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Der Kauffmann von Venedig (Theatralische Werke, #6)

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30 review for Der Kauffmann von Venedig (Theatralische Werke, #6)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Many years ago I believed this play to be an early experiment in tragi-comedy featuring Shylock, a nemesis of almost tragic proportions, who--both because of the sympathies he evokes and the evil determination he represents--unbalances the play, making the last act in Belmont seem like a hollow exercise in formal completeness. More recently, I believed that Shylock was essentially a comic villain, one dark splash on a predominately sunny canvas that embodies f0r us the fallen world of Venice tra Many years ago I believed this play to be an early experiment in tragi-comedy featuring Shylock, a nemesis of almost tragic proportions, who--both because of the sympathies he evokes and the evil determination he represents--unbalances the play, making the last act in Belmont seem like a hollow exercise in formal completeness. More recently, I believed that Shylock was essentially a comic villain, one dark splash on a predominately sunny canvas that embodies f0r us the fallen world of Venice transformed by the magic of Portia's Belmont. (I also believe our knowledge of the Holocaust makes it impossible to appreciate the play fully in this way). Now-after my recent re-reading--I'm no longer sure what to think. For one thing--taking the title seriously this time--I feel that Antonio the merchant, both in his unexplained sadness, his love (whether erotic or paternal or both) for Bassanio, and his unredeemed solitariness, is extremely important to the meaning of the play. I think that Antonio and Shylock, in their preoccupations and loneliness, are similar, but that Antonio--unlike Shylock--is able to look beneath the surface of things, to peer beneath "our muddy vesture of decay" and hear the music of the spheres as it echoes in the human heart. Thus Antonio becomes capable of love and mercy through choice, in much the same way that Bassanio chooses the right caskets and Portia chooses the mature way to respond to Bassanio's giving away of her ring. Shylock, however, by willingly suppressing his compassion for another and insisting strictly on justice puts himself beyond mercy and beyond love.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    3 1/2 stars. This review contains huge spoilers. Well... I certainly did not expect that ending. I didn't imagine Portia to be one to give second chances, especially after seeing her scheming to discover who is more important to Bassanio, herself or Antonio. It bothered me to see her tricking Bassanio with no repent. Incidentally, I feel sad for Antonio. In my opinion, he did deserve to end up wealthy... but not alone. Same for Shylock, even though I can't ignore his showing cruelty instead of mer 3 1/2 stars. This review contains huge spoilers. Well... I certainly did not expect that ending. I didn't imagine Portia to be one to give second chances, especially after seeing her scheming to discover who is more important to Bassanio, herself or Antonio. It bothered me to see her tricking Bassanio with no repent. Incidentally, I feel sad for Antonio. In my opinion, he did deserve to end up wealthy... but not alone. Same for Shylock, even though I can't ignore his showing cruelty instead of mercy. Redemption was hardly an option he considered, but still, he was left with nothing... They took away from him one of the things that was most important to him: his religion. He wasn't a monstrous villain to me, just a very vindictive and avaricious man. His priorities weren't ones I agreed with. A good play, in sum. Antonio + Bassanio = ♥

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    Maybe because I read this play with the famous controversy of its antisemitism on my mind, or because I expected a true hearted villain, “Iago fashion”, in the Jewish usurer Skylock, but I reached the last scene of the play with the extraordinary sensation that the Jew’s failure to execute the bloodthirsty bond was more of an anecdote than a climatic victory over evil. Shakespeare’s precise wordplay presents a flesh and bone figure in Shylock, a flawed human being, a man who has been mocked and p Maybe because I read this play with the famous controversy of its antisemitism on my mind, or because I expected a true hearted villain, “Iago fashion”, in the Jewish usurer Skylock, but I reached the last scene of the play with the extraordinary sensation that the Jew’s failure to execute the bloodthirsty bond was more of an anecdote than a climatic victory over evil. Shakespeare’s precise wordplay presents a flesh and bone figure in Shylock, a flawed human being, a man who has been mocked and persecuted by his Christian antagonists and who seeks disproportionate revenge out of hurt pride and blind rage. He is not wicked by nature; the Jew has a motive to retaliate, either with or without the weight of morality on his side, and that is precisely what makes him such a believable character. And then, there is Portia. Portia, Oh Portia. To me, Portia is the great revelation of the play. A beautiful orphan, wealthy but not spoiled, ready to follow his deceased father’s will and marry the man who sees beyond appearances. A woman with passion and brains that outshines her dull peers by daring to break the rules and suspend her role as a subservient female in order to save the day. Her transfiguration and disarming display of acumen in the court scene, followed by the allegorical teasing of the ring played on her dumfounded new husband Bassanio is enough to place Portia among sassy heroines the caliber of Beatrice, Kate or Hermione. There is nothing to miss in this first-rate comedy, the best I have read so far. Fast-paced bantering, misused words over-brimming with jocular double meaning, a fool who is wise enough to choose the winning side, three romances that culminate in a great party and metaphoric sagacity in the form of playful riddles. Beyond the literal plotline, there is a universe of challenged beliefs where apparently righteous characters are not essentially good, scheming misers are not outright scoundrels and damsels in distress, mere objects of male protection. Shakespeare flips the coin fast enough to confuse the casual reader, but if one reads between the lines, he’ll meet defiant nonconformity in its most elegant disguise. More like this, please!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare is the old classics selection for catching up on classics for September 2016. This comedy, first printed in 1609 five years prior to Shakespeare's death, offers many pressing issues of its day that are unfortunately still relevant today. It is still widely studied in schools yet is banned in many places as well due to its anti-Semitic portrayal of Jews and some lewdness. It is in this light that I discuss the Bard's work. Jews had been banned from England in The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare is the old classics selection for catching up on classics for September 2016. This comedy, first printed in 1609 five years prior to Shakespeare's death, offers many pressing issues of its day that are unfortunately still relevant today. It is still widely studied in schools yet is banned in many places as well due to its anti-Semitic portrayal of Jews and some lewdness. It is in this light that I discuss the Bard's work. Jews had been banned from England in 1290, so it is highly unlikely that Shakespeare came across many Jews during his lifetime. His portrayal of Shylock as a greedy moneylender is considered stereotypical by many. Other scholars, however, have created rumors that perhaps Shakespeare himself was Jewish and that his creation of Shylock was to bring awareness the poor treatment of Jews throughout Europe. The fact that this play was published in the First Folio after the Bard's death makes one question if perhaps Shakespeare himself did not write this particular play, but maybe a ghost writer, specifically a Jewish born ghost writer, did. Regardless, Shylock's character, including his "Hath not a Jew eyes..." speech remains memorable these 420 years later. Additionally, Shakespeare has created strong female characters in this play, both Portia of Belmont and Jessica, Shylock's daughter. I recently read Macbeth where Lady Macbeth is more ruthless and calculating than her husband. In The Merchant of Venice, Portia uses a mind game to find a worthy suitor and later on disguises herself as a lawyer in order to free her husband's dear friend Antonio from Shylock's bond. I remember all these years later being naturally drawn toward Portia's strong character when I read this play in school, which is why I feel that schools select this work so that girls have a protagonist that they are captivated by while reading. While the Merchant of Venice is officially deemed a comedy because three sets of characters marry, the play also contains dramatic elements. I am more drawn toward the intrigue in tragedies, so, naturally, the plot involving Antonio's bond to Shylock in order to assist Bassanio in wooing Portia, held my attention more than the actual romance involving Portia and Bassanio as well as Nerissa and Gratiano. Additionally, the role of Jews' in society which lead Jessica to renounce her Judaism in order to marry Lorenzo, was heart rending to me, as opposed to romantic. Interestingly enough, the last play of Shakespeare's that I read discussed little of the world at large but chose to focus on the characters themselves. This leads me to question if the rumor to whether or not the Bard penned all of his plays actually contains a kernel of truth. I enjoyed reading The Merchant of Venice for the first time in nearly twenty years. It is eye opening through adult eyes the roles of both Jews and women in Shakespearean works. Was the bard an anti-Semitic Englishman renouncing Jews or a Jewish ghost writer warning Europeans of Jews' plight. The fact that scholars are still debating this question over 400 years later is a testament to the Bard's place in written history. It was a treat to revisit this work, which I rate 5 huge stars for its societal awareness and timelessness.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    The pretty islands of Venice, in the shallow lagoon, atop the blue, Adriatic Sea, as the blazing rays of the Sun, shine down, on the brilliant colors of the homes, the calm canals full of boats , with cargo, from faraway lands, a glorious past, but an uncertain future, the rise of Portugal, worries the people. The city once powerful, a short distance from the Italian mainland, vastly wealthy, is in decline...Antonio, the most successful merchant in Venice, and a gambler in commerce, his ships fl The pretty islands of Venice, in the shallow lagoon, atop the blue, Adriatic Sea, as the blazing rays of the Sun, shine down, on the brilliant colors of the homes, the calm canals full of boats , with cargo, from faraway lands, a glorious past, but an uncertain future, the rise of Portugal, worries the people. The city once powerful, a short distance from the Italian mainland, vastly wealthy, is in decline...Antonio, the most successful merchant in Venice, and a gambler in commerce, his ships float in the unpredictable oceans waves, always bringing him back riches , to the lucky man. His cousin, and best friend , Bassanio, not so much, he has a bad habit of spending not only all his money, but quite a lot not in his pockets ( a concept still popular in modern times ). As they say, a friend in need, is a friend indeed, Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan, but unfortunately his kinsman has everything tied up, but wait a short while, soon his ships will come in, and Antonio will be richer than ever. Bassanio can't, there is a woman involved, he needs plenty of ducats, to impress the lady Portia, who lives on shore, Belmont, that he is well off, not a penniless seeker of gold , through marriage to her. Only the moneylender Shylock, can do this, Christians in the middle ages, considered it unchristian, getting interest from loaning money... so intelligent Jews, dominates this trade and did very well. The wise Shylock ( who despises Antonio, a rival, and the merchant does not love him either), will not have anything to do with the reckless Bassanio, but Antonio, that's different, an excellent reputation in business. 3,000 ducats agreed to, a contract signed by Antonio, with a funny line about a pound of flesh taken from The Merchant of Venice, if he can't repay back the loan, with interest, in three months. Simple, his ships have always brought back precious merchandise, making huge profits, much over the cost of his investments, but the mammoth seas, are exceedingly treacherous, and unfeeling, news arrives, a shipwreck off Tripoli, another in the English Channel, others, fall under the stormy waves, never to be seen again, sink in the cold waters, to the unknown bottom of the abyss. Antonio, is ruined, like his ships, Shylock demands not his money, but the pound of flesh from his hide, even the Duke, of the city, is helpless, a contract is a contract, bad for business if not enforced ...His cousin has been better served by the gods, married to the wealthy , smart, independently-minded, beautiful, Portia, but Antonio, still needs a good lawyer, now, the hesitant Bassanio returns to Venice, with his wife's support, on their wedding day. Nerissa, Portia's maid, married Gratiano, her husband's friend, the two secretly follow them to the city, dressed as men. Their new, unperceptive, maybe even vacuous husbands, know not these gentlemen...Portia, a pretend attorney, with whatever legal knowledge, she acquires ( but an intellectual giant), must save Antonio from an undoubted death...The Jewish Shylock, makes the best statement ever, against racism... "If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?"

