The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library Series)

The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library Series)

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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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743477567
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 12/23/2003
Series: Folger Shakespeare Library Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 16,934
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children—an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.

Barbara A. Mowat is Director of Research emerita at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Consulting Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, and author of The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s Romances and of essays on Shakespeare’s plays and their editing.

Paul Werstine is Professor of English at the Graduate School and at King’s University College at Western University. He is a general editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare and author of Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare and of many papers and articles on the printing and editing of Shakespeare’s plays.

Date of Death:


Place of Birth:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Place of Death:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Customer Reviews

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The Merchant of Venice (Pelican Shakespeare Series) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I go to college and for english we had to read the mercant of Venice. It toke me awhile to understand the book but I just kept reading it over and over and I finally understood it. I enjoyed the book as it is different then any other book, it has a script to it so the whole class got to join in, so it ended up being an enjoyable book to read to the class. If you would like a change instead of reading a book that is like every other chose the merchant of venice as it is totally different. I hope you enjoy reading the merchant of venice if you pick to read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an eighth grader, I think this is a great book. It may seem a little confusing to a few people, but it's just a great play! Shakespeare's characters are very entertaining. Shylock's a VERY talkative, vengeful Jew while Portia is an intelligent princess who can easily beat Bassanio with her wit! Also, to me, I guess it was obvious to see that the lead chest contained Portia's picture! Right?! The Merchant of Venice has its funny moments as well as its tragic.
duck2ducks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful; one of Shakespeare's best. Shylock and the Merchant are fascinatingly complex characters - they each have motives and reasons that makes it hard to dismiss either one as simply a villain. Light, dark, comic, tragic, wonder, ribaldry - this one has it all.
paradox98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite plays. I love the Shylock "hate not a Jew eyes" speech. I feel, being Mormon, I can relate to that.
ALiSHABAiLEY on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
[The Merchant of Venice] is a story of love, honor, pride, and loyalty all wrapped up in one. You will experience everthing from a Jew's daughter betraying him by marrying a Christian, Bassanio putting a pound of his friend's flesh on the line to go court a woman, Bassanio finding and marrying the love of his life, Shylock almost getting a pound of flesh from Antonio, Portia and Nerrisa portraying men to save Antonio, and trick their men into giving up their rings. There is action in every page each and every character will grab your attention and hold it. I would recommend this book to anyone who can understand Shakespearean language, or who is willing to try. As for myself, I have a hard time figuring out what is going on. Honestly, I didn't understand this story until I watched the movie, and that film pulled everything together for me. I don't think this is one of Shakespeare's best plays therefore I give it 2 stars.
milti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It has been read and over-read for school till it has lost all its dramatic value for me. But the true fact of the matter is that Shylock is an everlasting character who will never erase himself from common memory.
BestinBrooklyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yes, it is a great play, with a truly original plot, but what about the social statement? Is the theme of the book anti-semitic? Shylock's actions and demeanors could be seen as evidence of Shakespeare's possible dislike for jews. On the other hand, is the play more a lesson on how revenge, even if prompted by justified feelings of persecution and harassment, is not morally right? Maybe it is about the latter, but the play's language depicts the jewish stereotypes that have been used by anti-semites throughout history. Perhaps it is about both, and the language reserved for Shylock, his dead wife and Rebecca are intended only as a reflection of the period's socially inevitable disposition toward jews. Once again, Shakespeare leaves us with unanswered questions.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Merchant of Venice was mis-named, because the titular merchant (Antonio) is nowhere near as interesting as Shylock, who's among the most fascinating characters Shakespeare has written. He has been mistreated for being Jewish, and the play centers on how he snaps when too many of the debts owed him cannot be repaid, so instead he demands the famous "pound of flesh" for themThe play is also kind of unique for Shakespeare because we get some wonderful female characters too. Portia is an independently rich woman who goes to court dressed as a man to fight a case; she's very compelling as well.The Merchant of Venice is a pretty short play, but it covers a lot of ground about religion, class, and gender, which would make it a good choice for, say, teaching an English class how to do literary analysis. But mostly it is just good because the characters involved are so interesting and complex, it's neat to see them interact
joshberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read Merchant exactly 25 years ago and recently had the opportunity to read it again. I mostly enjoyed the play and was all set to give a solid four-star rating, when that foolish final scene left a bad taste in my mouth. After the profound pathos of Shylock's defeat, the silly-at-best conventions of Shakespearean comedy make for a particularly discordant ending.
BrianStone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Merchant of Venice is about a man named Antonio who is sad at the beginning of the play for no reason, "In sooth, I know not why I am sad; It wearies me; you say it wearies you; But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn; And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, That I have much ado to know myself." (Act I Scene I). Antonio goes through the novel trying to fix his sadness. Then he finds out that he is sad because he misses his youth. He misses being young so he makes friends with a young man named Bassanio. Bassanio helps Antonio feel young and so does the rest of his friends. Then Bassanio sees Portia and falls in love. Bassanio goes to Antonio for money but all of Antonio's money is at see so they borrow from Shylock, the Jew.This story is full of dramatic scenes like Shylock wanting his bond, "When it is paid according to thee tenor. It dothbappear you are a worthy judge; You know the law, your exposition Hath been most sound; I charge you by the law, Whereof you are a well-deserving pillar, Proceed to judgment: by my soul I swear There is no power in the tongue of man to alter me: I stay here on my bond." (Act IV Scene I), or like Bassanio giving his ring that was given to him by his wife to the doctor who helped the trial, who was actually Portia, his wife.I personally didn't enjoy the book because I couldn't comprehend what Shakespeare was writing. I gave this book three and a half stars out of five stars. I recommend this book for high school honors classes only since Shakespeare has a hard language to understand.
kenzielynn75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Merchant of Venice is a short story with a very basic plot, and one of little interest to me. Bassanio comes up with some crazy plan to pay Antonio back the money that he owes. However his plan backfires and Antonio is left to pay for Bassanio's mistakes. I found the story predictable and hard to get into. It isn't hard to follow, but you'll miss what little humor it has if you aren't well read in Shakespearean liturature. I definately would not include this with any of Shakespeare's more renowned plays.
silverwing2332 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a classic, and a great piece. I often think about the book, its very memorable and quotable. Even if you hate Shakespeare, at least you'll be able to recognize any allusions to it in other books. The plot is really good, and the characters are amazingly well made. The writing is impeccable and it is surprisingly easy to understand (for Shakespeare that is).
kaboomcju on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite Shakespearean work. He wrote it as a comedy, and it fits...but is it really entertaining? In this day and age, the subject matter may not be as "happy" as it once was thought. I particularly find it interesting to think about how Shylock might be portrayed: as a stereotypical Jew or as a prominent Venetian merchant.
Anagarika on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This play was hilarious. I enjoyed it.
hahnasay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Its Shakespeare! What more do you want me to say. He's wonderful!
brianinbuffalo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Probably my favorite Shakespeare play. I loved it even as an assigned reading mission in high school. I've since read it again and have it seen performed on several stages. Shylock remains one of the most memorable literary characters in the "theater" of my mind.
nesum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My personal favorite of Shakespeare's plays, MERCHANT features some of the most real characters in all of literature. While the plot is extreme, the dialogue rings true, and you believe the ridiculous circumstances because of the strength of the writing. I never weary of it.
Crowyhead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating in terms of its portrayal of Shylock and what we can glean from it about attitudes at the time. I also love Portia, one of Shakespeare's more witty and intelligent heroines.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's gorgeously written, of course, but I didn't much care for any of the major characters and found it a bit tedious. I came upon it as I had to read it for school (which didn't help); but I tremendously prefer King Lear or even The Tempest, which are more complex, less predictable, and more satisfying reads. However, MOV is still worth a read. Also, check out the 2004 movie, which provides better context.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Act I scene ii. I keep getting kicked out from both nook study and my nookcolor around page 23. Don't know if it's a problem with the file or what but I needed this for class and this isn't cutting it. I haven't had a problem with the Midsummer Night's Dream Folger edition though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago