Item description for The Merchant of Venice (Arden Shakespeare: Second Series) by John Russell Brown William Shakespeare...
The Arden Shakespeare is the established edition of Shakespeare's work. Justly celebrated for its authoritative scholarship and invaluable commentary, Arden guides you a richer understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare's plays. This edition of The Merchant of Venice provides, a clear and authoritative text, detailed notes and commentary on the same page as the text, a full introduction discussing the critical and historical background to the play and appendices presenting sources and relevant extracts.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.64" Width: 4.96" Height: 0.55" Weight: 0.57 lbs.
Release Date May 1, 1964
ISBN 1903436036 ISBN13 9781903436035
Reviews - What do customers think about The Merchant of Venice (Arden Shakespeare: Second Series)?
The unplayable play Jan 21, 2007
As Harold Bloom says, this has become an unplayable play after the Holocaust. This is only an additional reason why one should read it. The play is fantastic and gives us one of Shakespeare's most memorable characters: Shylock. Whether you see him as villain or victim, Shylock is unforgettable. As is his speech defending the Jewish.
Shakespeare's Comedy/Tragedy of Marriage and its Interrelationships Mar 22, 2006
The New Folger Library of Shakespeare's Tragedies and Comedies are among the best pocket editions available for the student and the journeyman lover of the Bard.
Before the actual text of the play which is wisely presented on the right hand page with explanatory notes (metaphors, allusions, similes, etc.) facing on the left hand page (words and phrases are defined by scholars based on their usage during Shakespeare's time; if scholars are inconclusive as to meaning, the word `uncertain' is used to connote this disagreement), the usual `Reading Shakespeare's Language', `Shakespeare's Life', `Shakespeare's Theatre', `Publication of Shakespeare's Plays' and `Introduction to the Text' introduce the reader to the Shakespearean world. Following the text, an essay by Alexander Leggatt follows illuminating `The Merchant of Venice' for the modern reader. In addition, an eleven page `Further Reading' list pinpoints books and essays on topics like the play itself, Shakespeare, the time in which he lived and the Globe Theatre. Rounding out the vital information is a three page "Key to Famous Lines and Phrases" complete with speaker and verse notation.
As far as the play itself, I will keep my remarks limited, saying only that for the modern audience, Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" borders on the provocative. All with politically correct upbringing or today's cultural sensitivity training cannot help but focus on the reigning prejudice of the early Medieval and Renaissance time period, namely the exclusion of Jews from all forms of normal life since mainstream thought withheld that this race was primarily responsible for Christ's crucifixion.
Indeed, today's reader will pose the question as to whether or not this play should be deemed more tragedy than comedy and must remember that as a comedy, "The Merchant of Venice" focuses on marriage, couples (Bassanio/Portia, Lorenzo/Jessica, Gratiano/Nerissa) and their emotional and financial interrelationships and uses sly humor and innuendo to poke fun at Venice's societal `outsiders'(Shylock, Morocco, Aragorn and in a lesser sense Antonio) who do not form a Shakespearean couple per se. Looked at from this perspective, the character of Shylock becomes simply the play's foremost societal outcast, in spite of the famous speech where he asks seemingly so poignantly, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"
Bottom line: Shakespeare is Shakespeare. If your modern sensibilities are offended by Shakespeare's treatment of Shylock the Jew, the Prince of Morocco and the Prince of Aragorn and question the unhappy and solitary Antonio's intense feelings for Bassanio, simply keep in mind that the world at that time looked at such things differently. Within the definition of comedy, this play with its multitude of lovely speeches and images works well indeed. The New Folger Library edition simply makes the play more easily accessible and understood on the various levels of language and scholarship. I recommend this series wholeheartedly.
Diana F. Von Behren "reneofc"
Context is the king of this comedy! Mar 15, 2006
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE can be described as a tragedy only if one follows the modern definition of "tragedy" and not the Greek. The genre of tragedy in which Shakespeare wrote required that all of the players, or at least all of the main players, die at the end, à la ROMEO AND JULIET, JULIUS CAESAR, MACBETH, and HAMLET. In fact, MERCHANT OF VENICE can only be described as a tragedy if Shylock is seen as the main character and not Antonio. (Note, in the list of players at the beginning of the play, only Antonio is called a "merchant of Venice".) In sum, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE can only be described as a tragedy if it is completely removed from its historical context.
Shakespeare intended that the actions taken by Antonio, by Shylock, by Bassanio, and even by Portia be seen as comically extreme. Antonio goes to the lengths of seeking help from a man he despises to help a man he loves. Shylock demands nothing but justice, even when the demands of the agreement he made is met and even doubled. Everywhere in this play is there action taken to the extreme.
