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Merchant of Venice summary at eNotes

Anti-Semitism Revisited

Owing to a wave of anti-Jewish sentiment in late-sixteenth century England, Shakespeare's audiences were familiar with stereotypically evil Jews on stage, these dramatic characters resonating with the Judas figure of medieval Passion Plays. Less than a decade before Shakespeare's first staged The Merchant of Venice, his rival, the revenge-tragedy dramatist Christopher Marlowe wrote The Jew of Malta (1589), a very popular work dominated by the evil Jewish money-lender Barabas. Merchant frankly taps into anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish attitudes. Nevertheless, Shakespeare does not endorse racial/religious prejudices, as is plain enough from Portia's acceptance of the dark-skinned Prince of Morocco. More important, there is something to Shylock's complaint about being treated like a dog by the Christians of Venice; Antonio, Gratiano, Bassanio, Salerio & Solano all refer to him as a low, feral beast. In the first scene in which he appears, Shylock responds to Bassanio's request for a loan with the rhetorical questions, "What should I say to you? Should I not say/`Hath a dog money? Is it possible/A cur can lend three thousand ducats?'" (I, iii.ll.120-122). He is right: for all their expressed distaste with Shylock, the Christians (notably Bassanio and Antonio) turn to him for help when they are in need of ready cash, somehow overcoming their qualms about dealing with a dog.

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Here's a short plot summary of Merchant.

A good summary of the play at About Shakespeare.

Found some Merchant Notes at this geocities site.

 

 

 

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