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The Merchant of Venice Summary
William Shakespeare

Everything you need to understand or teach The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.

  • The Merchant of Venice Summary & Study Guide
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The Merchant of Venice Summary


The Merchant of Venice ranks with Hamlet as one of Shakespeare's most frequently performed dramas. Written sometime between 1594 and 1598, the play is primarily based on a story in Il Pecorone, a collection of tales and anecdotes by the fourteenth-century Italian writer Giovanni Fiorentino. There is considerable debate concerning the dramatist's intent in The Merchant of Venice because, although it conforms to the structure of a comedy, the play contains many tragic elements. One school of critics maintains that the drama is fundamentally allegorical, addressing such themes as the triumph of mercy over justice, New Testament forgiveness over Old Testament law, and love over material wealth. Another group of commentators, observing several ambiguities in the play's apparent endorsement of Christian values, contends that Shakespeare actually censures Antonio and the Venetians who oppose Shylock. In essence, these critics assert that the Christians' discrimination against Shylock which ultimately results in his forced...

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