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Although the most famous speech from this piece is, deservedly and understandably, Shylock's 'prick us' monologue, I think that the more useful speech to talk about what I felt about the play is Portia's only slightly less famous 'quality of mercy' speech in the court room scene: The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: 'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes The throne Although the most famous speech from this piece is, deservedly and understandably, Shylock's 'prick us' monologue, I think that the more useful speech to talk about what I felt about the play is Portia's only slightly less famous 'quality of mercy' speech in the court room scene: The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: 'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes The throned monarch better than his crown; His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings; But mercy is above this sceptred sway; It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, It is an attribute to God himself; And earthly power doth then show likest God's When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew, Though justice be thy plea, consider this, That, in the course of justice, none of us Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy; And that same prayer doth teach us all to render The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much To mitigate the justice of thy plea; Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there. That speech above is the reason why this play has received three starts instead of the five that it deserves for the brilliance of its rendering, the writing, the amazing commentary, the bravery of putting it out there, complication of its presentation... and really, everything else about it. Actually, let me be more precise: the fact that none of the characters in this play lived up to that speech is the reason is the reason for the three stars. Here's the thing: I did not like a single person in this play. Not one. It was an absolute chore to read this play, and took much longer than it should have to get through- the same reaction I have to reading Russian novels or George Bernard Shaw plays where the characters are mere mouthpieces, and their sometimes jaw-droppingly awful actions should be excused by their overall 'message'. There were so many absolutely horrifying things going on in this play, and not one plotline to redeem it, or attach me to the story. Not one. Piles of racism, nationalism, religious preaching, a Christ complex or two, mildly offensive gender politics, the whole thing was an absolute morass- there's, as always, too much to deal with in a Shakespeare play to cover it all, which is why I have chosen the quality of mercy speech, and perhaps I'll be able to touch on everything spiraling out from there. Not one person in this play particularly stuck to the above defined, idealized presentation of justice or mercy. Nobody particularly deserved mercy, either. Shylock (as subversive a condemnation of anti-Semitism as he might be), is forced to take his revenge too far for the sake of wrapping up the plotline so that the Jew doesn't win. Antonio, despite his surface presentation of goodness is a deeply cruel, probably racist prick who plays the martyr as it benefits him, and, I have a deep suspicion, gave to his friend Bassiano due to the fact that he is in love with him (and so, is selfish, not selfless). As for our supposed 'romantic' leads: Bassiano is one selfish jerk who teaches the audience that its totally cool to cheat people and take advantage of people if you're young and hot, Gratiano expresses his desire to lead a lynch mob, and thinks going off on racist rants is fun, and Lorenzo can't wait to spend the rest of his life lording his 'generosity' over what he believes will be his slavishly grateful Jewish wife. As for the women, Jessica cares more for rising in the world out of her 'inferior' Jewish position than her father or, really, anything else, and makes a sickening speech about how awesome her Jesus-lovin' fiance is, Nerissa starts off potentially interesting and winds up very quickly as a mere shadow and eventually literal echo of her employer, like Shakespeare forgot what he put her there to begin with. And as for Portia... she's the only character in this play that I have a bit of a struggle with. I do want to like her- I certainly appreciate the fact that she starts off as independent as it is possible for her to be- supposedly living her life in accordance with her dead daddy's wishes, and yet her own mistress for what seems to have been a very long time. She's smart, witty, quick, and definitely not afraid to stick up for herself. She pretends the submissive wife when her husband runs off five minutes after they get engaged, pretending to go to a convent, and instead goes on a cross-dressing, everyone-saving adventure. But here's my thing with Portia- she is not merciful. She's mean, man. I started to feel sorry for all those poor princes who show up to try to claim her hand- I know they're just plot points and there to be made fun of, but good God. They're not people at all- they're just countries, being made fun of, 'cause dumb national stereotypes are fun. Shakespeare was in all likelihood playing to his audiences' nationalistic sympathies at the time- the two Princes who actually appear are of Arragon and Morocco. The English were not huge fans of Spain at the time given the current and past political situation, and making fun of black people... well, why not? The ones who are just talked about are Palatine, French, English and Neopolitan Princes- all (except for the English, which is dealt with below), countries I'm sure England was totally cool with them looking a bit ridiculous. (I did actually love the description of the English prince- it was a humorous, sharp commentary on English power and imperialism.-"What say you, then, to Falconbridge, the young baron of England? You know I say nothing to him, for he understands not me, nor I him: he hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian, and you will come into the court and swear that I have a poor pennyworth in the English. He is a proper man's picture, but, alas, who can converse with a dumb-show? How oddly he is suited! I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany and his behavior every where.) ...Anyway, just another example of the cardboard people thing that helped to add up to a deeply unlikeable play- even if the observations were funny, and did help to set up Portia as a witty woman, their other uses cannot be ignored. (The above is the nicest thing she has to say about anybody, btw.) And after she gives an admittedly brilliant performance in the courtroom, Shakespeare feels the need to end the play with her as the nagging, scolding wife, who deliberately sets her husband up to be caught. 'Cause that's what the wimmens are like! Just waiting to claw your eyes out at any opportunity, dontcha know? Also, the action directly contradicted everything she had just said in the courtroom, as it was exactly like or worse than what Shylock supposedly did to Antonio. She spends this whole speech talking about how mercy does not mean keeping to the letter of the law, and it means understanding human frailty and how mercy is better than justice, etc, etc, and then, literally two scenes later, she's all, "but Bassianno, you saaaaaaid...." and takes huge self-righteous delight in ripping down the man she supposedly loves after setting him up to lose. I suppose you can make the feminist argument that at least she doesn't give in totally to her man, and she still reminds him constantly who is in control- it is her money that allows Bassiano to put on a brave face in the courtroom, it is her words that get him out of it, it is her ring that shows him how close he can come to being tossed the fuck out. Even if she can't do that once she's married, she's made her point. But I don't know if this is a more positive stereotype of women than the woman who wilts into her husband immediately after her marriage. As for the anti-Semitism in this play... it is a delicate subject, but I definitely come down on the side that Shakespeare meant this to be a subversive commentary on the popular views of the day. If the 'prick us' speech didn't open that window, the treatment of Shylock and how other characters talk about him throughout the play does. Shakespeare gives his audience exactly what they want (or what he believes they do) and believe, all while showing them why it is wrong, every step of the way. Even the way that Shylock is caught is absolutely wrong- these Christians, are, as mentioned above, worse than anything that Shylock could possibly have been- even with the exaggerated traits given to him by Shakespeare. His punishment is elegant, and far more cruel than just shooting him in the face would have been. And it certainly does not have that quality of mercy, whatever Antonio would like the audience to think. Shakespeare's poignant rendering of the realities of life as a member of an inferior sect in domestic or world society, and what those in positions of power feel entitled to do to you, is both subtle and in your face, and draws both laughter and anger at once. Beyond brilliant, really. In any case- this is worth reading, as a brilliant, very brave, social commentary, as an interesting historical document, and as a beautifully written treatise on a number of very touchy subjects. It is absolutely worth the read, and I will probably read parts of it again as I wrestle with what I feel about it- but don't come in here looking for a story, or for people, for you will walk out quite disappointed. I don't think this is a bad thing- knowing the play's focus and limitations, rather (at least for me), allows one a window into appreciating a hidden, manic brilliance that might otherwise have remained hidden in the muck and sewer rotting garbage. And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, That I have much ado to know myself. Antonio's lines open the play- I choose to read this as a disclaimer from Shakespeare, perhaps a statement of his own mind in setting these sometimes ugly, complicated thoughts to paper. A plea to look under rocks and among the worms, if we must, to find the beauty. Do. It is worth it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    If this had a secondary title, delivered in "the parlance of our times" it would be THE POUND OF FLESH. I liked this for many reasons but the element that stands out most is Shakespeare's focus. Many of his plays have various, complex, and intertwined sub-plots, some being more interesting than the theme itself, TMOV is focused and almost relentless, we have one simple course of action that the story leads inevitably towards and which keeps the reader and the audience entranced, will Shylock rea If this had a secondary title, delivered in "the parlance of our times" it would be THE POUND OF FLESH. I liked this for many reasons but the element that stands out most is Shakespeare's focus. Many of his plays have various, complex, and intertwined sub-plots, some being more interesting than the theme itself, TMOV is focused and almost relentless, we have one simple course of action that the story leads inevitably towards and which keeps the reader and the audience entranced, will Shylock really remain intent on claiming his bond? Even the Duke seems ready to predict that Shylock will relent at the end and just take the money. Other fascinating themes explored are the love of money and love itself, both in romantic terms and in friendship. While Antonio and Portia present complex and thoroughly entertaining Shakespearean characterizations, Shylock, of course, steals the show.