Introduction, with new section on recent critical and stage interpretations by Charles Edelman; Note on the text; List of characters; The play; Supplementary note; Textual analysis; Appendix: Shakespeare's use of the Bible in The Merchant of Venice; Reading list.
The Merchant of Veniceby William Shakespeare
Pub. Date: 07/25/2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
The Merchant of Venice is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic scenes, and is best known for Shylock and the famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech. Also notable is Portia's speech about "the quality of mercy".
The title character is the merchant Antonio, not the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who is the play's most prominent and most famous character. This is made explicit by the title page of the first quarto: The most excellent History of the Merchant of Venice. With the extreme cruelty of Shylock the Jew towards the said Merchant etc.
Bassanio, a young Venetian of noble rank, wishes to woo the beautiful and wealthy heiress Portia of Belmont. Having squandered his estate, he needs 3,000 ducats to subsidise his expenditures as a suitor. Bassanio approaches his friend Antonio, a wealthy merchant of Venice who has previously and repeatedly bailed him out. Antonio agrees, but since he is cash-poor - his ships and merchandise are busy at sea - he promises to cover a bond if Bassanio can find a lender, so Bassanio turns to the Jewish moneylender Shylock and names Antonio as the loan's guarantor.
Antonio has already made an enemy of Shylock through his outspoken antisemitism, and also because Antonio's habit of lending money without interest forces Shylock to charge lower rates. Shylock is at first reluctant to grant the loan, citing abuse he has suffered at Antonio's hand, but finally agrees to lend the sum to Antonio without interest upon one condition: if Antonio is unable to repay it at the specified date, Shylock may take a pound of Antonio's flesh. Bassanio does not want Antonio to accept such a risky condition; Antonio is surprised by what he sees as the moneylender's generosity (no "usance" - interest - is asked for), and he signs the contract. With money at hand, Bassanio leaves for Belmont with his friend Gratiano, who has asked to accompany him. Gratiano is a likeable young man, but is often flippant, overly talkative, and tactless. Bassanio warns his companion to exercise self-control, and the two leave for Belmont and Portia.
Meanwhile in Belmont, Portia is awash with suitors. Her father left a will stipulating each of her suitors must choose correctly from one of three caskets - one each of gold, silver and lead. If he picks the right casket, he gets Portia. The first suitor, the luxurious Prince of Morocco, chooses the gold casket, interpreting its slogan "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire" as referring to Portia. The second suitor, the conceited Prince of Arragon, chooses the silver casket, which proclaims "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves", imagining himself to be full of merit. Both suitors leave empty-handed, having rejected the lead casket because of the baseness of its material and the uninviting nature of its slogan: "Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath." The last suitor is Bassanio, whom Portia wishes to succeed, having met him before. As Bassanio ponders his choice, members of Portia's household sing a song which says that "fancy" (not true love) is "engend'red in the eyes, With gazing fed.", prompting Bassanio to disregard "outward shows" and "ornament" and choose the lead casket, winning Portia's hand.
At Venice, Antonio's ships are reported lost at sea. This leaves him unable to satisfy the bond. Shylock is even more determined to exact revenge from Christians after his daughter Jessica had fled home and eloped with the Christian Lorenzo, taking a substantial amount of Shylock's wealth with her, as well as a turquoise ring which was a gift to Shylock from his late wife, Leah. Shylock has Antonio brought before court.
- CreateSpace Publishing
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.26(d)
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews