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The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library) Paperback – June 15, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Folger Shakespeare Library
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Updated edition (June 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439191166
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439191163
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children—their older daughter Susanna and the twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent, not in Stratford, but in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright, but as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Sometime between 1610 and 1613, Shakespeare is thought to have retired from the stage and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616.

More About 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.

Customer Reviews

Merchant may be one of Shakespeare's more challenging works for the modern reader.
R. J. Marsella
Most important are the motifs of the meaning of justice and vengeance and also the dictum that one must give and hazard all for love.
Eileen Granfors
Folger Shakespeare Library contains great, true to text versions of Shakespeare's classics.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Richard R on September 27, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Merchant" is categorized among Shakespeare's comedies, primarily because of the romantic subplot that ends --as most of the Bard's comedies do-- in serial weddings. But, of course, it is far more than a typical romantic comedy. Shakespeare ostensibly intended to write about the complicated theme of exterior versus interior. The value of gold and money against the value of friendship and loyalty. Shylock, the Jewish moneylender is portrayed as greedy and more concerned about his money than he is about his own daughter.

But modern readers have a hard time sympathizing with Antonio the Merchant and his superficial and hateful friends, Bassanio, Gratiano, et al. They are racist, quick to judge, wasteful, and unconcerned about others. They are delighted to treat Shylock like a dog and to invent phony excuses for their own nasty behavior. Shylock is no innocent victim. Indeed, he brings about his own ruin. But in a play whose key passage is Portia's courtroom discourse on the quality of mercy, mercy and justice are hard to find in any character. Shakespeare's language is as powerful as ever in this play, but the unlikeable Shylock and the venom doled out to him by his sordid persecutors makes this play a stomach-churning challenge.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By RCM VINE VOICE on December 5, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm not entirely sure how one should set about reviewing a Shakespeare play. I recently reread "The Merchant of Venice" in order to reacquaint myself with the story so that I could read a related book. Despite many critics' beliefs that the play is anti-semetic, "The Merchant of Venice" is a timeless look at the role that material desires can play in our lives.

As one of Shakespeare's comedies, there is sure to be the sub-plots that include romantic intrigue and women in disguise. The play begins with the title merchant Antonio and his friend Bassiano making a deal with Shylock, a rich Jew. The deal is that Shylock will sponsor their merchant ships; if their ships should fail, Shylock can enact his revenge on Antonio by procuring one pound of his flesh. Meanwhile, Bassiano has fallen in love with Portia, a rich heiress, and tries to win her hand, while ultimately making sure that his friend Antonio doesn't lose his to Shylock.

Granted there is mistreatment of Shylock that is rooted in his Jewishness; but the jibes that are directed toward him deal more so with his attitude toward money than to his heritage. For Shylock is more concerned with his money than he is with his daughter; and when she runs away to marry a Christian, his sole concern is the jewels and money she stole from him. Shylock is a hateful man, not because he is a Jew, but because of his actions (and many seem to miss that). When Bassiano and Antonio's venture fails, Antonio is doomed to die at the hand of Shylock. But in typical Shakespearean comedy fashion, a woman in disguise wins the day and defeats Shylock's supposedly ingenous scheme.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Granfors TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Merchant of Venice
(Written and performed in 1596)

In studying this wonderful play, readers make many decisions for themselves. Is it anti-Semitic? Is Bassanio worthy of Portia? Why is Antonio, the protagonist, so reprehensible in many ways to people today?

As with the majority of his other plays, Shakespeare borrowed from sources to create The Merchant of Venice. He interwove them seamlessly, and to some critics, flawlessly, creating a perfect plot. The two Italian short stories he used are "Il Pecorone," the hate story, and "Gesta Romanarum," the love story.

Just as we see and enjoy films with ridiculous and unlikely events, so must we approach The Merchant of Venice with an open mind and eye. A romantic comedy, the play is riddled with events that would not take place in real life. We must willingly accept the suspension of disbelief. In such a play, what should one expect? Romantic carries two meanings: romance for lovers, moonlight and music; but also romance in the other sense of unrealistic, an illusion. It is a comedy. From the introductory lecture you know what that means: no one dies no matter how dire the circumstances. All the lovers marry. And even armed with this knowledge going in, Shakespeare still creates marvelous suspense!

To understand the play, we must first look at the setting. The play is not set in the year it was written. Instead, Shakespeare looks back in time to the beginning of the Renaissance. Venice, a city-state in Italy, was richer than many other countries. It had fallen from this glory by Shakespeare's lifetime.

Venice was a crossroads for Crusaders, a money-lending center of Europe. Only the Jews could loan money for interest since usury is restricted by the New Testament.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Woodmansee on November 15, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
One cannot read Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice without realizing the significance that religion takes in the play, specifically the portrayal of the Jewish and Christian characters. When we first encounter the play's principal Jew, Shylock, we can only feel resentment towards him for the way he carries himself and conducts his business. Then, when first exposed to the play's principal Christian characters--Antonio, Bassanio, and Portia--the audience likely feels sympathetic towards them because of their unfortunate run-ins with the villainous Shylock. But I wonder if this is a truly accurate reading of the play. It appears that critics are divided on whether Shakespeare was further advancing anti-Semitism existent at the time by depicting Shylock in denigrating stereotypes throughout the play or whether he was actually condemning anti-Semitic behavior by turning Shylock into a sympathetic figure by the play's end. It is my contention that Shakespeare is merely reflecting societal norms at the time as he indicts religion altogether.

Though we cannot forget Shylock's appeal to humanity in his "Hath not a Jew eyes" speech, nor Portia's appeal for mercy at the court trial, there is far too much evidence of misdeeds and hypocrisy by all of these characters to think Shakespeare is "picking sides" in this battle of religions. Shylock's greed and need for revenge are certainly damning portrayals of his faith given how religious he claims to be. But given the "holier-than-thou" attitude's of Venice's Christians and their hypocritical actions to the contrary of their religion, it is clear to me Shakespeare has a major problem with Christians who "talk the talk" but do not "walk the walk.
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