The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library)
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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 Folger.edu.
ϭ the sharp/cutting edge of 45 act 2 • scene 2 Fortune103 be a woman, she’s a good wench104 for this 150 gear.105 Father come, I’ll take my leave of the Jew in the106 twinkling. exit Gobbo and Old Gobbo Bassanio I pray thee, good Leonardo, think on107 this. These things being bought and orderly bestowed,108 Return in haste, for I do feast109 tonight 155 My best esteemed110 acquaintance. Hie thee, go. Leonardo My best endeavors111 shall be done herein.112 enter Gratiano Gratiano
turned, changed 127 but now ϭ a moment ago 128 opportunity 129 exclaim on ϭ cry out against 130 deprived 131 the kind of 132 handsomely, beautifully 133 sovereign, ruler, king 91 act 3 • scene 2 Among the buzzing, pleasèd multitude – Where every something134 being blent135 together Turns to a wild136 of nothing save of joy Expressed, and not expressed. But when this ring 185 Parts from this finger, then parts life from hence! O then be bold to say Bassanio’s dead. Nerissa My
proceeding ϭ obvious/clear actions/conduct 165 made yourself liable to 166 stated 167 kneel down 168 rope 169 as for 170 whole 171 drive unto ϭ put off/defer/pass/settle into 172 the fine is to be paid to the state, not to Antonio 129 act 4 • scene 1 When you do take the means whereby I live. 375 Portia What mercy can you render173 him,Antonio? Gratiano A halter174 – gratis.175 Nothing else, for God’s sake. Antonio So please my lord the Duke, and all the court To quit176 the fine for
she sails into court, where the chief judge is the Duke of Venice himself. Duke Came you from old Belario? Portia I did my lord. Duke You are welcome, take your place. Are you acquainted with the difference That holds this present question in the court? Portia I am informed thoroughly of the cause. Which is the merchant here? And which the Jew? (4.1.166–171) Portia’s disguise is complete and so effective that her husband (they have been married but their marriage has not yet been
Become the touches of sweet harmony. Sit Jessica, look how the floor of heaven Is thick inlayed with patens of bright gold. There’s not the smallest orb which thou beholdst But in his motion like an angel sings, Still choiring to the young-eyed cherubins. Such harmony is in immortal souls, But whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close in it, we cannot hear it (53–64) Portia and Nerissa (whose unconsummated marriage to Gratiano constitutes them the third wedding pair) arrive.