"I am not bound to please thee with my answers," says the judge in the famous courtroom scene in The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare’s play about a Venetian Jewish moneylender.
They also sound like words that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would love to utter. She will be playing the role of the judge this summer in a production of The Merchant of Venice, marking the 500th anniversary of the Jewish ghetto in Venice.
The Merchant of Venice chronicles the persecution of a Jewish moneylender who demands payment on a defaulted loan from his Christian patron. Shylock is taken to trial, and the play concludes with him converting to Christianity. It’s a fitting story for the celebration of the Jewish ghetto, and for Ginsburg, whose Jewish identity plays a prominent role in her life outside the court.
But Ginsburg is no Shakespeare novice. She recently told Politico of her many onstage appearances in Shakespeare plays, most prominently as Dick the Butcher in Henry VI.
"I had Dick the butcher’s part, with the famous line, ‘First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.’ And then I asked if I could ad-lib an addition, I checked this out in advance, and the addition was, ‘and next the reporters,’" she said, chuckling.
Her love for opera recently gained attention after the death of her close friend, Justice Antonin Scalia, with whom she frequented opera performances. Last summer, a cast even performed a one-act opera about the two justices, Scalia/Ginsburg, at a festival in Virginia.