countries that bridge continents.  If we can start in ourselves, looking at what we choose, our motivations, then this recognition has the ability to move from benign acceptance to an active agent for change.  Please join us as we offer this play, and these possibilities, as prayers for peace in our world.

Blessings in these Seasons of Light,
Sr. Danielle Dwyer

Sr. Danielle Dwyer

See and Hear

See and Hear