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The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare

Book Overview: 

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is a comedy about Bassanio, an impoverished gentleman, who uses the credit of his friend, the merchant Antonio, to borrow money from a wealthy Jew, Shylock. Antonio pledges to pay Shylock a pound of flesh if he defaults on the loan, which Bassanio will use to woo a rich heiress, Portia. A subplot concerns the elopement of Shylock's daughter Jessica with a Christian, Bassanio's friend Lorenzo. In its focus on love and marriage, the play shares certain concerns with Shakespeare's other comedies. Yet its depiction of the tensions between Jews and Christians in early modern Venice - and its highly dramatic trial scene in Act 4 - create darker currents in the play.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .May I speak with Antonio?

Bas. If it please you to dine with us.

Shy. Yes, to smell pork; to eat of the habitation which your prophet, the Nazarite, conjured the devil into![23] I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.—What news on the Rialto?—Who is he comes here?

Bas. This is signior Antonio.

[Exit BASSANIO.

Shy. (aside.) How like a fawning publican he looks?
I hate him, for he is a Christian:
But more, for that, in low simplicity,
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice. (E)
If I can catch him once upon the hip,[24]
I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him.
He hates our sacred nation: and he rails
Even there where merchants most do congregate,
On me, my bargains, and my well-won thrift.
Which he ca. . . Read More