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"Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" Shylock's impassioned plea in the middle of The Merchant of Venice is one of its most dramatic moments. After the Holocaust, the play has become a battleground for those who argue that the play represents Shakespeare's ultimate statement against ignorance and anti-Semitism in favour of a liberal vision of tolerance and multiculturalism. Other critics have pointed out that the play is, after all, a comedy that ultimately pokes fun at a 16th-century Jew. In fact, the bare outline of the plot suggests that the play is far more complex than either of these characterisations. Bassanio, a feckless young Venetian, asks his wealthy friend, the merchant Antonio, for money to finance a trip to woo the beautiful Portia in Belmont. Reluctant to refuse his friend (to whom he professes intense love), Antonio borrows the money from the Jewish moneylender. If he reneges on the deal, Shylock jokingly demands a pound of his flesh. When all Antonio's ships are lost at sea, Shylock calls in his debt, and the love and laughter of the first scenes of the play threaten to give way to death and tragedy. The final climactic courtroom scene, complete with a cross-dressed Portia, a knife-wielding Shylock, and the debate on "the quality of mercy" is one of the great dramatic moments in Shakespeare. The controversial subject matter of the play ensures that it continues to repel, divide but also fascinate its many audiences. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
'The introduction and commentary reveal an author with a lively awareness of the importance of perceiving the play as a theatrical document, one which comes to life, which is completed only in performance ...' The Review of English Studies --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, is a play that many readers will enjoy. Although this play may seem lighthearted, it addresses important themes and reflects... Read morePublished on May 17 2004 by Aysha
this is a very difficult play to watch or read. while shakespeare may have intended shylock to be a villain, to a modern sensibility, he is the victim of society's racism. Read morePublished on May 3 2003
Till today, every pen-stroke William Shakespeare made draws respect. This "Merchant Of Venice" is no exception. The story remains tasty despite its age. Read morePublished on April 4 2003 by reviewer
The New Folger Library delivers again. I will not buy any Shakespeare from any other publisher - Signet Classics or anyone else. Read morePublished on Oct. 1 2002 by Chris Salzer
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 23 2002 by Tom Blair
A person is not born to the side of good or evil, rather, their character is shaped by their environment. Read morePublished on Oct. 21 2001 by Emma
This play can be read as anti-semitic. In fact, it's pretty hard to defend it from such charges. Shylock is a pretty rotten character and the fact that he is jewish is difficult... Read morePublished on Oct. 20 2001 by "the_kenosha_kid"
This may be the most controversial (to modern culture) play that Shakespeare wrote. It deals with the racial disparities popularly belived in Shakespeare's day to exist between... Read morePublished on July 20 2001 by Yan Timanovsky