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The Merchant of Venice of the Ratna Sagar Shakespeare Series is enriched with text based on the A W Verity edition, line-by-line translation of text into modern English, plenty of short notes that explain and interpret the text, summary of each scene, as well as useful commentary on the life and times of Shakespeare, Elizabethan theatre, literary sources, characters, figures of speech, and artwork that brings to life significant episodes in the story. This enriched edition of The Merchant of Venice has exhaustive annotations and notes. Set in Venice and Belmont, the play deals with the themes of friendship, mercy, trust, money, and prejudice. It depicts many aspects of the society of the times - social classes and segregation, and trading and commerce. The play opens with Antonio, the merchant of Venice, troubled about his ships at sea. As Bassanio enters the scene, the audience gets a clear picture of the affection that Antonio holds for him. Bassanio pours out his heart to Antonio about his desire to marry the beautiful and rich heiress Portia in Belmont. It is revealed that Bassanio is an extravagant youth, who has spent most of his inheritance, and wishes to marry Portia partly out of love, and partly to repair his fortunes. It is usual for Bassanio to ask Antonio for financial aid, and he does so now again. But Antonio's 'fortunes are at sea', and he asks Bassanio to take credit in his name from whoever is willing to lend in Venice. This leads Antonio to enter into a hazardous bond with the hard-hearted Jew Shylock. In Belmont, Portia is overwhelmed by a constant line of suitors, who come to undertake her late father's challenge and win her hand - they are required to choose from three caskets of gold, silver, and lead the one containing Portia's portrait. As every suitor fails due to his vanity or overconfidence, Bassanio arrives much to Portia's delight, for she has favoured him since the time of his first visit to Belmont. As Bassanio successfully passes the test of the caskets, his friend Gratiano expresses his desire to marry Nerissa, Portia's gentlewoman. As both couples rejoice in the union, news arrives from Venice that Antonio has failed to repay the debt in time, and is in danger of losing a pound of flesh, the penalty in his contract with Shylock. Bassanio immediately leaves for Venice with Gratiano, and so does Portia with Nerissa, but without anyone's knowledge. At the crucial trial of Antonio, Portia and Nerissa arrive at the court disguised as a young lawyer and a clerk. As Shylock remains stubborn on claiming his bond, Portia cleverly turns the tables on him, which not only saves Antonio's life but also compels Shylock to forfeit his loan and bequeath his property to his daughter and son-in-law. All characters return to Belmont, where Portia informs Antonio that his ships have been salvaged and have come to harbour. Like a typical Shakespearean comedy, the play ends on the happy note of all's well that ends well. The play has rich characterization. Portia is memorable as a gutsy herioine who resolves the conflict in the play. She stresses mercy as a divine quality as against the call for revenge by Shylock. Shylock, on the other hand, though portrayed as the antagonist of the play, is representative of those who are victims of the evils of prejudice and betrayal. Being a Jew, he is spited by Antonio and the others, which fuels his craving for revenge. Both characters have some of the most memorable speeches in the play that establish the common humanity of all races and cultures.
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The Merchant of Venice is best known for its complex and ambiguous portrait of the Jewish moneylender Shylock--and of European anti-Semitism. Fascinating in its engagement with prejudice, the play is also a comedy of cross-dressing and disguise, and a dramatic exploration of justice, mercy, and vengeance. This volume contains the full text of the play with explanatory footnotes and marginal glosses for contemporary readers. A well-rounded selection of background materials not only illuminates anti-Semitism in early modern England but also provides context for other facets of the play, including its comic plot of love and marriage, its examination of usury and international trade, and its themes of revenge and the law.About the Author:
Popularly known as the 'Bard of Avon', English playwright, poet, and actor William Shakespeare was baptised on 26 April 1564. Not much is known about his date of birth or his formal education. Born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, he moved to London at age 21, where he wrote and acted in plays like Hamlet and As You Like It for the theatre group 'The King's Men'. Shakespeare, who died on 23 April 1616, gave the English language its most beautiful figures of speech, allegories, and images.
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