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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: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,250 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.

Customer Reviews

If you can get into them they are good reads.
rami leblanc
It conveniently has the original text on the left, modernized text on the right, and short notes pointing out puns, double entendres, etc. as well.
Such is a way in which Christian Anti-Judaism is staged in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.
Joseph Suglia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By khw on December 5, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Shylock is the only sympathetic character in the play. Modernity has altered the villain in "The Merchant of Venice" from Shylock to the entire cast of characters EXCEPT for Shylock. Any sense of comedy in the play died for those with a sense of religious tolerance, and Shylock comes off as merely oppressed. I found Act 5 almost nauseating after the forced conversion. That, coupled with the happy racism makes a perversion of decency and happy endings. This play is a tragedy. The recent movie version done starring Al Pacino turned it into a tragedy, and amazingly, a play written as a comedy seems to work very well as a tragedy.

Antonio gladly spits upon Shylock and calls him a dog, but stunningly, when Antonio finds himself in a financial pinch he goes to Shylock for money. More brash is Antonio's promise to act the same in the future: "I am as like to call thee so again, / To spet on thee again, to spurn thee, too." (1.3.127-28) From this point on, sympathy for Antonio is paralyzed in a modern reader's mind, from reminders of past images, from slavery and anti-Semitism, where the dehumanizing of a group of people is accepted by a society. The entire text afterward reads like an indictment of humanity, as if Shakespeare is making the Elizabethans laugh at their own behavior.

In perhaps the best argument in Shylock's defense in the trial, he point out the fact that those who speak of mercy own slaves. "What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong? / You have among you many a purchased slave." (4.1.89-90) Shylock, as fanatical as he is over the pound of flesh, is asking for only a pound of a man, when the slaveholders own the entire person. The play is littered with prejudiced remarks that clearly show how animalistic Shylock was to them.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Tek2000 VINE VOICE on September 11, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
I clicked on the "Kindle Version" link from the paperback "The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library)" since I had purchased several of the Folger hard-copy editions and found the full facing page annotations a huge help in getting the most from the plays. I was worried that the alternating pages of annotations and text would be a bit cumbersome on the Kindle. I need not have worried, as the annotations, and all other extra features, are MISSING. The product description, however, of the Kindle edition does state that the extra features are present on this eBook. Amazon, please convert the Folger Shakespeare Library to the Kindle including all extra features with annotations. In the meantime, please clean up the descriptions for this product line.

edit 9/12/2014: There is an actual properly annotated version now, the RSC Shakespeare in Modern Library Classics editions, such as The Merchant of Venice (Modern Library Classics). The complete Shakespeare is not yet available but is scheduled for Feb 2015.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
What scholars today call "The Problem Plays" seem to me to be problems more for us because of our changed sensibilities from those of Elizabethan London rather than problems in the plays themselves. "The Merchant of Venice" is called anti-Semitic by eminent scholars such as Harold Bloom. In our post-Holocaust age and our sensitivity to stereotypes of all sorts, Shylock bothers us in a way not dissimilar to watching the great Al Jolson perform in blackface. That is, it is clearly the work of a great entertainer, but it jars us, makes us wince, and we are (justly) unable to watch with the same enjoyment as the audience for whom the work was created.

Still, this is Shakespeare and Shylock is immortal. When I read through the play, I place Shylock as "the other" rather than as a caricature of the Jewish race. More than that, he is simply a vicious person irrespective of his ethnic ties and origins. I do like Bloom's insistence that this play was written as a dark comedy and was performed as such for centuries. The editor of this edition, John Russell Brown also states this. At some time around the 19th century, Shylock acquired pathos and the play has been performed as a drama ever since.

Does it work as a drama? You will have to answer that for yourself. However, if you insist on a moral drama you will have a great many moral contradictions to settle that do not matter as much if the play is done more for simple cleverness and laughs. Can we really take seriously the casket game that Portia's late father left her as the way she must select her spouse? Does Antonio (the Merchant of Venice) seem a proper embodiment of Christian values?

To me, the play does seem awfully light hearted with all of its darkness given to Shylock.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By NMdesapio on August 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is a perfect play, a romantic comedy with a memorable tragic hero and a fairy tale element, as well. Venetian merchant Antonio and his best friend, Bassanio, find themselves in trouble with the Jewish moneylender Shylock over a sizeable unpaid debt. Bassanio had borrowed the money on his friend's credit, and Antonio had been confident that he would be able to repay Shylock. But when Antonio's ships miscarry at sea, and when Shylock's daughter, Jessica, elopes with Lorenzo, a Christian, taking much of her father's gold with her, the moneylender vows revenge: he will insist on his right to extract, in court, "a pound of flesh" from Antonio. Bassanio had used the money to woo Portia, a witty and beautiful lady who lives in idyllic Belmont and who must, according to her late father's wishes, marry whichever suitor chooses the one casket out of three that contains her portrait. One of the caskets is made of gold, another of silver, and the third of lead. Bassanio's realization that the leaden casket is the one with Portia's picture in it proves the old maxim that appearances are deceiving and that "[a]ll that glisters is not gold." In the end, it is Portia who saves the day by impersonating a lawyer in court and using the letter of the law itself to defeat Shylock and save Antonio's life.
Considering the general anti-Semitism of his era, Shakespeare gives Shylock marvelous depth that itself repudiates any charge of anti-Semitism on his part. Shylock's greatest moment is, of course, his speech beginning "Hath not a Jew eyes?" and continuing, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?...If you poison us, do we not die?
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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.

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The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library)
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