If you've been casting around since April trying to find a way to celebrate Shakespeare's 400th deathday, look no further than The Merchant of Venice, just now completing its run at the Kennedy Center. Normally you should be mortified to forget such an occasion, but the rules of etiquette begin to relax after four centuries. Anyway, it's the perfect excuse to enjoy such worthy drama—produced by the Globe Theatre no less—and appearing in world playhouses from Beijing to Chicago.

Earlier this summer, New York's free Shakespeare in the Park put on The Taming of the Shrew, which featured modern circus and prom costumes, Donald Trump's voice, a beauty pageant theme, and "cannily used the perceptible distance between actresses and their roles to point out the artificiality of masculine posturing," reports the New York Times. Partisan agenda complete, the show ends with the cast throwing open their shirts and angrily singing Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation."

That's one type of Shakespeare—creative reinterpretation. The Globe's Merchant of Venice, however, is not that type of Shakespeare. It's Shakespeare's Shakespeare, straight Shakespeare, closer to the way ole' Will would've wanted it.

Director Jonathan Munby has created a sweeping spectacle with a presence larger than its stage, and larger than its modern moment. Beautiful period costumes and a powerful Old-World set vividly create Venice. Before any audience member is in their seat, a pre-show jig—a cacophony of drums, flutes, cymbals, and high-stepping players—builds a dramatic atmosphere. Mist fills the air, torches light the lonely street, and loud Italian richly recreates the ancient island city-state.

It's all the trappings such talented actors deserve. Jonathan Pryce makes his debut with the Globe as Shylock, and Dominic Mafham plays Antonio. Both veterans deliver masterful performances, creating deeply complex characters, loathsome and sympathetic in the same minute, locked by their hubris in a rivalry teetering toward their mutual destruction. The rest of the cast is equally talented, each of them classically trained Shakespearians with countless credits to their names. Rachel Pickup as Portia was especially mesmerizing.

The Globe preserves the richness of Shakespeare's deadly romantic courtroom drama, its comedy as well as its tragedy. The show carries a well-deserved gravitas. But it's highbrow entertainment that isn't above mocking the cheap seats and close-sitting audience members. In a side-splitting moment, Launcelot Gobbo (played by Stefan Adegbola) picks two unfortunate spectators to be the devil and angel on his shoulder to help him decide to "budge" or "budge not" from his master Shylock. The way such humorous moments worked to relieve scenes of real tragedy speaks to the production's excellence. Portia crying "our house is hell!" and the court's indictment of Shylock's "Jewish heart" fell heavily on a somber audience.

There's no two ways about it: The Merchant of Venice is racist through and through. The Christians hiss at Shylock, call him misbeliever, cutthroat dog, and spit upon his Jewish gabardine. Portia desperately prays the Moroccan, and anyone of his "devilish complexion" chooses the wrong casket. Each of the characters is, in some way, deaf to Shylock's famous reasoning, "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?" The Jew and the Christian can't recognize they are fed by the same food and hurt by the same weapons.

Shakespeare's audience probably hated Shylock and the rest of his tribe as much as Antonio. Today, the modern audience knows better and is repulsed by such hatred. Some productions, like Shakespeare in the Park's Taming of the Shrew, have taken on the task of reinterpretation. All fine, good, and creative in its own right. But it's the Globe's Merchant of Venice unmodified, masterful presentation which proves the enduring magnetism of Shakespeare's work. In a hundred years we'll understand his plays in a wholly different way, but remain mesmerized all the same.

It's the right play for the anniversary occasion.

Those who missed The Merchant of Venice at the Kennedy Center can catch the production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater between August 9 – 14.