Introduction & Overview of The Merchant of Venice

This Study Guide consists of approximately 163 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Merchant of Venice.
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The Merchant of Venice Summary & Study Guide Description

The Merchant of Venice Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Sources For Further Study and a Free Quiz on The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare.

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 conversion from Judaism, contradicts the New Testament precepts of love and mercy. Other commentators suggest that Shakespeare intentionally provided for both interpretations of the drama: although the playwright does not entirely support Shylock, they contend, neither does he endorse the actions of Antonio and the other Venetians in their punishment of the Jew.

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This section contains 204 words
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The Merchant of Venice from Shakespeare for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.