- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Barron's Educational Series; 1 edition (April 1, 1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812035704
- ISBN-13: 978-0812035704
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2,123 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare Made Easy) 1st Edition
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Top customer reviews
The Merchant of Venice is probably the best way to convince friends that Shakespeare wasn't just some quack who made a lot of phallic innuendos and loved watching people kill themselves. If you wanted one reason as to why you should read this book, give it a spin, and ask yourself who the heroes and the vallains are of this book. The fact that it's difficult to decipher who you should be cheering for or jeering at suggests at a certain depth and complexity that is easily understood and equally relatable.
To quote a New York Times article:
“How much do you know about Shakespeare,” I once asked a friend who has committed ... She replied, “Not as much as he knows about me."
1. The play was written early in the reign of King James I, with the chorus of witches catering to his interest in witchcraft;
2. The play was inspired by the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in which Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators sought to blow up the houses of parliament. The association is "proven" by the use of the term "equivocation" both in the play and in the trials of the conspirators.
Generations of students with a mind of their own must have wondered about these assumptions: just how plausible is it that Shakespeare wrote a dark tragedy about the murder of a Scottish king to entertain the Scottish king who had just taken up the throne of England? And where exactly is the parallel between the murder plot of Macbeth and the Gunpowder Plot? The skeptical student need only consult the OED to discover that the term "equivocation" had already been in use for decades, and that equivocation had been an issue in earlier trials during the religious strife of the Tudor period. The use of the term is therefore of no use whatsoever in the dating of the play.
Regardless of one's views on the Shakespeare Authorship Question, it is high time to jettison assumptions 1 and 2. In this newly revised edition from an Oxfordian perspective, Richard Whalen throws out the accretions of sloppy guesswork that have accumulated around the play. He also shows that numerous puzzles can be solved by assuming that the author was Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. Regarding the sources, it is agreed that the basic plot is contained in Holinshed's Chronicle, but numerous details suggest that the author had access to a more detailed version by Stewart which was not published at the time. Holinshed, for example, devotes a single sentence to Lady Macbeth, while Stewart has her berating her husband for cowardice. Stewart's version was commissioned by Lady Lennox with whom Oxford was acquainted. This sheds light on the character of Lennox, who is merely a name in Holinshed's Chronicle but plays a role in the play which has puzzled many commentators (see p. 23).
What about those witches? Whalen likens them to the chorus in Greek tragedy, most of which had not been translated into English in Shakespearean times. Oxford had studied Greek with his tutor Thomas Smith, whereas how Shakspere of Stratford could have absorbed so much of Greek tragedy remains unexplained. The First Witch also offers evidence for dating the play, with the line "Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master of the Tiger". Whalen notes that a ship named the Tiger indeed sailed to Aleppo in 1583 (p.208), making this a more likely clue to the dating of the play than the fantasy of the Gunpowder Plot and "equivocation".
Oxfordian editions such as this are the "proof of the pudding". An Oxfordian "Othello" is available, and seven other editions are forthcoming including Hamlet and The Tempest. Soon it will be up to intelligent students to choose their own edition.