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The Merchant of Venice

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  154,325 ratings  ·  3,585 reviews
In this lively comedy of love and money in sixteenth-century Venice, Bassanio wants to impress the wealthy heiress Portia but lacks the necessary funds. He turns to his merchant friend, Antonio, who is forced to borrow from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. When Antonio's business falters, repayment becomes impossible--and by the terms of the loan agreement, Shylock is able t ...more
Paperback, Folger Shakespeare Library, 337 pages
Published 1992 by Washington Square Press, Inc. (first published 1596)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  154,325 ratings  ·  3,585 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
May 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing

Many years ago I believed this play to be an early experiment in tragi-comedy featuring Shylock, a nemesis of almost tragic proportions, who--both because of the sympathies he evokes and the evil determination he represents--unbalances the play, making the last act in Belmont seem like a hollow exercise in formal completeness. More recently, I believed that Shylock was essentially a comic villain, one dark splash on a predominately sunny canvas that embodies f0r us the fallen world of Venice tra
Cristina Monica
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
3 1/2 stars.

This review contains huge spoilers.

Well... I certainly did not expect that ending. I didn't imagine Portia to be one to give second chances, especially after seeing her scheming to discover who is more important to Bassanio, herself or Antonio. It bothered me to see her tricking Bassanio with no repent.

Incidentally, I feel sad for Antonio. In my opinion, he did deserve to end up wealthy... but not alone. Same for Shylock, even though I can't ignore his showing cruelty instead of mer
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dolors by: Contradictions in me
Maybe because I read this play with the famous controversy of its antisemitism on my mind, or because I expected a true hearted villain, “Iago fashion”, in the Jewish usurer Skylock, but I reached the last scene of the play with the extraordinary sensation that the Jew’s failure to execute the bloodthirsty bond was more of an anecdote than a climatic victory over evil.

Shakespeare’s precise wordplay presents a flesh and bone figure in Shylock, a flawed human being, a man who has been mocked and p
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare is the old classics selection for catching up on classics for September 2016. This comedy, first printed in 1609 five years prior to Shakespeare's death, offers many pressing issues of its day that are unfortunately still relevant today. It is still widely studied in schools yet is banned in many places as well due to its anti-Semitic portrayal of Jews and some lewdness. It is in this light that I discuss the Bard's work.

Jews had been banned from England in
Jun 16, 2009 rated it liked it
Although the most famous speech from this piece is, deservedly and understandably, Shylock's 'prick us' monologue, I think that the more useful speech to talk about what I felt about the play is Portia's only slightly less famous 'quality of mercy' speech in the court room scene:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throne
Henry Avila
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The pretty islands of Venice, in the shallow lagoon, atop the blue, Adriatic Sea, as the blazing rays of the Sun, shine down, on the brilliant colors of the homes, the calm canals full of boats , with cargo, from faraway lands, a glorious past, but an uncertain future, the rise of Portugal, worries the people. The city once powerful, a short distance from the Italian mainland, vastly wealthy, is in decline...Antonio, the most successful merchant in Venice, and a gambler in commerce, his ships fl ...more
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
If this had a secondary title, delivered in "the parlance of our times" it would be THE POUND OF FLESH.

I liked this for many reasons but the element that stands out most is Shakespeare's focus. Many of his plays have various, complex, and intertwined sub-plots, some being more interesting than the theme itself, TMOV is focused and almost relentless, we have one simple course of action that the story leads inevitably towards and which keeps the reader and the audience entranced, will Shylock rea
Riku Sayuj

“One had best state this matter very plainly: To recover the comic splendor of The Merchant of Venice now, you need to be either a scholar or an anti-Semite, or best of all an anti-Semitic scholar.”
~ Harold Bloom


See how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief.
Hark in thine ear: change places, and handy-dandy,
which is the justice, which is the thief?
~ King Lear (–4)


