The Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts

The Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts

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by William Shakespeare
     
 

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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

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.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A collection of new perspectives on Shakespeare's most controversial play, for students. Essays open up the play's historical, cultural, and political significance, and demonstrate some of the ways in which contemporary criticism is both based on critical theory and is also about the practice of criticism. Specific subjects include Shakespeare and the Jews, colonization and miscegenation in the play, how to read the play without being heterosexist, and Venetian patriarchy. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
From the Publisher

"...a suitable pedagogic edition, particularly for higher-level courses."--Abdulla Al-Dabbagh, Sixteenth Century Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781853260605
Publisher:
Wordsworth Editions, Limited
Publication date:
01/01/1993
Series:
Classics Library Series
Pages:
112
Product dimensions:
4.98(w) x 7.78(h) x 0.26(d)

Related Subjects

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.

Meet 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.


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The Merchant of Venice (Campfire Graphic Novel) 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 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 !!
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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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