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“The Merchant of Venice”. Swansboro High School – English Department. “The Merchant of Venice”. Written some time around 1597. Written as a romantic comedy since it is about love & ends happily.

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the merchant of venice

“The Merchant of Venice”

Swansboro High School – English Department

the merchant of venice1
“The Merchant of Venice”
  • Written some time around 1597.
  • Written as a romantic comedy since it is about love & ends happily.
  • At the core of the play is Shylock, the Jewish moneylender. He only appears in five of the 20 scenes, but his presences dominates the play.
theatrical traditions of jews
Theatrical Traditions of Jews
  • Roots of Shakespearean drama begin with mystery and miracles plays of the Middle Ages, which were largely performed by the church for a largely illiterate audience about Old & New Testament stories.
  • Jews were often viewed as responsible for Christ’s crucifixion.
theatrical traditions of jews1
Theatrical Traditions of Jews
  • Jews became the evil villains of Elizabethan drama. They were one-dimensional, stereotypical characters.
  • The Jew of Malta, written in 1589 by Christopher Marlowe, is one such work.
  • Marlowe was Shakespeare’s greatest rival.
jews in england
Jews in England
  • 1075 in Oxford: Jews were not confined to ghettos as many of their European counterparts, but they were not allowed to be citizens.
  • Because Christians could not lend money with interest, many Jews earned lucrative livings as userers. In trying to regain debt owed to them, Jews became the target of resentment.
jews in england1
Jews in England
  • Late 12th Century: Anti-Semitic sentiment culminated in two massacres (30 & 150 Jews).
  • In fact, the Magna Carta is a testament to growing Anti-Semitic feelings – two clauses state that if a debtor is dies, the debt is paid, neither heir or widow is responsible for paying it.
jews in england2
Jews in England
  • 1275: Jews are forbidden to be money-lenders as well as other edicts implemented: taxation of Jews over 12 years old and wearing badges that identified them as Jews.
  • 1290 (until 1655): Expelled from England
jews in elizabethan society
Jews in Elizabethan Society
  • Threat of Civil War
  • Climate of religious intolerance against Christians
  • Jews who converted lived quietly in England during Elizabeth’s reign.
jews in elizabethan society1
Jews in Elizabethan Society
  • In 1593, Rodrigo Lopez, the Queen’s physician, was accused of trying to poison her, allegedly in league with the King of Spain. He was convicted of treason and hanged in 1594, & because he was one of the Jews, yet another outbreak of anti-Jewish sentiment occurred.
  • Therefore, it isn’t known whether Shakespeare ever came into contact with anyone who was Jewish.
shakespeare s intent
Shakespeare’s Intent
  • Given the anti-Jewish climate of Elizabethan England and Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock as a negative stereotype, it would be reasonable to assume Shakespeare was an Anti-Semite.
  • However, the rest of the details of the play do not support this.
shakespeare s intent1
Shakespeare’s Intent
  • It has been suggested that the real evil is the corrupt value system of the principal Christian characters.
    • Antonio, the merchant of the title, is the worst bigot.
    • Portia is also racist, but Jews were not her only victims.
the merchant of venice2
“The Merchant of Venice”
  • Fuses many dramatic elements:
    • Romantic courtships
    • Riddling love tests
    • Eloping lovers
    • Comic confusions
    • A gripping courtroom trial
    • A seemingly harmonious final act
contrasts presented in the play
Contrasts Presented in the Play
  • Jew against Christian
  • Love against hate
  • Usury against venture trading
  • Mercy against justice
contrasts presented in the play1
Contrasts Presented in the Play
  • Appearances are rarely what they seem:
    • Gold & silver prove worthless
    • Identities are mistaken
    • Women disguised as men trick their husbands
reading shakespeare review
Reading Shakespeare: Review
  • Unusual Word Arrangement:
    • I ate the sandwich.
    • I the sandwich ate.
    • Ate the sandwich I.
    • Ate I the sandwich.
    • The sandwich I ate.
    • The sandwich ate I.
  • These four words can create six unique sentences which carry the same meaning.
  • For the sake of his poetry, Shakespeare left out letters, syllables, and whole words. These omissions aren’t that much different from the way we speak today. We say:
    • “Been to class yet?”
    • “No. Heard Albrecht’s givin’ a test.”
    • “Wha’supwi’ that?”
  • We leave out words and parts of words to speed up our speech. If we were speaking in complete sentences, we would say:
    • “Have you been to class yet?”
    • “No, I have not been to class. I heard that Mrs. Albrecht is giving a test today.”
    • “What is up with that?”