Understanding The Merchant of Venice: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000 - Literary Criticism - 181 pages

The Merchant of Venice, even in its own time, was considered Shakespeare's most controversial play. Now, one of the most popularly read and performed works, the play raises even more important issues for our day, particularly anti-Semitism and the treatment of Jews. Shakespeare scholar Jay Halio brings together his fascinating literary insights and his considerable knowledge of Shakespeare's world to this student casebook. His analysis of the play helps students interpret Shakespeare's plot and interwoven subplots, the sources that helped shape the play and the characters, and the thematic issues relating to justice, mercy, and the myriad bonds of human relationships. These themes serve as starting points for a broader understanding of the issues discussed and documented: Elizabethan marriage and women's matrimonial rights; Renaissance concepts of male friendship; legal, moral, and religious views of usury; and the treatment of Jews in Venice and beyond. The concerns raised by the play are put into context with historical materials including Sir Francis Bacon's essay Of Friendship, excerpts from Henry Smith's 1591 A Preparative to Marriage, extracts from Phillip Stubbes' 1583 Anatomy of Abuses, and Travel Accounts by Fynes Moryson that describe Venice and how Jews lived there in the early 1600s. This casebook also considers contemporary applications, with essays and editorials on current hate groups in the United States, the treatment of women, and male bonding. This section, culminating with a poignant interview in which actor Hal Halbrook discusses his stage portrayal of Shylock, will leave readers with an appreciation for how profoundly relevant The Merchant of Venice remains for our time.

This casebook introduces students to the many issues in the play with a Literary and Dramatic Analysis chapter. Six topic chapters examine the play in its historical context, combining expert discussion and primary documents, making this ideal for interdisciplinary study. Each topic section contains ideas for classroom discussions, research papers, and further suggested readings to help students get the most out of their study of The Merchant of Venice.

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Literary and Dramatic Analysis
Venice and Its Treatment of Jews
Laurence Alderseys Account of Venice 1581
Thomas Coryat Coryats Crudities 1611
Fynes Moryson An Itinerary 1617
Fynes Moryson Shakespeares Europe 1617
William Thomas The History of Italy 1549
Attitudes Toward Jews
Elizabethan Marriage
Heinrich Bullinger The Christian State of Matrimony 1541
Edwin Sandys Sermons 1585
Henry Smith A Preparative to Marriage 1591
Usury Interest and the Rise of Capitalism
The Geneva Bible 1560
An Act against Usury 1571
John Woolleys Speech in Parliament 1571

Martin Luther Christ Was Born a Jew 1523
Richard Hooker Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Book 5 1597
An Enterlude of the Vertuous and Godly Queene Hester ca 152227
The Trial of Dr Roderigo Lopez 1594
William Camdens History of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth 160717 1625
Classical and Renaissance Concepts of Male Friendship
Cicero De Amicitia 44 BC
Sir Thomas Elyot The Governor 1531
Edmund Spenser The Faerie Queene 1596
Michel de Montaigne Of Friendship ca 1580
Sir Francis Bacon Of Friendship 1625
Thomas Wilson A Discourse upon Usury 1572
John Calvin Commentaries on the Last Books of Moses 1554
Yehiel Nissim da Pisa The Eternal Life 1559
Phillip Stubbes The Anatomy of Abuses 1583
Contemporary Applications and Interpretation
Tom Tugend Synagogue arson suspects kept hitlist of Sacramentoarea Jews 1999
Bob Herbert Endless Poison 1999
A Letter by John Cardinal OConnor Archbishop of New York 1999
A Engler Anderson Male Bonding 1994
William Triplett The Shylock Within 1999

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Page 153 - It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin...
Page 122 - Give to every man that asketh of thee ; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
Page 70 - I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan : very pleasant hast thou been unto me : thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
Page 122 - But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Page 122 - And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye ? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
Page 142 - He is a man who is afraid. Not of the Jews, to be sure, but of himself, of his own consciousness, of his liberty, of his instincts, of his responsibilities, of solitariness, of change, of society, and of the world — of everything except the Jews.

About the author (2000)

JAY L. HALIO is Professor of English at University of Delaware. He is author or editor of more than 20 books on Shakespeare and his contemporaries and also on modern American and British literature. His numerous publications on Shakespeare include Romeo and Juliet: A Guide to the Play (Greenwood 1998), an edition of The Merchant of Venice for The New Oxford Shakespeare, and an edition of King Lear for The New Cambridge Shakespeare.

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