The Merchant of Venice has been performed more often than any other comedy by Shakespeare. Molly Mahood pays special attention to the expectations of the play's first audience, and to our modern experience of seeing and hearing the play. In a substantial new addition to the Introduction, Charles Edelman focuses on the play's sexual politics and recent scholarship devoted to the position of Jews in Shakespeare's time. He surveys the international scope and diversity of theatrical interpretations of The Merchant in the 1980s and 1990s and their different ways of tackling the troubling figure of Shylock.
The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies, but it remains deeply controversial. The text may seem anti-Semitic; yet repeatedly, in performance, it has revealed a contrasting nature. Shylock, though vanquished in the law-court, often triumphs in the theatre. In his intensity he can dominate the play, challenging abrasively its romantic and lyrical affirmations. What results is a bitter-sweet drama. Though The Merchant of Venice offers some of the traditional pleasures of romantic comedy, it also exposes the operations of prejudice. Thus Shakespeare remains our contemporary.In sooth, I know not why I am so sad: It wearies me; you say it wearies you;But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn;And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, That I have much ado to know myself.SALARINOYour mind is tossing on the ocean;There, where your argosies with portly sail, Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood, Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea, Do overpeer the petty traffickers, That curtsy to them, do them reverence, As they fly by them with their wov
In sooth, I know not why I am so sad;_It wearies me; you say it wearies you;_But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,_What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,_I am to learn;_And such a want-wit sadness makes of me_That I have much ado to know myself._ SALARINO._Your mind is tossing on the ocean;_There where your argosies, with portly sailÑ_Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood,_Or as it were the pageants of the seaÑ_Do overpeer the petty traffickers,_That curtsy to them, do them reverence,_As they fly by them with their woven wings._ SALANIO._Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,_The better part of my affections would_Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still_Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind,_Peering in maps for ports, and piers, and roads;_And every object that might make me fear_Misfortune to my ventures, out of doubt_Would make me sad._ SALARINO._My wind, cooling my broth_Would blow me to an ague, when I thought_What harm a wind too great might do at sea._I should not see the sandy hour-glass run_But I should think of shallows and of flats,_And see my wealthy Andrew dock'd in sand,_Vailing her high top lower than her ribs_To kiss her burial. Should I go to church_And see the holy edifice of stone,_And not bethink me straight of dangerous rocks,_Which, touching but my gentle vessel's side,_Would scatter all her spices on the stream,_Enrobe the roaring waters with my silks,_And, in a word, but even now worth this,_And now worth nothing? Shall I have the thought_To think on this, and shall I lack the thought_That such a thing bechanc'd would make me sad?_But tell not me; I know Antonio_Is sad to think upon his merchandise.
Although generally considered a comedy, this play has an underlying plot of considerable moral dimension. The three main characters, Antonio, the prosperous merchant, Shylock, the reviled usurer and the heiress Portia, are portrayed in ways untypical of Elizabethan norms.
The Merchant Of Venice Bases Its Dramatic Logic On The New Testament Premise That You Get What You Give, And The Play S Consistent Enactment Of This Looking-Glass Logic Creates A World In Which Mirroring Is A Major Internal Principle Of Order. The Indian Philosophy, Distilled In Our Vedas, Puranas And Epics, Speaks In Almost The Same Vein. Shylock Is Cunning, Cruel And Implacable. For Centuries, The Shylocks Of India, In Various Garbs, Have Tried And Succeeded Partially, To Get Their Pounds Of Flesh From Their Victims. Usury Was Condemned In The Elizabethan Period But We, In India, Still Nourish It. Secondly, Shylock S Sense Of Jessica Is Anti-Human As Well As Anti¬Social. He Is Aware Of Her As Of An Item Of Inventory, As Many Father, In India, Do With Their Daughters.Bassanio Must Have Learnt From Shylock S Example: A Wrong, Even A Small One, Is Always A Wrong And Calls Forth Its Own Punishment Automatically, For, As We Shall See, In Dr. Agarwalla S Interpretation Of The Play, The Law Sleeps Only Until Unoffended, When It Reacts By Reflecting The Offence In Kind. The Law Has No Power To Make Anyone Choose To Do Right, It Can Only Punish Those Who Do Wrong. The Prince Of Morocco, Like Any Prince Of Yester-Years, In India, Is Chivalrous, Amorous, Gracious And Sexually Virile. It Was Unkind Of Portia To Say Uncomplimentary Words For Him But She, Like White-Skinned Ladies, Have Always Done So In The Past And Are Doing It, At Present. Thus The Merchant Of Venice Is As Much Relevant To Indians As It Was And Is To The English And To The World, In General. Dr. Shyam S. Agarwalla Gives A New Approach, A New Presentation And A New Direction To The Reading And Critical Analysis Of The Play. At Times, His Critical Examination Of The Play Is Unconventional, Provocative But Nonetheless Educative. That Marks Him Off From Other Indian Editors Of The Merchant.
Examines how directors have dealt with the problem of anti-semitism in staging Shakespeare's play over the past century, with a review of an Elizabethan performance as comparison. Among the seven productions considered are the 1970 Miller/Olivier, the 1987 Alexander/Sher, and two televised versions. Distributed in the US by St. Martin's. Annotation copyrighted by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR