The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
(Folger Shakespeare Library)

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"The Merchant of Venice" is the story of Antonio, the drama's title character, and his friend Bassanio. Bassanio is in need of money so that he may woo Portia, a wealthy heiress. Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan and Antonio agrees to this loan, however all his money is tied up in shipping ventures. Together the two go to Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, to request a loan for Bassanio to be guaranteed against Antonio's shipping ventures. Shylock agrees to the loan at no interest in the condition that if the debt is not repaid Shylock may collect a pound of Antonio's flesh. At the same time Portia, who is being wooed by various suitors, is upset over a curious stipulation in her father's will regarding the man that she may marry.

About William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Grammar School. At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the 27-year-old daughter of a local farmer, and they had their first daughter six months later. He probably developed an interest in theatre by watching plays performed by traveling players in Stratford while still in his youth. Some time before 1592, he left his family to take up residence in London, where he began acting and writing plays and poetry. By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member and part owner of an acting company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, where he soon became the company's principal playwright. His plays enjoyed great popularity and high critical acclaim in the newly built Globe Theatre. It was through his popularity that the troupe gained the attention of the new king, James I, who appointed them the King's Players in 1603. Before retiring to Stratford in 1613, after the Globe burned down, he wrote more than three dozen plays (that we are sure of) and more than 150 sonnets. He was celebrated by Ben Jonson, one of the leading playwrights of the day, as a writer who would be "not for an age, but for all time," a prediction that has proved to be true. Today, Shakespeare towers over all other English writers and has few rivals in any language. His genius and creativity continue to astound scholars, and his plays continue to delight audiences. Many have served as the basis for operas, ballets, musical compositions, and films. While Jonson and other writers labored over their plays, Shakespeare seems to have had the ability to turn out work of exceptionally high caliber at an amazing speed. At the height of his career, he wrote an average of two plays a year as well as dozens of poems, songs, and possibly even verses for tombstones and heraldic shields, all while he continued to act in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This staggering output is even more impressive when one considers its variety. Except for the English history plays, he never wrote the same kind of play twice. He seems to have had a good deal of fun in trying his hand at every kind of play. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, all published on 1609, most of which were dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothsley, The Earl of Southhampton. He also wrote 13 comedies, 13 histories, 6 tragedies, and 4 tragecomedies. He died at Stratford-upon-Avon April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. His cause of death was unknown, but it is surmised that he knew he was dying.
Published March 31, 2004 by 98 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction, History, Comics & Graphic Novels, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Merchant of Venice


The New Swan Shakespeare Festival at the University of California, Irvine is a very new and exciting development for Orange County Shakespeare lovers.

Aug 16 2012 | Read Full Review of The Merchant of Venice (Folge...

Common Sense Media

The forfeiture for not repaying the loan on time, however, will be a pound of Antonio's flesh, a result neither Shylock nor Antonio foresee due to Antonio's booming business interests.

Sep 19 2005 | Read Full Review of The Merchant of Venice (Folge...

Star Pulse

Full Summary >> Cast: Al Pacino - (Shylock) Jeremy Irons - (Antonio) Joseph Fiennes - (Bassanio) Lynn Collins - (Portia) Zuleikha Robinson - (Jessica) One gets the sense that Shakespeare's choice to make Shylock a Jew in +The Merchant of Venice was a quick (and undeniably wrong) shorthand to re...

| Read Full Review of The Merchant of Venice (Folge...

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