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    “One had best state this matter very plainly: To recover the comic splendor of The Merchant of Venice now, you need to be either a scholar or an anti-Semite, or best of all an anti-Semitic scholar.” ~ Harold Bloom *** See how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark in thine ear: change places, and handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? ~ King Lear (IV.vi.151–4) *** “Which is the merchant here? and which the Jew?” ~ The Merchant of Venice THE BLACK SWAN OF VENICE The traditional “One had best state this matter very plainly: To recover the comic splendor of The Merchant of Venice now, you need to be either a scholar or an anti-Semite, or best of all an anti-Semitic scholar.” ~ Harold Bloom *** See how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark in thine ear: change places, and handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? ~ King Lear (IV.vi.151–4) *** “Which is the merchant here? and which the Jew?” ~ The Merchant of Venice THE BLACK SWAN OF VENICE The traditional interpretations are usually on the lines of ‘accept the play as what it is - a comedy that utilizes stereotypes’  or on ‘Shakespeare managed to use a stereotype and yet humanized him and created one of the great characters in theatre’. Truly, the scope and diversity of theatrical interpretations of the Merchant are extraordinary, and there have been many new and exciting attempts at understanding the play over the centuries. In addition, its racism has often been reversed in performance, converted into an eloquent plea for human equality. Indeed, in some ways the play has been instrumental in changing people’s perceptions of the Jewish community, and it therefore occupies a valuable place in world culture. It is said that Merchant of Venice is one of the most performed plays of all time and has continuously been in production for over 300 years now. Is there a reason why it is so popular? It is partly due precisely to this breadth of interpretation that is possible, and partly due to the immense challenge thrown up by the character of Shylock. Shylock can be interpreted in many ways on the stage. He can be seen as a simple comic villain who occasionally reveals sympathetic qualities. Or he can be a tragic hero, a spurned and battered victim of oppression, who tries unsuccessfully to challenge the society that oppresses him. Similarly, the Christians can be saintly personifications of charity and mercy, or hypocritical money-grubbers. It may seem strange that a play can produce such divergent readings, but they are, in fact, a result of the complexity of Shakespeare’s writing. It is a play that is curiously capable of moulding itself to our present, we only have to project the current OTHER into the role of Shylock - as many directors over the centuries have done. It allows reinterpretation as per this current Other - and can then be a vehicle for showcasing a sense of how a historic wrong is ripe for correction! What this sort of interpretation of Merchant of Venice misses is that both Venice and Shylock were ‘The Other’ to each other. They were both incomprehensible to the other. The Directorial Debut: A World Without Belmont Keeping this in mind, now, if I were to direct the play today, I would focus on these things: 1. The risky speculative nature of Antonio's ventures. 2. The twisting of the laws by Portia to ‘bail out’ Antonio and to make Shylock bear the brunt of Antonio's speculations. In a bit more detail, this would be my approach towards the production: Shylock: Shakespeare uses ‘Jew’ and “Shylock’ in the play depending on whether he wants to humanize him or not. ‘Shylock’ is used where involvement in his feelings is indicated; and ‘Jew’ is used when Shakespeare sees him purely as a moneylender, as a stereotype. It is significant that at the very end, in the Trial Scene, ‘Shylock’ is used by Shakespeare and not ‘Jew’! I would extend this to its extreme - humanize Shylock completely, strip him of his 'monstrosity' status and of his usurer brand and make him the common family man, downtrodden occasionally, trying to get by. Antonio: is given no real reason for nobility in the play except his Christian credentials - I would strip him of those and make him just what he is, a speculator with many failings with no cushion of Christianity to fallback on. A quintessential Wall-Street figure. I might or might not keep the personal enmity between Shylock and Antonio. That would add dramatic value, but serves no purpose as far as my core message is concerned. Belmont: An outlandish element of this most realistic of Shakespeare’s plays is Belmont - the land of magic where casket-tests and ring-tests determine 'true love' and fidelity, where pure love always wins  - a fairy tale land. It is a world where money has no role, where no class differences occur (or are not allowed since only the privileged enter!) because the oppressed don’t have a role (notice, no Jews in Belmont!), which might have been an impossible but still acceptable dream for much of human history (Voltaire-like), but which crumpled maybe around the middle of this century, with our disillusionment with European dreams of any poised land. We don't have a place for such a trope in our production. The Merchant of Venice is a very serious play - Shakespeare made it a romantic comedy by nesting the parallel story of Belmont and its idealism, its fairy tale caskets, the Jason-like Quest etc. But we don’t have to take it with the same levity. We can take it more seriously. We can consider a world without Belmont! My play would then be set in this “World Without Belmont”. Shylock, even back then, is a controversial figure for villain and has not been accepted as such for a long time now. Shall we have another villain for ourselves? - Let me present to you, Antonio! Here, Antonio becomes a Speculator who uses borrowed money to finance risky expeditions on a false sense of self-assurance, in spite of being warned right at the beginning of the play by all his friends - ignorantly over-confident, and rather stupid because he is so lacking in common sense. When they do choose, They have the wisdom by their wit to lose. Shylock becomes the common man who was assured that his money would never be risked (a ‘merry bond’ sold to him??) and Bassanio becomes the Aristocracy who meanwhile uses the public money for self-indulgence and exotic adventures. If you sympathize with Shylock, then you must turn against Portia. ~ E. E. Stoll Portia: Portia, in my production, becomes the conservative defender (who is also not above some blatant racism!) of these values who would try to get the state to sponsor these extravagances and is even wiling to twist the law - a complete Deux Ex Machina - are we really to think Shylock, and anybody else, did not know of these laws that Portia presents? To me Portia has used their assumption of her competence to full advantage. The only way to explain it would be ‘Poetic Justice’ or more crassly - Cheating! Portia does this 'twisting' to try and make the poor Shylock shell out even more of his personal fortune, who is almost struck dumb when the State and Law that he had placed his belief on turn on him - “Is that the law?" is all he can ask. He was absolutely certain that his trust in the law was inviolate. The Law and the State that he believed to be so solid crumbles before him. He sees what power privilege has in this world. And I beseech you, Wrest once the law to your authority. To do a great right, do a little wrong, And curb this cruel devil of his will. Thus making Shylock representative of the common man, who is a mirror to the society’s worst atrocities - by trying to take exacting revenge on the Wall-street speculator Antonio; and by trying to point out the many wrongs of his society, such as slavery back then or enforced poverty today. The common man, whose tax dollars and life-savings are used to finance the risky ventures of the Antonios and the Bassanios. Of course, they don’t have to worry, the conservative state represented by the Duke (talk of an impartial judge - he starts the trial by calling Shylock names! And proceeds to threaten to annul the whole thing when Shylock seemed on the verge of winning) and by Portia, who will, with her ingenious manipulations of the law, ensure that Shylock not only loses but also accepts their value systems! “I am content” he says and disappears from the play, into the black-hole that is the State - an Orwellian vision. Portia: Art thou contented, Jew? What dost thou say? Shylock: I am content. In this ‘World Without Belmont’, we have to notice that the upholding of Justice is done not for nobility or any love of justice for its own sake but to ensure that the ‘too big to fail’ establishments are not allowed to sink - just as “The trade and profit of the city” of Portia’s Venice depends on the confidence foreigners have in Venetian law. Thus it is not love of justice for her own sake, but mere self-interest, that keeps our play’s world within the law. Thus, going from the ‘New Comedy’ aspect of Merchant of Venice to a full blown Tragedy, I would end my modern production with this Shylock slighted and stolen of his possessions, the Antonios and Bassanios happy in the thought that they can continue their indulgences at the expense of the public, while strictly following the letter of the law, no less… and a dark foreboding of when this whole structure will collapse, no matter how well hedged by class distinctions and 'just' laws. Encore: “Which is the merchant here? and which the Jew?”

  9. 4 out of 5

    James

    Book Review 3 of 5 stars to The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. My review is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on appearance versus reality in Shakespeare's plays. In many of William Shakespeare’s famous plays, reality was not quite what it appeared to be. Instead, it was a rather warped appearance that someone molded in a specific way for a particular reason. Reality has been altered in Shakespeare’s plays often by characters who have been known to lie, scheme, and create facades, j Book Review 3 of 5 stars to The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. My review is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on appearance versus reality in Shakespeare's plays. In many of William Shakespeare’s famous plays, reality was not quite what it appeared to be. Instead, it was a rather warped appearance that someone molded in a specific way for a particular reason. Reality has been altered in Shakespeare’s plays often by characters who have been known to lie, scheme, and create facades, just so that they could be with the ones they love. When fate intervened in this type of a situation and created an obstacle between the true loves, Portia, the main character in Merchant of Venice, disguised herself as a lawyer to free her love, Bassanio, from the evil Shylock’s clutches. She also altered reality by disguising herself to her husband so that she could see what their wedding rings meant to him. However, this deception, although intended for good purposes, usually ended in disaster. It just goes to show that honesty is always the best policy. Never deceive fate by changing reality, and interpreting [from it] a new appearance that you want other to see. Portia had already been through an appearance vs. reality problem when it came to her potential suitor’s choosing of the caskets. They could choose from gold, silver, and lead. The first two appeared to be wonderful gifts from God, but in reality, the most worthless one, the lead, turned out to be the best coffin to pick. If you did, like one person did, you would win Portia’s hand in marriage. Luckily, the first two gentleman chose the wrong casket, and then when it came time for Bassanio to choose a casket, he chose the correct one. Thus, it lead to the marriage between Portia and Bassanio. Bassanio’s best friend Antonio, however, was in need of dire help. Portia decided to help her husband’s friend Antonio. Antonio had borrowed money from a man named Shylock to back Bassanio’s ships in the waters nearby. However, the ships never came back to port, and so Shylock wanted his money back from Antonio. The agreement that was made was that Shylock was due one pound’s flesh if he didn’t receive any money. Bassanio didn’t want to let his friend Antonio die from his debt, either. Eventually, Portia and her lady-in-waiting came up with a plan to disguise themselves and become a doctor and his clerk. This plan again alters reality to suit her own purpose. She needed to help her friend Antonio, so she put on a new appearance. She played the doctor who told Shylock he had permission to take his flesh from Antonio, but he best be careful not to shed any of Antonio’s blood during it, because that is illegal. Also, they revealed the Venetian law that states if any foreigner kills a Venetian, all of his money is to be taken from him. Shylock gives in and decides not to take his flesh from Antonio. In the end, Portia’s trickery and deceit works, but still, she had to disfigure the state of reality that Venice was in because she wanted to help her husband Bassanio. Similarly, Portia decides to put on another disguise to test her husband’s loyalty. She again plays with the appearance of things and creates a false appearance like Juliet did in Romeo and Juliet. Portia, as the doctor talks to Bassanio about being paid for having saved Antonio’s life. Bassanio tires to give her money, but she refuses saying that all she wants is the ring on his hand. Bassanio thinks back to when it was given to him. Portia had said “I gave them with his ring, which when you part from, lose, or give away, let it presage the ruin of your love, and be my vantage to exclaim on you” (3.2.171-174). Bassanio had given her his word that he would never take it off. Well, after Portia, as the disguised man, chides Bassanio for keeping it because his woman told him to, Bassanio hands over the ring. When he later returns to Portia, she notices that his ring is gone and yells at him for it. She thinks he doesn’t love her and is reckless. All the while, Portia has set this whole game up to test her husband. Portia’s plays with reality for the fun of it really. She wants to be sure of her husband’s love for her, but she has no right to alter her appearance and trick him. He is a man of equal measure to her and everyone else. Portia and Bassanio end up fighting about the loss, but Bassanio ends up vowing never to get rid of the ring again after she tells him what she did. She is constantly switching back and forth from reality, to her perception of it, to the perception she gives to others of reality that she eventually almost messes up the entire situation. Portia wasn’t altogether truthful with her husband with what she did. If she had been though, he would not have given the ring away. Therefore, by playing with the views others see of reality, particularly her husband’s, she tempts fate. If she had never done anything, her husband Bassanio and her wouldn’t have fought and they would have lived happily ever after. However, she doesn’t. They end up talking about it and forgiving each other, but surely there will always be doubt in the back of their minds about what the other is up to. Bassanio may wonder if she is just playing games with him, and Portia may wonder if he will really hold onto the ring for next time. Leave well enough alone and let fate and reality take their course rather than warp the appearance of things for your own purpose. About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Luffy

    Maybe I'm being slightly harsh with my rating. I read this play and immediately thought I'll rate it 5 stars. But I rescinded this idea. Hear me out. I realized that it was an outdated model of storytelling. I also realized that there's not many adaptations of this story of Shakespeare. We get lots of Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, even the ambitious Othello or Midsummer Night's Dream. The Merchant of Venice is at heart a simplistic story with people in love but it's not a love story. I Maybe I'm being slightly harsh with my rating. I read this play and immediately thought I'll rate it 5 stars. But I rescinded this idea. Hear me out. I realized that it was an outdated model of storytelling. I also realized that there's not many adaptations of this story of Shakespeare. We get lots of Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, even the ambitious Othello or Midsummer Night's Dream. The Merchant of Venice is at heart a simplistic story with people in love but it's not a love story. It has a villain, but is not heavily invested in action. It's a living fossil, and I mean that amicably. It's a wondrous fossil. Let's leave it at that.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." - William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3 There is something about Shylock that I absolutely love. He is huge. His hatred and his disdain for Venice's Christians throbs like a heart ready to burst. There is no rest nor slumber to his antipathy. Somehow, this wicked caricature of both man and race I still, however, adore more than the self-righteous charm of the aggrieved Christians and the obviously biased "Doctor of Laws". I want "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." - William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3 There is something about Shylock that I absolutely love. He is huge. His hatred and his disdain for Venice's Christians throbs like a heart ready to burst. There is no rest nor slumber to his antipathy. Somehow, this wicked caricature of both man and race I still, however, adore more than the self-righteous charm of the aggrieved Christians and the obviously biased "Doctor of Laws". I want desperately to somehow tie this review into the current administration, but I'm not there yet. Close. There is something there. Something that steams, swells and billows. Something from the dark corners of the Oval office that screams "I'll have my bond; speak not against my bond: I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond..." No. Perhaps Shylock isn't Trump or Bannon. Perhaps Shylock is those angry voters who are willing to watch it all burn because they are tired of being screwed by the left or the right. They know their anger will eventually cost them everything, but there is a moment when we all want a pound of flesh. Favorite Lines: “I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano!” (Act 1, Scene 1) “It is no mean happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean.” (Act 1, Scene 2) “If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" (Act 3, Scene 1).” “So many the outward shows be least themselves. The world is still deceived with ornament.” (Act 3, Scene 2) “The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.” (Act 5, Scene 1)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hailey (Hailey in Bookland)

    *reread nov 2015* Definitely one of my favourites.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    It has been debated whether Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is anti-semitic or whether he is trying to call attention to their plight in his time. Many modern readers lean toward the latter pointing to Shylock's profound speech in the trial scene (do I not bleed when you cut me?). It's up to the reader to form their own opinion because it's hard to know what Shakespeare was thinking 400 years after the fact. From a pure readability standpoint, I thought the play was very good, one of Shakespeare It has been debated whether Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is anti-semitic or whether he is trying to call attention to their plight in his time. Many modern readers lean toward the latter pointing to Shylock's profound speech in the trial scene (do I not bleed when you cut me?). It's up to the reader to form their own opinion because it's hard to know what Shakespeare was thinking 400 years after the fact. From a pure readability standpoint, I thought the play was very good, one of Shakespeare's best so far for me. Probably the best group of characters of any of his plays that I have read. I really liked the strength of the female characters, especially Portia, who was very resourceful and ends up being the foil for Shylock where, in the courtroom scene, she delivers her famous "quality of mercy" speech. 4.5 stars

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anne Blocker

    My grandmother knew Shakespeare by heart. Not one play or a few sonnets, but all of it, the body of work. She believed the highest calling was to contribute to the body of human knowledge. She was one of the early professors at The University of Texas. I knew Shylock and Portia as if they were members of our family when I went with my grandmother at 15 to the open stage at Stratford-on-Avon to see The Merchant of Venice. Growing up on an island in the Gulf of Mexico where every able-bodied perso My grandmother knew Shakespeare by heart. Not one play or a few sonnets, but all of it, the body of work. She believed the highest calling was to contribute to the body of human knowledge. She was one of the early professors at The University of Texas. I knew Shylock and Portia as if they were members of our family when I went with my grandmother at 15 to the open stage at Stratford-on-Avon to see The Merchant of Venice. Growing up on an island in the Gulf of Mexico where every able-bodied person is valued in a storm, I was unable to understand the tone of anti-Semitism. I wrote about that when I next studied the play in college. In my Forties, our laboratory was conducting research at St. Stephen's School in Austin when the Headmaster called to say I had to come immediately to see the results of a new learning device. The door to the classroom was locked until the bell rang. Seventh grade students streamed into the class and seized the lesson of the day to learn -- Elizabethan vocabulary for The Merchant of Venice. I expected groans and instead, it was like a race. In 15 minutes, they had all learned the lesson to 100% and the teacher turned on a video in process, an exchange of Portia, Antonio and Shylock about the pound of flesh. When the word forsooth came on, the class, in unison, raised fists into the air and shouted the word. I was startled. Could this be learning? When the video was turned off, the hands went up enthusiastically. The first question, what are the words we say today that will seem odd three hundred years from now? Cool, tight, talk to the hand seemed to qualify. The next question, what is a pound of flesh and where could you cut it off the body where it would do the most and the least damage? That led to a discussion of emergency medicine, vulnerability of biological systems and triage. Then, the inevitable, what does it mean to be Jewish and why do they charge interest? If I lent you lunch money today, I wouldn't ask for more than I lent you tomorrow. That would not seem fair. The kids of bankers and Realtors were quick to discuss economic systems, countries where interest was illegal, the first rumors of the success of the Grameen Bank. They were guided in a discussion of the common origin of religions, the children of Abraham who had become Jews, Christians and Muslims. I asked the teacher, noticing the time, when they were going to discuss the play and Shakespeare. She turned and smiled. This is what we study Shakespeare FOR, she said, to teach students to think and feel and deal with what is important -- poetry, ideas, the human condition. This is just the beginning. These kids will be talking about The Merchant of Venice all their lives. I realized she was right.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    My daughter has to write an essay on this play and so we have been talking about it. It would be easy to say the play is anti-Semitic – there is no question that many of the characters we are expected to have the most sympathy with are certainly anti-Semitic. My problem is that I can’t watch this play and not end up feeling sorry for Shylock. Sure, he was going to kill someone who had spat on him in the street and despised him for his religion – but then, he would hardly have been the first pers My daughter has to write an essay on this play and so we have been talking about it. It would be easy to say the play is anti-Semitic – there is no question that many of the characters we are expected to have the most sympathy with are certainly anti-Semitic. My problem is that I can’t watch this play and not end up feeling sorry for Shylock. Sure, he was going to kill someone who had spat on him in the street and despised him for his religion – but then, he would hardly have been the first person in the world to do that if given the chance. Still, his near total destruction on the basis of legal entrapment is anything but edifying. This is a play about how the law is unlikely to be just unless it is tempered with mercy – although, this ‘lesson’ is one that is variously demonstrated through some of the major story-lines of the play. This is also, of course, a play about identity – who we are, who we would like to appear to be and who we find ourselves to be. It is hardly surprising that the night that Shylock’s daughter leaves her father’s house is a night when the local Christians roam the streets wearing masks and Shylock warns her to stay indoors. Many of the masks in this play are both metaphorical and literal. During the trial Shylock asks, “What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong?” And here is the key point of the play. Portia answers this in her rightly famous ‘Quality of mercy’ speech. “Therefore, Jew, though justice be thy plea, consider this, that in the course of justice none of us should see salvation: we do pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us all to render to deeds of mercy.” That is, not even the best person that ever lived is good enough to deserve salvation – we are all, according to God’s law, ultimately sinners and deserving of damnation. Our being saved by God is not due to our deserving salvation, but rather it is an act of mercy gifted to us by God. The law is harsh, but it is made just by the application of mercy. Now, the most obvious example of this law and mercy relationship is Shylock and his demanding the literal execution of the terms of his deed with Antonio. It is clear that the extraction of a pound of flesh from the body of Antonio is going to cause his death. But it is also clear that Shylock is within his legal right to demand the execution of their deed. It is also clear that he has real grievances against Antonio. The problem is that Shylock’s application of the law is anything but disinterested. As he says to Antonio, “Thou call’dst me a dog before thou had cause, but since I am a dog beware my fangs”. Few of us, Jewish or not, would be able to resist extracting a pound of flesh from our enemies if we thought we could do so with impunity. And Antonio is clearly an enemy of Shylock’s – a long-standing enemy who has mocked and ridiculed him (and worse) for being Jewish. Venice is shocked that Shylock should seek to enact the terms of the deed – but what is interesting here is that Antonio entered into this deed with both eyes open. Sure, he thought he would be safe with money coming in ahead of time, but there is no question he entered the deed willingly. This puts the State in an interesting position in relation to the deed. They are forced to enact it, that is, until Portia comes along and, with what is supposed to be clever legal footwork (but is actually a terrible kind of entrapment – worse than we can accuse Shylock of – the outcome being certain in this case), she turns the tables on Shylock. He can have his pound of flesh, no more and no less, and must not spill a drop of blood in extracting it. Clearly, an impossible condition to comply with. Furthermore, because he has sought to kill a citizen of Venice he forfeits his life, with half of his property to the state and the other half to his victim. These terms are overturned (as a display of Christian mercy on behalf of the state and Antonio) but on condition he leaves his fortune to his run-away daughter’s new husband and also becomes a Christian. It is hardly a scene to cheer at. And I struggle to believe Shakespeare intended it as such. It is a bitter and pointless act by a state anything but disinterested and one that is devoid of anything approaching ‘justice’. And this is interesting, as Portia earlier explained that the arbitrary cancelling of the deed was impossible – it would be used as a precedent by others to excuse their own debts. But the sleight of hand she performs to entrap Shylock could hardly bring comfort to anyone from outside Venice entering into a contract with a citizen of Venice and their likely treatment of things go belly up. From the perspective of an outsider the story runs like this: two men freely enter into a contract, the terms of the contract were clearly known to both parties before their agreement, one party is unable to meet the terms of their contract, the other party demands the contract be enforced, for doing so he loses control of his own property and is forced to convert to the local religion. Is this a place where you would consider investing? It sounds like the kind of loan and contract you might receive from the IMF or the World Bank… The relationship between the law and mercy (and thereby producing justice) isn’t very clear in the other stories in the play either. Firstly, there is Portia’s little predicament at the start of the play. Her father is dead, but to make sure she marries someone worthy of her he has set up a kind of parlour trick. There are three caskets and if her suitor picks the right one he will get the girl. How confident would you need to be of your ‘law’ – your belief that the person that picks the right casket will do so for all the right reasons – that you would stake your daughter’s life, fortune and happiness on it? This is made all the more ironic as Portia is clearly the most clever person in the play, but she is not trusted with any leeway in her choice of a husband – something I assume she would have at least as much interest in as her dead father. This is mandatory sentencing gone mad. The other example is to do with the ring. When Portia becomes engaged to Bassanio she gives him a ring – the law in this situation being that he is not to take the ring off or to give it to anyone else, as it is a symbol of their love and to do such a thing would mean the end of their love. But Portia attends the court and frees Bassanio’s best friend, Anthony. They don’t realise who she is, (that game with identity that is played with throughout – husbands not recognising wives, fathers not recognising sons) she is dressed as a young man, and so they offer her lots of money – which she refuses. But she asks for Bassanio’s ring. This puts Bassanio in a tailspin, but finally he agrees to hand over the ring. Later, when again dressed as herself, she asks where the ring is and causes all sorts of trouble over his giving it away. Again, just as with Shylock earlier, she is involved in entrapment. The point here, I think, is that creating absolute rules, creating unquestionable laws, is generally a bad idea. And this brings us back to the question of mercy. Laws need to be strict and to admit of no exceptions – but life and justice requires that people should be able to plead mitigation. And when universal laws are applied blindly to specific circumstances all too often they can lead to injustice. If, ultimately, this is an anti-Semitic play, it isn’t one that I think really could leave anti-Semites feeling terribly comfortable with their beliefs or proud of their racism. Shylock’s motives are anything but worthy, but how he is treated is hardly an example of the best of Christian morality. His enforced conversion is repulsive in the extreme, his entrapment is also repulsive – in fact, there ought to be laws against such behaviour.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Piyangie

    This is yet another wonderful Shakespearean play that I read. I have watched the play but this is the first time I read it. The play consists of a great story on justice, love, loyalty and mercy. It is full of drama and intrigue and the read was absolutely wonderful. There is however much criticism on this play for its antisemitic portrayal. It must have been the general view and treatment of the society towards the Jews. But it is doubtful whether Shakespeare used antisemitic portrayal to discr This is yet another wonderful Shakespearean play that I read. I have watched the play but this is the first time I read it. The play consists of a great story on justice, love, loyalty and mercy. It is full of drama and intrigue and the read was absolutely wonderful. There is however much criticism on this play for its antisemitic portrayal. It must have been the general view and treatment of the society towards the Jews. But it is doubtful whether Shakespeare used antisemitic portrayal to discriminate the Jews or to heighten the discrimination to which they were subjected to. It is also a little surprising why this play was categorized under the comedy genre, for there was tragedy too in the light of Shylock's predicament. But I suppose that since the play was ended on a happy note, the comedy genre is justifiable.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    I attended a filmed version of this play, performed in the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London. The costuming was wonderful, plus the music was excellent! Jonathan Price was a convincing Shylock and his real-life daughter Phoebe played the role of Shylock’s daughter Jessica. Between the two of them, they managed to make Antonio & the other Christians look like the monsters of the piece. Of course I knew about the whole “pound of flesh” issue, but I didn’t know many other details of this pla I attended a filmed version of this play, performed in the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London. The costuming was wonderful, plus the music was excellent! Jonathan Price was a convincing Shylock and his real-life daughter Phoebe played the role of Shylock’s daughter Jessica. Between the two of them, they managed to make Antonio & the other Christians look like the monsters of the piece. Of course I knew about the whole “pound of flesh” issue, but I didn’t know many other details of this play, which is controversial enough that it is not regularly performed. I was pleasantly surprised to see the humour in the scenes which included Portia and her suitors and in the final scene where the disposal of rings becomes an issue. It also made me smile as Portia and her maid Nerissa disguised themselves as men, in good Shakespearean tradition. The role of Lancelot Gobbo was charmingly played by Stefan Adegbola, who brought to members of the audience to the stage to assist with his decisions to change masters. A worthwhile play to attend, it is a thought-provoking piece and a must for every Shakespeare fan.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mayy Wilde-Shakespeare

    “All that glisters is not gold; Often have you heard that told: Many a man his life hath sold But my outside to behold: Gilded tombs do worms enfold.” Wow, this is something else I’ll tell you that much. My friend and was the one who told to read this as my next Shakespeare and when I asked her why she responded with : " There is this guy who bargains with another guy and if the first guy doesn’t pay the second guy the money back on time he get’s to take a pound of his flesh, from anywhere he wants.". “All that glisters is not gold; Often have you heard that told: Many a man his life hath sold But my outside to behold: Gilded tombs do worms enfold.” Wow, this is something else I’ll tell you that much. My friend and was the one who told to read this as my next Shakespeare and when I asked her why she responded with : " There is this guy who bargains with another guy and if the first guy doesn’t pay the second guy the money back on time he get’s to take a pound of his flesh, from anywhere he wants.". So naturally I was intrigued. Something that just seemed confusing to me, was that all of the "notes" were are the back of the book, so every time I go all the way to the back of the book. And although sometimes there were proven to be helpful, most of them were just confusing. But what really got me was how clever this play is. I mean really smart. The ending was done in such a clever and interesting way, that you couldn’t help thinking to yourself (or more specifically to a character): " Well, you fucked up." This is a great play and a little different to what I have read of Shakespeare so far.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Huda Aweys

    I love this play .. I love those writings which exalting women :) .... and explain what she can be ! .. or what is estimated to be and how it can outweigh the balance ! :) كمان المسرحية مهمة جدا لكونها أشارت للقوة الإقتصادية اللي كان بيمثلها اليهود في اوروبا ، في ذلك الوقت ..

