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The Merchant of Venice

Random House, Inc / 1988 / Paperback

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In The Merchant of Venice, the path to marriage is hazardous. To win Portia, Bassanio must pass a test prescribed by her father's will, choosing correctly among three caskets or chests. If he fails, he may never marry at all.

Bassanio and Portia also face a magnificent villain, the moneylender Shylock. In creating Shylock, Shakespeare seems to have shared in a widespread prejudice against Jews. Shylock would have been regarded as a villain because he was a Jew. Yet he gives such powerful expression to his alienation due to the hatred around him that, in many productions, he emerges as the hero. Portia is most remembered for her disguise as a lawyer, Balthazar, especially the speech in which she urges Shylock to show mercy that "droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven."

The authoritative edition of The Merchant of Venice from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:

  • Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
  • Newly revised explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
  • Scene-by-scene plot summaries
  • A key to the play's famous lines and phrases
  • An introduction to reading Shakespeare's language
  • An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
  • Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library's vast holdings of rare books
  • An up-to-date annotated guide to further rea ding
  • Product Information

    Format: Paperback
    Number of Pages: 129
    Vendor: Random House, Inc
    Publication Date: 1988
    Dimensions: 7 X 4.25 X 0.50 (inches)
    ISBN: 0553212990
    ISBN-13: 9780553212990
    Availability: In Stock

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    Publisher's Description

    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

    Author Bio

    William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King’s New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers." Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later under James I, called the King’ s Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain’s Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford, though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.

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