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The Merchant of Venice by William…

The Merchant of Venice (1596)

by William Shakespeare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I came late to reading this classic. There's not much to say that's not already been said. Loved it. ( )
  Laurochka | Feb 6, 2016 |
I am apparently the only person on the planet who does not believe that Merchant of Venice is anti-Semitic. Shylock is a man living in a world where law and custom consider him as less than human and he is filled with anger. His cruelty is his tiny way of lashing out. He wants revenge, and he prizes that above money. Is his intended (though thwarted) violence horrifying and shocking? Sure it is. It is the twisted malignant violence that grows in the heart of a man caged and stunted, of a man forced to be inhuman. When you prick him, he doth bleed. And the true evildoers in this tale are not Jews. Shylock is the victim. (Jessica is a whole separate story.) This is the story of a man stripped of manhood, a man whose essence is ground to dust under the boot heels of people who call themselves Christians. That Shakespeare, he knows a tragedy when he sees one. ( )
1 vote Narshkite | Jan 25, 2016 |
Shylock is a Jewish money-lender who faces the scorn and contempt of the Christian business community in 16th century Venice on a daily basis. Quite understandably, he seethes with anger over the anti-semitic slurs to which he is routinely subjected, but seizes the chance to get even when his arch-rival, the merchant Antonio, needs to borrow money. Shylock’s terms for the loan are simple: no interest will be charged (as per the Christian tradition against usury), but he will literally carve a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body if the principal repayment is even a day late. Of course, Antonio does miss that deadline and Shylock fully intends to carry out the contract’s sinister terms. However, the resourceful Portia—who has just married Antonio’s best friend Bassanio—steps into the legal dispute at the last moment, sparing Antonio’s life at the cost of everything that Shylock possesses or holds dear, including the religious faith to which he has been devoted his whole life. Antonio leaves the courtroom physically and financially intact—he does not even have to repay the loan—while Shylock exits a wholly broken man.

Does the basic plot of The Merchant of Venice sound like the stuff of one of Shakespeare’s more rollicking comedies? If you think not, then we think alike. Indeed, I had a decidedly mixed reaction to this story, which I read rather than saw acted out on stage. On one hand, it is Shakespeare, so the story was briskly paced and the word play was occasionally brilliant (e.g., the time-honored expressions “pound of flesh,” “all that glisters is not gold,” and “the quality of mercy is not strained” appear in this play). However, I found it hard to root either for the alleged good guys—Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano, Lorenzo—or against Shylock, who never really deserves anything that happens to him throughout the tale and is even betrayed in a remarkably callous manner by his own daughter, Jessica. The problem may well be that, in Shylock, the Immortal Bard created an intriguing and incredibly complex character when all he probably meant to do was provide some dramatic tension to get in the way of an otherwise silly love story. In fact, in this respect I am tempted to say that Shakespeare was hoisted by his own petard, but that would be a different play altogether. ( )
  browner56 | Jan 1, 2016 |
I read this a few years ago for an Intro to Shakespeare class. It was my favorite play we covered with the exception of The Tempest. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I do recall enjoying it and laughing out loud at several parts. Shakespeare's word play is wonderful.

I also feel that whether you try to read this from an anti-Semitist point of view or choose to view Shylock as a sympathetic character, you will still find a lot of enjoyment in this.

It is also interesting to think about law interpretation and the loop holes in the law and how they still exist today.

Side note: I watched the 2004 version of this with Al Pacino and felt that it stayed very true to the heart of the play.
( )
  Borrows-N-Wants | Dec 31, 2015 |
New prompt for my 117S students:

The Language of Exclusion

How does language set Shylock apart from other characters? How is his rhetoric different from the other Venetians’ language? What are reoccurring ideas (food, animals, etc) when other characters speak about Shylock or when Shylock speaks? How do other characters use language to exclude Shylock? How is difference constructed linguistically, poetically, and/or rhetorically? Are other characters excluded, and how is language used in this process? Please craft a focused argument, supported with close readings of the text, in response to one or more of these (or other) questions.

Old comparative prompt for 117A:

"Hath not a Jew eyes?"

Analyze how ethnicity is portrayed. Some potential avenues of inquiry include:

-Compare Shakespeare's construction of the dominant culture, such as English or Italian, with his construction of ethnic outsiders, such as Moors or Moroccans.
-Compare how he portrays ethnic outsiders, like Aaron in Titus Andronicus and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
-How do minorities gain power over members of the dominant group? What rhetorical strategies or literary devices do they use?
-How are ethnic stereotypes used in different genres (like comedy or tragedy)?
  Marjorie_Jensen | Nov 12, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (151 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andrews, John F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooks, Harold F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Furness, Horace HowardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gollancz, IsraelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Halio, Jay L.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, G. B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holland, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, Pei te HurinuiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lamar, VirginiaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lovett, Robert MorssEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merchant, W. MoelwynEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mowat, Barbara A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rolfe, William J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, ReedEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, George CoffinEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verity, A. W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werstine, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, Louis B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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First words
In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn;
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.
The quality of mercy is not strain'd;
It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes
When he is best, he is a little worse than a man; and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.
My meaning in saying he is a good man, is to have you understand me that he is sufficient.
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
It is a wise father that knows his own child.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743477561, Mass Market Paperback)

Folger Shakespeare Library

The world's leading center for Shakespeare studies

Each edition includes:

• Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play

• Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play

• Scene-by-scene plot summaries

• A key to famous lines and phrases

• An introduction to reading Shakespeare's language

• An essay by an outstanding scholar providing a modern perspective on the play

• Illustrations from the Folger Shakespeare Library's vast holdings of rare books

Essay by Alexander Leggatt

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is home to the world's largest collection of Shakespeare's printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:23 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Unique features include an extensive overview of Shakespeare's life, world, and theater by the general editor of Signet Classic Shakespeare series, plus a special introduction to the play by the editor Sylvan Barnet, Tufts University. Another feature of this series includes dramatic criticism from the past and present: Commentaries by Nicholas Rowe, William Hazlitt, Edgar Elmer Stoll, Linda Bamber, Alexander Leggart, and Robert Smallwood. Special introduction by Kenneth Myrick, Tufts University.… (more)

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8 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714626, 0141013958

Yale University Press

An edition of this book was published by Yale University Press.

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