“Which is the merchant here? and which the Jew?”
~ The Merchant of Venice


The traditio
Book Review
3 of 5 stars to The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. My review is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on appearance versus reality in Shakespeare's plays. In many of William Shakespeare’s famous plays, reality was not quite what it appeared to be. Instead, it was a rather warped appearance that someone molded in a specific way for a particular reason. Reality has been altered in Shakespeare’s plays often by characters who have been known to lie, scheme, and create fa
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Maybe I'm being slightly harsh with my rating. I read this play and immediately thought I'll rate it 5 stars. But I rescinded this idea. Hear me out. I realized that it was an outdated model of storytelling.

I also realized that there's not many adaptations of this story of Shakespeare. We get lots of Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, even the ambitious Othello or Midsummer Night's Dream.

The Merchant of Venice is at heart a simplistic story with people in love but it's not a love story. I
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare, drama, 2017
"The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."
- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3


There is something about Shylock that I absolutely love. He is huge. His hatred and his disdain for Venice's Christians throbs like a heart ready to burst. There is no rest nor slumber to his antipathy. Somehow, this wicked caricature of both man and race I still, however, adore more than the self-righteous charm of the aggrieved Christians and the obviously biased "Doctor of Laws".

I want
Hailey (Hailey in Bookland)
*reread nov 2015*

Definitely one of my favourites.
It has been debated whether Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is anti-semitic or whether he is trying to call attention to their plight in his time. Many modern readers lean toward the latter pointing to Shylock's profound speech in the trial scene (do I not bleed when you cut me?). It's up to the reader to form their own opinion because it's hard to know what Shakespeare was thinking 400 years after the fact.

From a pure readability standpoint, I thought the play was very good, one of Shakespeare
Anne Blocker
Sep 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: strong-influence
My grandmother knew Shakespeare by heart. Not one play or a few sonnets, but all of it, the body of work. She believed the highest calling was to contribute to the body of human knowledge. She was one of the early professors at The University of Texas.

I knew Shylock and Portia as if they were members of our family when I went with my grandmother at 15 to the open stage at Stratford-on-Avon to see The Merchant of Venice. Growing up on an island in the Gulf of Mexico where every able-bodied perso
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
My daughter has to write an essay on this play and so we have been talking about it. It would be easy to say the play is anti-Semitic – there is no question that many of the characters we are expected to have the most sympathy with are certainly anti-Semitic. My problem is that I can’t watch this play and not end up feeling sorry for Shylock. Sure, he was going to kill someone who had spat on him in the street and despised him for his religion – but then, he would hardly have been the first pers ...more
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is yet another wonderful Shakespearean play that I read. I have watched the play but this is the first time I read it. The play consists of a great story on justice, love, loyalty and mercy. It is full of drama and intrigue and the read was absolutely wonderful.

There is however much criticism on this play for its antisemitic portrayal. It must have been the general view and treatment of the society towards the Jews. But it is doubtful whether Shakespeare used antisemitic portrayal to discr
I attended a filmed version of this play, performed in the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London. The costuming was wonderful, plus the music was excellent! Jonathan Price was a convincing Shylock and his real-life daughter Phoebe played the role of Shylock’s daughter Jessica. Between the two of them, they managed to make Antonio & the other Christians look like the monsters of the piece.

Of course I knew about the whole “pound of flesh” issue, but I didn’t know many other details of this play, w
“All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.”

Wow, this is something else I’ll tell you that much.

My friend and was the one who told to read this as my next Shakespeare and when I asked her why she responded with : " There is this guy who bargains with another guy and if the first guy doesn’t pay the second guy the money back on time he get’s to take a pound of his flesh, from anywhere he wants.".
Huda Aweys
I love this play .. I love those writings which exalting women :) .... and explain what she can be ! .. or what is estimated to be and how it can outweigh the balance ! :)
كمان المسرحية مهمة جدا لكونها أشارت للقوة الإقتصادية اللي كان بيمثلها اليهود في اوروبا ، في ذلك الوقت ..
Emily May
Dec 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, plays
So strange that this was ever considered a comedy. I've yet to see a performance of it that has seemed anything but tragic. Such an odd play all around and is - along with the Taming of the Shrew - one that makes you want to ask the old boy what his intentions were. It's criticised by many for being anti-Semitic and yet it offers Shylock the spotlight to make an infamous speech about the unfair treatment of Jews. Strange.
Michael Finocchiaro
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Besides being a great Shakespeare play, this is an entertaining read. However, what sticks in my mind was the interruption at the Comédie Française when I saw this performed (in French!) by some Zionist activists in the middle of the play decrying the anti-Semitism of the work. So, yes, there is a stereotypical character in the book that is Jewish and it is not a complimentary positive portrait. But to label the entire work as anti-Semitic seems a little much for me. Shakespeare was, of course, ...more
Now playing at the Almeida Theater in London, an amazing CELEBRITY DEATH MATCH PERFORMANCE...




Really! I kid you not.

Jonathan Terrington
Review the First

A brilliant play that I must now make a priority to go and see along with a live production of Hamlet and The Crucible. I particularly loved the way Shakespeare provided his characters with greater depth than in other plays and this will become one of my favorites along with Hamlet.

The Merchant of Venice clearly reveals Shakespeare's vast wit, a fact that he has become noted for amongst scholars. Not to mention the manner to which he vastly added to the English language which was
Zachary F.
                                                   The villainy you teach me I
Will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

-Shylock (act 3, scene 1)

Let's not beat around the bush: The Merchant of Venice is an antisemitic play. This isn't even an arguable contention as far as I'm concerned; I don't believe any modern reader who wasn't already determined to vindicate Shakespeare could read the play and conclude differently.

It's true that Shylock, as a character, is more t
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Exceptional play by Shakespeare, Godfather of plays.
I loved it more because, I had acted in my schooling.
Even remember some of dialogues of mine, I was Sherlock.
Straight kind of writing and direct influencing subject.
Feb 19, 2009 rated it liked it
I stumbled across some interesting background to The Merchant of Venice last month when I was reading Andrew Dickson White's comprehensive History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom . From earliest times, the Christian Church had probihited usury. This was defined as "lending out money at interest"; it was regarded as one of the vilest of sins, and one that would invariably lead to eternal damnation. In cases where people had been convicted of usury after their deaths, the ...more
WhatIReallyRead (Anna)
Another great read! Shakespearean plays are making my reading year so far.
I was familiar with the plot and twists, since years ago I've watched and loved the 2004 movie. The play was lovely as well.
Although, the ending made me cringe in a way I don't remember the movie having done. (view spoiler)

I'll re-watch the movie promptly, to see how t
Evelyn (devours and digests words)
Mercy be damned. Antonio deserves to get his pound of flesh knifed out. Let all that bad blood flow. The racist arse.
Himanshu Karmacharya
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found it quite baffling on how to give a final verdict about this book. Undoubtedly, this book is a literary masterpiece with elegant words that smoothly flow through the reader's mind. The book is highly quotable with tons of words of wisdom.

The only problem with the book is the characters. They are selfish, vain and highly unlikable. Exceptions include Portia, who shows some nobility and wisdom, and Shylock, the supposed antagonist of the book, who struck me as the most sympathetic character
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Shakespeare
Shelves: classics, plays
“An evil soul producing holy witness / Is like a villain with a smiling cheek.”

The contrast in this quote is an illustration of the play, because The Merchant of Venice (which would be better called “A Pound of Flesh”) is filled with opposites. Because is this play a comedy or a tragedy? A love story between Portia and Bassanio, or between Antonio and Bassanio? An anti-seministic story in which Shylock is burned to the ground, or a tale that will make the public feel for him?
A lot of food
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William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been tr ...more

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