Only a refusal to acknowledge the historical context would be blind to the comedy. There are stage plays, television shows, and screenplays aplenty which follow the example set forth in MERCHANT OF VENICE, showing how comical people can be when their actions are taken to the extreme. If MERCHANT OF VENICE can be view in THIS context, then the comedy shines through.
As a writer, I find it comical that anyone would use MERCHANT OF VENICE to point the finger of "racism" at Shakespeare. Part of a writer's challenge is to present convincingly views even he or she disagrees with. The best writer would try to dismantle and disprove the very beliefs he or she holds dear. That Shakespeare has often been judged a racist based on his portrayal of Shylock serves only as testimony to the continuing success of this play. Shylock's speech, complimented by another reviewer, is ample proof that Shakespeare's own views are well hid. Shylock's speech demonstrates magnificently that Shakespeare was able to get inside the head of any man (or woman) in his stories and write the words which that man would speak, faithfully render the thoughts which that man would think, have that man act as only that man would act, and all of it be believable. Simply put, unless you knew beforehand a writer's views on any subject, it would be difficult to find the needle of truth in his or her haystack of fiction if that writer has done their job well, and in this case Shakespeare was damned near flawless!
It is true that the movie, starring Al Pacino, does not present this play as a comedy, but that hardly detracts from its excellence. It shows, in fact, that MERCHANT OF VENICE plays well as both a drama and a comedy. In our age, however, given the importance of religious tolerance, I'll admit that it is probably best played as a drama.
As for the Pelican series of Shakespeare's plays, they are an excellent resource for anyone wanting to read and study the Bard's work. I've several volumes in this series and hope to eventually own them all. Each volume contains two identical essays, "The Theatrical World" (which provides a good understanding of the historical context, as well as an idea of just how much we know about Shakespeare as an individual) and "The Texts of Shakespeare" (which gives more historical context and also discusses some of the difficulties which editors have experienced in presenting these plays in print to modern audiences). There is then an introduction to each play, which is best left unread until afterwards if you aren't familiar with the play. The footnotes are few, but well-chosen, and do help in understanding words and phrases whose meanings have changed over the centuries.
Reversing our point of view toward the 'Justice' Dec 16, 2005
Anti-festive character who is Shylock on this play sacrificed unjustly. Shylock is a character who is legally invoking his rights as a money-lender among the community which experiencing transition from agriculture society to capitalistic society. Moroever, the character Portia's defending Bassanio as an disguised attorney is unreasonable in some ways and speech is crude, indeed. In my opinion, to reach the axiomatically righteous conclusion, we should reverse pur point of view toward the 'Justice'. It is a transformation of way of our thinking. Therefore, I recommend rhis masterpiece for someone who aspire to ponder about our human being's viewpoint.
Time has made Merchant into a tragedy Dec 6, 2005
Shylock is the only sympathetic character in the play. Modernity has altered the villain in "The Merchant of Venice" from Shylock to the entire cast of characters EXCEPT for Shylock. Any sense of comedy in the play died for those with a sense of religious tolerance, and Shylock comes off as merely oppressed. I found Act 5 almost nauseating after the forced conversion. That, coupled with the happy racism makes a perversion of decency and happy endings. This play is a tragedy. The recent movie version done starring Al Pacino turned it into a tragedy, and amazingly, a play written as a comedy seems to work very well as a tragedy.
Antonio gladly spits upon Shylock and calls him a dog, but stunningly, when Antonio finds himself in a financial pinch he goes to Shylock for money. More brash is Antonio's promise to act the same in the future: "I am as like to call thee so again, / To spet on thee again, to spurn thee, too." (1.3.127-28) From this point on, sympathy for Antonio is paralyzed in a modern reader's mind, from reminders of past images, from slavery and anti-Semitism, where the dehumanizing of a group of people is accepted by a society. The entire text afterward reads like an indictment of humanity, as if Shakespeare is making the Elizabethans laugh at their own behavior.
In perhaps the best argument in Shylock's defense in the trial, he point out the fact that those who speak of mercy own slaves. "What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong? / You have among you many a purchased slave." (4.1.89-90) Shylock, as fanatical as he is over the pound of flesh, is asking for only a pound of a man, when the slaveholders own the entire person. The play is littered with prejudiced remarks that clearly show how animalistic Shylock was to them.
Every conversation involving Shylock has ridicule from the Christians, without remorse or a feeling of comedy. The Christian children are taught to mock Shylock, they run after him in the street. The merchants spit on him, the Duke reviles him, his daughter renounces her religion and robs him.
Still an amazing story, with a few of the best on mercy and prejudice ever written.