Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts

Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts

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Overview

Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is a richly complicated and disturbing work. Several themes are presented within the framework of a traditional comedy; however, the play has also been at the center of controversy due to its depiction of the Jewish moneylender Shylock, which many people feel is anti-Semitic. This invaluable new study guide to one of Shakespeare's greatest comedies contains a selection of the finest criticism through the centuries on The Merchant of Venice, including commentaries by such important critics as Victor Hugo, Northrop Frye, W. H. Auden, and many others. Students will also benefit from the additional features in this volume, including an introduction by Harold Bloom, an accessible summary of the plot, an analysis of several key passages, a comprehensive list of characters, a biography of Shakespeare, essays discussing the main currents of criticism in each century since Shakespeare's time, and more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780517101223
Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/28/1994
Series: Players' Shakespeare Ser.
Pages: 129

About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King’s New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as “an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers.” Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later under James I, called the King’ s Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain’s Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford,though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.


Date of Death:

2018

Place of Birth:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Place of Death:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Read an Excerpt

In The Merchant of Venice, the penniless but attractive Bassanio seeks, and finally wins, the hand of the fabulously wealthy Portia. But even as the play provokes laughter, it also provokes something disturbing, as Bassanio's courtship is actually financed by the magnificent villain Shylock the moneylender -- the focus of anti-Semitic sentiment, and one of the most controversial yet strangely sympathetic of Shakespeare's characters, whose actions and whose treatment in the play are still debated to this day.

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     xi
General Introduction     1
Shakespeare and Semitism     1
Sources, Analogues, and Date     13
The Play     29
The Merchant of Venice in Performance     58
Textual Introduction     85
Editorial Procedures     94
Abbreviations and References     95
The Merchant of Venice     99
Speech prefixes for Shylock in Q1, Q2, and F     229
Index     231

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The Merchant of Venice (Campfire Graphic Novel) 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful play - and unless you have seen it or read it you don't know it at all. That's because everything the popular culture tells us about this play is false (for example; how many of you think this play is about a merchant named Shylock? ;-)

The Merchant of Venice is about a merchant named Antonio and his efforts to help his daughter Portia, find a suitable husband. A significant subplot involves a cruel, greedy Jew named Shylock. Some call this play anti-Semitic because of Shylock¿s character, it isn¿t. Making a bad guy Jewish is not anti-Semitic. The other Jew in the play is Shylock¿s daughter Jessica, and she is sweet, kind, and compassionate.

There is powerful verbal conflict between the Christian and Jewish world-views in which both sides get a fair hearing and get in their licks. This is almost unheard of today because the Christian side of this dialectic is considered politically incorrect.

The Merchant of Venice is a lively and happy morality tale. Good triumphs over bad - charity over greed - love over hate. There is fine comedy. Portia is one of Shakespeare's great women. There are moments of empathy and pain with all the major characters. There is great humanity and earthiness in this play. These things are what elevate Shakespeare over any other playwright in English history.

Plays should be seen - not read. I recommend you see this play (if you can find a theater with the courage and skill to do it). But if it is not playing in your area this season - buy the book and read

Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best plays I have read! The book features many different characters, which have many attributes that pertain to the main part of the story. The trial scene is an amazing one, with Shylock, the plantiff having the tables turned back onto himself. This is a remarkable book. Anyone who has read Shakespears books will certainly enjoy this one !!
ncgraham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the play that always prompted the biggest reaction from me when, as a pint-sized, wannabe Shakespearean, I used to thumb through Charles and Mary Lamb¿s Tales from Shakespeare. ¿What, he wants a pound of Antonio¿s flesh?¿ I would think.—¿Yuck!¿ Aside from the shock value, I couldn¿t see why the play was considered one of Shakespeare¿s best; Shylock seemed a rather drab villain, and I thought Portia an ugly name for a woman. But having read my old favorite Much Ado About Nothing this past Valentine¿s Day (a very sappy thing to do, I know), I was determined to survey some of the Bard¿s other plays. Two different friends whose tastes I trust named it as their favorite comedy and (in one case) favorite play, and this led me to pick it up, having never seen it performed on stage or screen.Baaaaaaaaaaad idea.I love Shakespeare, and I do think there are benefits to be derived from reading his plays and not only from seeing them performed, but doing the former without having first done the latter can make for difficult reading. I read the first act of Merchant in a single evening, but when I finished I realized that I had struggled through it, something that had not happened with Much Ado. However, I was determined not to give up, so I came up with and enacted a new, hard-hitting strategy. The Charles and Mary Lamb volume came back out—the paperback from all those years before—and when I resumed the play I began to mouth the words as I read them, getting a feel for the sound and rhythm. By these means I was able to get through it, and even greatly enjoy it.The merchant of the title is one Antonio, a prosperous but perhaps overgenerous businessman who lives amid the hustle and bustle of Venetian life. A young spendthrift friend, named Bassanio, asks for a loan of money so that he may go and woo the ¿richly left¿ Portia of Belmont (I.1.161*) in style. All of Antonio¿s fortune is at sea, but he goes to the Jewish moneylender Shylock and asks him to take his bond—a loan of three thousand ducats for three months. For his usury the Jew demands no money, but simply a pound of Antonio¿s flesh. He and Bassanio take this merely as a jest, thinking anyway that Antonio¿s ships will have arrived before then, and Bassanio sets of for Belmont, while Shylock¿s hate for Antonio is growing in his heart, and his plans for the merchant¿s undoing becoming more and more a reality. Thus Shakespeare begins his interweaving of two basic plot lines¿a ¿love¿ plot featuring Portia and Bassanio, and a ¿hate¿ plot featuring Shylock and Antonio. To give away much more would be to spoil it for those truly new to the play.Of course, it is a comedy, and so the reader expects a happy ending for at least some of the characters, and as far as that goes the play fits the genre. Otherwise it not what one typically thinks of as a comedy; very little of it is laugh-out-loud funny, and most of the humor found within these pages comes in the guise of wit or irony.But in its dramatic qualities the play is top drawer. Shylock truly is one of literature¿s most fascinating characters. Like many Shakespearean baddies, he is self-admittedly a villain (III.1.66), but he commands our sympathy nevertheless. And I do not think this is simply because of our modern sensibilities, despite reports that the fall of a Jew might be a source of humor for an Elizabethan audience. He has been poorly treated by his fellow men, and learnt his villainy from this treatment, and so we must pity him, even as we feel horror at his response. The most likable character by far is Portia. ¿You will love Portia,¿ one of my youth directors predicted when she heard that I was reading this play, ¿because she is AWESOME!¿ And, indeed, she is—a fierce, independent woman who is nevertheless in love with Bassanio and will do anything to save the life of his friend. Her speech on mercy i
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Georgia-Dee Jones-Baker More than 1 year ago
This book is impossible to read on my Nook. There are breaks between words with number and symbols.
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