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Besides being a great Shakespeare play, this is an entertaining read. However, what sticks in my mind was the interruption at the Comédie Française when I saw this performed (in French!) by some Zionist activists in the middle of the play decrying the anti-Semitism of the work. So, yes, there is a stereotypical character in the book that is Jewish and it is not a complimentary positive portrait. But to label the entire work as anti-Semitic seems a little much for me. Shakespeare was, of course, Besides being a great Shakespeare play, this is an entertaining read. However, what sticks in my mind was the interruption at the Comédie Française when I saw this performed (in French!) by some Zionist activists in the middle of the play decrying the anti-Semitism of the work. So, yes, there is a stereotypical character in the book that is Jewish and it is not a complimentary positive portrait. But to label the entire work as anti-Semitic seems a little much for me. Shakespeare was, of course, a creature of his time and his times - Elizabethan England - were not particularly fantastic for those of the Jewish fate, but they were not the programs of 19c and 20c Eastern Europe and Russia either. Anyway, still an interesting play.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    So strange that this was ever considered a comedy. I've yet to see a performance of it that has seemed anything but tragic. Such an odd play all around and is - along with the Taming of the Shrew - one that makes you want to ask the old boy what his intentions were. It's criticised by many for being anti-Semitic and yet it offers Shylock the spotlight to make an infamous speech about the unfair treatment of Jews. Strange.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Terrington

    Review the First A brilliant play that I must now make a priority to go and see along with a live production of Hamlet and The Crucible. I particularly loved the way Shakespeare provided his characters with greater depth than in other plays and this will become one of my favorites along with Hamlet. The Merchant of Venice clearly reveals Shakespeare's vast wit, a fact that he has become noted for amongst scholars. Not to mention the manner to which he vastly added to the English language which was Review the First A brilliant play that I must now make a priority to go and see along with a live production of Hamlet and The Crucible. I particularly loved the way Shakespeare provided his characters with greater depth than in other plays and this will become one of my favorites along with Hamlet. The Merchant of Venice clearly reveals Shakespeare's vast wit, a fact that he has become noted for amongst scholars. Not to mention the manner to which he vastly added to the English language which was at the time of his writing immensely limited compared to what it is today. Not only that but its intricate twists and convolutions wrap around a clever and well developed plot which I found far more entertaining than his tales like Romeo and Juliet. (view spoiler)[ The very logical claim of 'you can have one pound of flesh but no blood' made me smile because it was so literal and to the letter of the law. (hide spoiler)] Shakespeare's tale also reveals highly modern ideas. The women in his play are independent and strong. They are the sole reason that Antonio survives the ordeal before him in the end. Another modern idea is revealed in the challenging question by Shylock when he states: I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. This is the idea that despite differences in beliefs, ideals and appearance all people are humans. We all bleed, eat, sleep, dream and feel similar sensations in life and to that regard should not trample upon anyone as lower than us. For all of these reasons I encourage anyone to read this play as one of the prime examples of Shakespeare at his finest. Not only is he a play-write extraordinarily, but a man of modern belief and great insight. So read his work and be astounded. Or better yet view it in its full glory upon the stage. Review: the Second Today I finished my re-read of The Merchant of Venice and have found new and more academic ways of reading and enjoying the play. Given that of the (approximately ten) Shakespeare plays that I have read this is one of my favourites of those plays it is interesting to see how academics have approached the play. It is, interestingly, one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays and often considered a 'problem play' - in other words the ending is meant to contain a kind of irresolution that promotes question and deep thought in the audience. For it certainly has no nice easy wrapped up ending. What is the genre of this play? A romantic comedy and a tragedy is the typical view held of the play - comedy in this instance meaning that individuals who don't necessarily deserve to gain wealth and fortune somehow 'ridiculously' or 'absurdly' do. In the case of this play the comedy resolves around what happens to the fortunes of Bassanio. Most of the debate in our tutorial and lecture so far has resolved around two key points. The first being is Antonio a homosexual? The second being is the play anti-Semitic? My response to both questions is no. I do believe those academics who claim that we cannot open Shakespeare up to psychoanalysis and must instead look at the historical period in which this was written. A period in which homosexuality was not perceived as part of your identity like it is today as much as by the actual sexual acts. Therefore, while Shakespeare clearly shows that Antonio loves Bassanio I do not think one can necessarily equate this to erotic love. The same goes for the portrayal of Shylock - though at times he falls into stereotypes of Jewish characters, the fact that he is a Jewish character and holds a level of incredible complexity means to me that Shakespeare may not so much have intended to be showing racist portrayals as much as using the concept of 'the Jew' as seen in popular theatre of the time (he even stole the idea of the pound of flesh in demand of cash from a fellow writer) to explain a concept. Whether this concept is the hypocritical tensions of the 'Christian' world at the time or how pre-judging and living by the letter of the law leads to destruction is again up for question. This remains a complex play full of nuances (and as you look into the words Shakespeare used you realise how many puns, innuendos and pop-culture references are stuffed into his dialogue). You also may notice as you read that some characters at times purposefully slip back into prose rather than lyrical speech. This was interesting to note as there is a preconception that Shakespeare wrote in nothing but verse. I would finally like to make the suggestion that what truly makes this play so fascinating (aside from the lack of satisfaction from the ending) is the symmetry of it. You begin with Antonio giving his bond for Bassanio and you end with Antonio giving his bond for Bassanio. Near the middle of the play you have Shylock losing his daughter and his ducats, at the trial scene you have Shylock losing everything. There is a test of love that fails near the beginning of the play and near the end you again have a test of love that fails. One could perhaps suggest then that the very middle of the play is when Bassanio claims his wife. However, I ramble, my point is merely that there is a rough symmetry to this play, with events foreshadowing each other and this creates the comedy and tragedy of the play whilst the very title The Merchant of Venice suggests that this play is about legality, bonds (of romance, love, law, money) and agency more than purely any of the characters.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Now playing at the Almeida Theater in London, an amazing CELEBRITY DEATH MATCH PERFORMANCE... THE MERCHANT OF VENICE VERSUS ELVIS PRESLEY'S GREATEST HITS Really! I kid you not.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hirdesh

    Exceptional play by Shakespeare, Godfather of plays. I loved it more because, I had acted in my schooling. Even remember some of dialogues of mine, I was Sherlock. Straight kind of writing and direct influencing subject. Great.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    I stumbled across some interesting background to The Merchant of Venice last month when I was reading Andrew Dickson White's comprehensive History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom . From earliest times, the Christian Church had probihited usury. This was defined as "lending out money at interest"; it was regarded as one of the vilest of sins, and one that would invariably lead to eternal damnation. In cases where people had been convicted of usury after their deaths, they I stumbled across some interesting background to The Merchant of Venice last month when I was reading Andrew Dickson White's comprehensive History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom . From earliest times, the Christian Church had probihited usury. This was defined as "lending out money at interest"; it was regarded as one of the vilest of sins, and one that would invariably lead to eternal damnation. In cases where people had been convicted of usury after their deaths, they could even be dug up and removed from sanctified ground. So hardly any Christian would consider it; but Jews, who were going to be faced with eternal damnation whatever they did, could be usurers without risking anything extra. Since there are many circumstances where people want to borrow money, Jews were consequently encouraged to become usurers. In many places, they couldn't find any other employment. In the end, though, it got to be too complicated. With a growing economy and the invention of the corporation, the demand for capital became such that other people wanted to get into banking. So, starting around the late sixteenth century, the definition of usury was gradually modified to mean "lending out money at excessive interest". It was still a mortal sin, but it didn't mean the same thing any more. According to White, the Church never formally admitted that they'd changed the rules of the game. Shylock seems to have been operating around the beginning of the changeover, and I think he got sideswiped by this collision between the medieval and modern views of the world. I feel even more sorry for him.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Evelyn (devours and digests words)

    Mercy be damned. Antonio deserves to get his pound of flesh knifed out. Let all that bad blood flow. The racist arse.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zachary F.

