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on July 26, 2002
I really enjoyed having the side by side version...I found myself reading most often in the original text first, and glancing over at the modern text for clarification of meaning and humor. It made it very quick and enjoyable to read. High recommendation!
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VINE VOICEon December 26, 2002
William Shakespheare in the Merchant of Venice, explores again, like so many of his other plays, the difference between vice and virture, the noble and ignoble. This time out he compares the hero Antonio's acts of mercy with the villian Shylock's desire for justice, the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law. Shakespheare shows throughout the play that he is very confident that Christianity and its followers are superior to Judaism and its followers and quite frankly, his portrayal of the Jewish moneylender Shylock is anti-Semitic and leaves out none of the negative stereotypes. The play seems to be a Christian polemic with its theological interest in Christianity's mercy versus Judaism's justice, as Shakespheare sees it. It may have also been a warning to its audience about the moneylenders of Shakespheare's time.
The story is one in which Antonio offers to go into debt for a loan so that his friend Bassanio can have enough money to impress Portia, a woman he wishes to court and marry. Antonio goes into debt to Shylock, a moneylender who demands a pound of his flesh if he cannot pay back the loan. Shylock hates Antonio because Antonio has payed off many loans of his indebted clients and also has badmouthed him as an unethical loan shark, trying to damage Shylock's business.
It is the tension of hate between the two, which give the play an intensity, especially at the climax when Shylock is about to take a pound of his flesh. Also the fear of losing flesh to the moneylender makes for good drama. The character Shylock has some juicy vitriolic lines during the scene. And there is a certain glee Shakespheare builds into the play to see Shylock's "justice" turned against him.
There is also a subplot involving Portia and her various suitors who have to choose between 3 caskets of gold, silver, and lead. Choosing the correct casket will make them the husband of Portia. It was interesting to read about the different reasonings that each suitor has for their choices. Portia also disguises herself as a judge during Antonio's trial in which she helps to set him free of the charges and his friend Bassanio is persuaded to give up his engagement ring to the judge out of gratitude, which gets him in trouble with Portia later who does not tell him she was the judge as she asks him what happened to the ring.
This is a good, tightly constructed play with none of diffuseness of King Lear. It had more drama too.
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on July 31, 1998
"The Merchant of Venice" is surely one of Shakespeare's most underrated plays. After reading "Macbeth," "Hamlet," "Othello," and "King Lear," this was a well-appreciated break from the tragedies. All of the characters are likable, even the misunderstood villian (?) Shylock. Full of love and life and joy, it is all the more enriched by the happy ending.
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on March 16, 2015
Probably one of Shakespeare's better plays that doesn't get much reading because of presumed anti-semetism. Shakespeare never met a Jew, he was passing along the then-current stereotype of a money-lender, which was pretty cartoonish and vicious, but manages to let Shylock explain his own humanity in there, hating and hurting from the insults he receives.
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on November 29, 2013
Having the modern English right across from the original Shakespeare helps a student who might otherwise struggle with the text. And once they can confidence they can then just cover the right hand page and read the original material! Shakespeare Made Easy, literally!
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on October 20, 2013
There is a nice section explaining things, giving you some background about Shakespeare and the play.
Then you have the page on the left as the original manuscript and the page on the right a modern translation
of everything on the left-hand page. Very well done!
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on October 8, 2014
A poor edition of a complex, controversial play, which some contemporary reviewers still resort to categorizing in facile antisemitic terms. A good start for secondary school, otherwise, the (much more costly) Arden or Oxford Editions provide the much needed sources, comments, footnotes which scholars have spent decades working on. A difficult play, too easily cast away in dichotomies of "race" and "gender".
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on January 2, 2002
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
example; how many of you think this play is about Shylock? ;-)
The Merchant of Venice is a lively and happy morality tale.
Good wins over bad - charity over greed - love over hate.
There is fine comedy (in the production I saw, the minor
character of the Prince of Morocco practically stole the
show trying to guess the right box that would win him the
hand of Portia in marriage). There are moments of
empathy and pain with all the major characters. There is
great humanity and earthiness in this play. These things
are what elevate Shakespeare over any other playwright in
English history.
As always I recommend you see the play (if you can find
a theater with the courage and skill to do it) over reading it.
But if it is not playing in your area this season - buy the
book and read it.
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on May 13, 2010
I recently got this for my 13 year old niece who is getting ready to go see the play. It is her very first encounter with Shakespeare, and she is really enjoying the side by side modern translation of Shakespeare's text. It makes the language a lot less intimidating!
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on April 1, 2010
The Merchant of Venice was purchased for our Grandchild who is using it at school as he prepares for major exams. Thanks for sending it as promised. Always nice to deal with
Terence Uddenberg
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