The Merchant of Venice

Overview

"The Merchant of Venice is a richly complicated and, to some, a deeply disturbing work. It seemingly adopts the framework of a traditional comedy in which young lovers triumph over their restrictive elders. Yet the play, with its highly debated portrayal of the moneylender Shylock, resists easy categorization, incorporating elements of tragedy and romance in equal portion. This new edition, featuring an introduction by Shakespearean scholar Harold Bloom, presents a selection of full-length essays offering a range of critical responses to this

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Overview

"The Merchant of Venice is a richly complicated and, to some, a deeply disturbing work. It seemingly adopts the framework of a traditional comedy in which young lovers triumph over their restrictive elders. Yet the play, with its highly debated portrayal of the moneylender Shylock, resists easy categorization, incorporating elements of tragedy and romance in equal portion. This new edition, featuring an introduction by Shakespearean scholar Harold Bloom, presents a selection of full-length essays offering a range of critical responses to this influential and enduring work." "To stage the play of Antonio, Portia, and Shylock now is to attempt what is virtually impossible, since only an audience at ease with its own anti-Semitism could tolerate a responsible and authentic presentation of what Shakespeare actually wrote. In this one play alone, Shakespeare was very much of his age and not for all time.---Harold Bloom" "Only in The Merchant of Venice are conflicts resolved through adherence to law rather than by law's suspension. Thus the comedy affords no romantic release from law's domain into the realm of love...Instead, the play...celebrates not the characters' warm embrace of mutual identity, as in marriage, but their cold preservation or augmentation of what they legally own---Grace Tiffany" Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations, a series of more than 100 volumes, presents the best current criticism on the most widely read and studied poems, novels, and dramas of the Western world, from Oedipus Rex and The Iliad to such modern and contemporary works as William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Don DeLillo's White Noise. Each volume opens with an introductory essay and editor's note by Harold Bloom and includes a bibliogaraphy, a chronology of the writer's life and works, and notes on the contributors. Taken together, Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations provides a comprehensive critical guide to the most vital and influential works of the Western literary tradition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781604138856
  • Publisher: Blooms Literary Criticism
  • Publication date: 8/1/2010
  • Series: Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations Series
  • Edition description: New
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold Bloom
Burton Raffel is Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities Emeritus and professor of English emeritus, University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His most recent of many edited and translated publications is Das Nibelungenlied, published by Yale University Press. He lives in Lafayette. Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and Berg Professor of English at New York University, is the author of many books, including The Western Canon, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, and Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.

Biography

"Authentic literature doesn't divide us," the scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom once said. "It addresses itself to the solitary individual or consciousness." Revered and sometimes reviled as a champion of the Western canon, Bloom insists on the importance of reading authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer -- not because they transmit certain approved cultural values, but because they transcend the limits of culture, and thus enlarge rather than constrict our sense of what it means to be human. As Bloom explained in an interview, "Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage."

Bloom began his career by tackling the formidable legacy of T.S. Eliot, who had dismissed the English Romantic poets as undisciplined nature-worshippers. Bloom construed the Romantic poets' visions of immortality as rebellions against nature, and argued that an essentially Romantic imagination was still at work in the best modernist poets.

Having restored the Romantics to critical respectability, Bloom advanced a more general theory of poetry. His now-famous The Anxiety of Influence argued that any strong poem is a creative "misreading" of the poet's predecessor. The book raised, as the poet John Hollander wrote, "profound questions about... how the prior visions of other poems are, for a true poet, as powerful as his own dreams and as formative as his domestic childhood." In addition to developing this theory, Bloom wrote several books on sacred texts. In The Book of J, he suggested that some of the oldest parts of the Bible were written by a woman.

The Book of J was a bestseller, but it was the 1994 publication of The Western Canon that made the critic-scholar a household name. In it, Bloom decried what he called the "School of Resentment" and the use of political correctness as a basis for judging works of literature. His defense of the threatened canon formed, according to The New York Times, a "passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort."

Bloom placed Shakespeare along with Dante at the center of the Western canon, and he made another defense of Shakespeare's centrality with Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, an illuminating study of Shakespeare's plays. How to Read and Why (2000) revisited Shakespeare and other writers in the Bloom pantheon, and described the act of reading as both a spiritual exercise and an aesthetic pleasure.

Recently, Bloom took up another controversial stance when he attacked Harry Potter in an essay for The Wall Street Journal. His 2001 book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages advanced an alternative to contemporary children's lit, with a collection of classic works of literature "worthy of rereading" by people of all ages.

The poet and editor David Lehman said that "while there are some critics who are known for a certain subtlety and a certain judiciousness, there are other critics... who radiate ferocious passion." Harold Bloom is a ferociously passionate reader for whom literary criticism is, as he puts it, "the art of making what is implicit in the text as finely explicit as possible."

Good To Know

Bloom earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1955 and was hired as a Yale faculty member that same year. In 1965, at the age of 35, he became one of the youngest scholars in Yale history to be appointed full professor in the department of English. He is now Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale and Berg Visiting Professor of English at New York University.

Though some conservative commentators embraced Bloom's canon as a return to traditional moral values, Bloom, who once styled himself "a Truman Democrat," dismisses attempts by both left- and right-wingers to politicize literature. "To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all," he told a New York Times interviewer.

His great affinity for Shakespeare has put Bloom in the unlikely position of stage actor on occasion; he has played his "literary hero," port-loving raconteur Sir John Falstaff, in three productions.

Bloom is married to Jeanne, a retired school psychologist whom he met while a junior faculty member at Yale in the 1950s. They have two sons.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Harold Irving Bloom (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 11, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Introduction Harold Bloom Bloom, Harold 1

Marriage and Mercifixion in The Merchant of Venice: The Casket Scene Revisited Harry Berger Jr. Berger, Harry, Jr. 9

The Cuckoo's Note: Male Friendship and Cuckoldry in The Merchant of Venice Coppelia Kahn Kahn, Coppelia 19

Portia's Belmont Richard A. Levin Levin, Richard A. 29

The Merchant of Venice Robert Ornstein Ornstein, Robert 65

A Garden in Belmont: The Merchant of Venice, 5.1 Harry Levin Levin, Harry 97

Which Is the Merchant Here? And Which the Jew?: The Venice of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice Tony Tanner Tanner, Tony 117

The Merchant of Venice W. H. Auden Auden, W. H. 139

The Merchant of Venice and the Value of Money Peter D. Holland Holland, Peter D. 151

Law and Self-Interest in The Merchant of Venice Grace Tiffany Tiffany, Grace 173

Chronology 187

Contributors 189

Bibliography 191

Acknowledgments 195

Index 197

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