"The Merchant of Venice" (Arden Shakespeare)

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9780174434757:

This is one of Shakespeare’s darkest comedies, for the romantic story of a young man, Bassanio, who has squandered his fortune and must borrow money to woo the wealthy lady he loves is set against the more disturbing story of the Jewish moneylender Shylock and his demand for the “pound of flesh” owed him by the Venetian merchant, Antonio. Here pathos and farce combine with moral complexity and romantic entanglement to display the extraordinary power and range of Shakespeare at his best.

Each Edition Includes:
• Comprehensive explanatory notes
• Vivid introductions and the most up-to-date scholarship
• Clear, modernized spelling and punctuation, enabling contemporary readers to understand the Elizabethan English
• Completely updated, detailed bibliographies and performance histories
• An interpretive essay on film adaptations of the play, along with an extensive filmography

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Review:

"Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" Shylock's impassioned plea in the middle of The Merchant of Venice is one of its most dramatic moments. After the Holocaust, the play has become a battleground for those who argue that the play represents Shakespeare's ultimate statement against ignorance and anti-Semitism in favour of a liberal vision of tolerance and multiculturalism. Other critics have pointed out that the play is, after all, a comedy that ultimately pokes fun at a 16th-century Jew. In fact, the bare outline of the plot suggests that the play is far more complex than either of these characterisations. Bassanio, a feckless young Venetian, asks his wealthy friend, the merchant Antonio, for money to finance a trip to woo the beautiful Portia in Belmont. Reluctant to refuse his friend (to whom he professes intense love), Antonio borrows the money from the Jewish moneylender. If he reneges on the deal, Shylock jokingly demands a pound of his flesh. When all Antonio's ships are lost at sea, Shylock calls in his debt, and the love and laughter of the first scenes of the play threaten to give way to death and tragedy. The final climactic courtroom scene, complete with a cross-dressed Portia, a knife-wielding Shylock, and the debate on "the quality of mercy" is one of the great dramatic moments in Shakespeare. The controversial subject matter of the play ensures that it continues to repel, divide but also fascinate its many audiences. -- Jerry Brotton

Review:

'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

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