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The Merchant of Venice (The New Cambridge Shakespeare) Paperback – February 26, 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0521293716 ISBN-10: 0521293715

Price: $4.00
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Paperback, February 26, 1988
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Product Details

  • Series: The New Cambridge Shakespeare
  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (February 26, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521293715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521293716
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,439,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'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

Book Description

The Merchant of Venice has been performed more often than any other comedy by Shakespeare. This edition pays special attention to the expectations of its first audience, and to our modern experience of seeing and hearing the play.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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A play that really gets you thinking.
Gary Jaffe
Shakespeare gives us some very direct social commentary that rivals his work in The Tempest.
Yan Timanovsky
The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, is a play that many readers will enjoy.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 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 28 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 500 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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