I went to see the Merchant of Venice with friends a month or so ago. It is a wonderful play and raises interesting questions regarding antisemitism. On the one hand Shylock is a very unpleasant character demanding his “pound of flesh” which he knows will lead to the death of Antonio. On the other hand he is insulted due to his jewishness (the antisemitism in the play makes one feel deeply uncomfortable and, in my view Shakespeare does have some sympathy for Shylock).
Fun facts about Shakespeare’s play
1. Contrary to popular belief, the ‘merchant of Venice’ in the title of Shakespeare’s play isn’t Shylock. In the popular consciousness – i.e. among those who are aware that Shakespeare’s play contains a character named Shylock but who haven’t read or seen the play – Shylock is the merchant of Venice referred to in Shakespeare’s title. But of course the merchant is really Antonio, and Shylock the Jewish man who makes him a loan; as the scholar Stephen Greenblatt has observed, this popular misunderstanding says a great deal about how Shylock comes to dominate the play in which he appears, eclipsing all other characters.
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