The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library)
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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 reading
Essay by Alexander Leggatt
The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare’s printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
foppery25 enter 35 My sober house. By Jacob’s staff 26 I swear, I have no mind27 of feasting forth28 tonight. But I will go. Go you before me sirrah, Say I will come. Gobbo I will go before sir. 40 ( aside to Jessica) Mistress, look out at window for all this. There will come a Christian by,29 Will be worth a Jewès30 eye. Shylock What says that fool of Hagar’s31 offspring, ha? Jessica His words were “farewell mistress,” nothing else. 45 Shylock The patch32 is kind enough, but a
Jessica I will make fast the doors and gild38 myself With some more ducats, and be with you straight. 50 exit Jessica 28 and you 29 transmutation, alteration, substitution 30 fine (negative sense) 31 who was often pictured as blind 32 (1) bright, luminous, (2) frivolous 33 function, employment* 34 should be obscured ϭ ought to be hidden 35 outfit, clothing 36 private, secluded, secret 37 deserter (i.e., it is rapidly leaving us) 38 make golden 59 act 2 • scene 6 Gratiano Now by
he who offends is not in a position to judge what he has done 41 fire 42 refined, purified 43 unreal appearances, delusions 44 there are those who kiss creatures of their own imagining, rather than real people 45 surely, certainly 46 i.e., dressed up by the appearance of merit/worth 47 the “blinking idiot” 48 brain, intelligence 49 dismissed 50 because of 51 have lingered 72 act 2 • scene 9 With one fool’s head I came to woo, 75 But I go away with two. Sweet, adieu, I’ll keep my
extends to him 139 propose, plan 140 provided that 141 Nerissa 142 pausing (“delaying”) (INterMIseeOWN) 143 applies 92 act 3 • scene 2 Your fortune stood upon the caskets there, And so did mine too, as the matter falls. For wooing here until I sweat again,144 And swearing till my very roof 145 was dry 205 With oaths of love, at last (if promise last)146 I got a promise of 147 this fair one here To have her love – provided that your fortune Achieved148 her mistress. Portia Is this
so akin to his creation as to render the difference uninteresting. Shakespeare possibly intended to give us a pathetic monster in Shylock, but being Shakespeare, he gave us Shylock, concerning whom little can be said that will not be at least oxymoronic, if not indeed self-contradictory. 152 an essay by harold bloom That Shylock got away from Shakespeare seems clear enough, but that is the scandal of Shakespearean representation; so strong is it that nearly all his creatures break out of the