                                                       The villainy you teach me I Will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. -Shylock (act 3, scene 1) Let's not beat around the bush: The Merchant of Venice is an antisemitic play. This isn't even an arguable contention as far as I'm concerned; I don't believe any modern reader who wasn't already determined to vindicate Shakespeare could read the play and conclude differently. It's true that Shylock, as a character, is more t                                                    The villainy you teach me I Will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. -Shylock (act 3, scene 1) Let's not beat around the bush: The Merchant of Venice is an antisemitic play. This isn't even an arguable contention as far as I'm concerned; I don't believe any modern reader who wasn't already determined to vindicate Shakespeare could read the play and conclude differently. It's true that Shylock, as a character, is more than just a flat Jewish stereotype. Shakespeare's villains are frequently more interesting, even more nuanced, than his heroes, and there's enough pathos in Shylock's portrayal throughout the play that it's clear Will had some sympathy for his creation and some understanding of the injustices which would have shaped him. For all Shylock's villainous huffing and puffing in the final courtroom scene, it's hard not to feel pity for him (and contempt for his Christian opponents) when he's stripped of his property and his religion through what amounts to little more than lies and legal trickery. If the Shylock scenes were all we had to go by, I'd be willing to entertain a more subversive reading of the play. But they're not all we have to go by. Whatever subverting Shakespeare does with the character of Shylock himself, the context in which he does it is thoroughly and pervasively antisemitic. Antisemitism acts as a sort of filter over the whole play, shading almost everything else that takes place within it. Our entire cast of "heroes" constantly refer to Shylock and other Jews as devils and schemers, irredeemable evildoers who would be better off dead, and we're expected to be impressed by the virtue of a man (Antonio, the titular merchant) who admits to spitting on Jewish people he passes in the street. These prejudices are one of the main sources of the play's humor, and they go entirely unchallenged over the course of the drama; whatever sympathy Shylock receives from the author, he never gets so much as a kind gesture from the protagonists, and once his life has been thoroughly and deliberately ruined they return to their other business and pleasure without an ounce of remorse. You might point out that Shylock's daughter Jessica is actually admired (and desired) by the Christians, but whatever praise she receives is predicated specifically on her "un-Jewish" qualities and her eagerness to abandon her father and his religion forever. (And anyway, it's not as if male oppressors have ever hesitated to make conditional exceptions for the oppressed women they lust after.) "That's just the time period talking!" you say. "He was playing to his audience!" And yeah, that may very well be true; I'm not really interested in discussions about whether Shakespeare the man was or wasn't "a racist" (or a misogynist or a xenophobe or whatever else), because in general I believe that sort of prejudice is better understood and confronted as a system and a resultant course of thought and action than as a personality trait. Whether Shakespeare was "actually" antisemitic or not, he wrote an antisemitic play, and no work should be above scrutiny or criticism just because it comes from a cherished author. Generally speaking I love Shakespeare, and I recognize the enduring value and beauty of his writing. I'm not calling for Merchant of Venice to be banned or censored, and there are passages here which genuinely moved me. All the same, I see no reason to continue uplifting—not to mention making tortuous excuses for—such a profoundly problematic and potentially hurtful work when there are so many more compassionate and informed alternatives available to us today. We're not bound by the same cultural limitations as Shakespeare, and there's no shame in setting aside works that no longer meet us where we need them to. In the interest of a well-rounded review, I should mention that the dialogue in Merchant marks a clear improvement on most of the Bard's earlier comedies, while the love scenes still fall mostly flat. Characters express their attraction in the most effusive terms and pledge eternal commitment to their partners, but the relationships seem to have no foundation or even history beyond these speeches. As in most of the comedies I've read so far, whatever real insight into love and relationships the play contains seems to come not from the lovers themselves, but the fools and background characters who observe them. Add to that some weird pacing issues, an overabundance of characters, and the fact that no one but Shylock (and I suppose maybe Portia) is developed in any significant depth, and all you're really left with is some undeniably beautiful poetry and a compelling but deeply troubling antagonist who in a fairer play wouldn't be the antagonist at all. Suffice it to say that Merchant wouldn't be one of the Bard's best even if it were possible to extract the antisemitic bits; and, like Shylock's pound of flesh, I don't believe you could remove such an intrinsic element and still have a play to speak of.

  28. 4 out of 5

    WhatIReallyRead

    Another great read! Shakespearean plays are making my reading year so far. I was familiar with the plot and twists, since years ago I've watched and loved the 2004 movie. The play was lovely as well. Although, the ending made me cringe in a way I don't remember the movie having done. (view spoiler)[Demanding Shylock's immediate conversion into Christianity? The women giving that rant to their husbands after setting up the trap... Ouch. (hide spoiler)] I'll re-watch the movie promptly, to see how t Another great read! Shakespearean plays are making my reading year so far. I was familiar with the plot and twists, since years ago I've watched and loved the 2004 movie. The play was lovely as well. Although, the ending made me cringe in a way I don't remember the movie having done. (view spoiler)[Demanding Shylock's immediate conversion into Christianity? The women giving that rant to their husbands after setting up the trap... Ouch. (hide spoiler)] I'll re-watch the movie promptly, to see how true it is to the original play.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Puck

    “An evil soul producing holy witness / Is like a villain with a smiling cheek.” The contrast in this quote is an illustration of the play, because The Merchant of Venice (which would be better called “A Pound of Flesh”) is filled with opposites. Because is this play a comedy or a tragedy? A love story between Portia and Bassanio, or between Antonio and Bassanio? An anti-seministic story in which Shylock is burned to the ground, or a tale that will make the public feel for him? A lot of food f “An evil soul producing holy witness / Is like a villain with a smiling cheek.” The contrast in this quote is an illustration of the play, because The Merchant of Venice (which would be better called “A Pound of Flesh”) is filled with opposites. Because is this play a comedy or a tragedy? A love story between Portia and Bassanio, or between Antonio and Bassanio? An anti-seministic story in which Shylock is burned to the ground, or a tale that will make the public feel for him? A lot of food for discussion… But apart from this discussion, I found this play so fascinating because its characters are so dimensional. We have Antonio, who is presented as a successful businessman but still lends his bestie an enormous fortune like a fool. Beautiful and intelligent Portia, one of Shakespeare’s strongest female characters, is also a hypocrite who preaches mercy yet refuses to give it to Shylock or Bassanio when they mess up. And Shylock of course is the star of this (controversial) story: while he mourns his ducats more than his daughter and wants his pound ‘nearest Antonio’s heart’, he also gives the most moving speech of the play, in which he pleads the public to let go of their fixed prejudices of Jews: “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.” It’s these characters that made the play interesting, but yet I didn’t really enjoy the story because it was such a strange mix of events. There are so many scenes about the minor characters that just annoyed me, like Lancelot the racist clown and the religious issues surrounding Jessica and Lorenzo’s happy (ever after?) elopement. The ending of this play is bizarre as well: the tense and dramatic ACT IV is followed by silly ACT V, which is just a mess of sexual innuendos and a deus-ex-machina for Antonio that all together turned me off. It read like “Haha, we sure ruined that Jew’s life! Now let’s go and have sex and celebrate our fortune. We, the good guys!” No: you’re assholes, that’s what you are. So 3 stars for this fascinating and contrary play, which I enjoyed but not a lot.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tahera

    This is one William Shakespeare's play which I have always wanted to read and well it turned out to be as good as I expected it to be...sharp, to the point and with great dialogues/ speeches. Every plot line blended in well together and nothing seemed out of place...the Act/ scenes pertaining to Portia's suitors and the three caskets and the all famous courtroom scene in Act IV were superbly written.

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