Tag Archives: Merchant of Venice

Bringing the racial politics of Shakespeare’s Venice to the modern stage

Jacob Cohen in Habima’s The Merchant of Venice. Photograph: Tristram Kenton, The Guardian.

Since the 1800s, Israel and Palestine have been embroiled in a bitter war over land, water, religion, and the fight for their own national and personal identity to be recognised. In 2012, these two countries had an additional conflict on their minds: the performance of a Shakespeare play, The Merchant of Venice, and the problematic representation of Shylock, the displaced Jew.

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Hath not a Jew banks?

The Rothschild family has been recently highlighted in the media due to the very recent nuptials of young James Rothschild to Nicky Hilton, “hotel heiress” daughter to the famous Hilton family, and sister to the infamous reality star and socialite Paris Hilton. The two were married this past weekend on July 10th. Although Hilton is likely a more familiar name to many Americans (or at least associated with more notoriety), the Rothschild family has a history much longer and a fortune much grander than the Hiltons’.

In fact, the Rothschild family is one of the oldest and largest banking families in the world. They also happen to be Jewish. Continue reading

The limited value of virginity: “But even now worth this, and now worth nothing?”

The limited value of virginity: “But even now worth this, and now worth nothing?”


Beginning with Salarino’s extended metaphor in Act One, Scene One, describing one of Antonio’s ships run a-ground as a violated woman, female worth in Merchant of Venice is connected to chastity.

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“The Problem of More-than-one”

In the article, “The Problem of More-than-one: Friendship, Calculation, and Political Association in the Merchant of Venice” by Henry S. Turner, Turner discusses the political perspective of the play in terms of friendship, calculation and decision, and justice. He discusses the question of the relationship between friendship and democracy, and how “The Merchant of Venice” may show slight traces of modern democracy throughout the play. One point that I found particularly interesting is the idea of the quantum of friendship and how that relates to value in terms of numbers and the blurred lines from which that value comes about. This lack of clarity can be seen in the play in the recurring issues of self-interest versus love and friendship. Continue reading

The Marxist of Venice

Fan Shen’s article ”Shakespeare in China: The Merchant of Venice” examines Chinese social and political climate through an interesting lens:  the performances and criticisms of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice in China.  Shen chooses this play because of its immense popularity in China, as well as the interesting way in which Chinese Marxism has influenced criticisms of the work.  Continue reading

Marriage and Mourning

marriageThe themes of marriage and same-sex relationships in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice warrant the discussion of same-sex marriage. While there is no explicit condoning of same-sex marriage, Arthur L. Little argues that the concept of same-sex relationships is used to challenge the very institution of marriage within the play.

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Fortuna & The Wheel of Fortune

In The Merchant of Venice, Portia, an affluent and quick-witted heiress from Belmont, aids in rescuing Antonio from his legal plight with Shylock. The fates of people around Portia shift constantly, while her situation generally improves without problem. Portia’s actions through the play embody Fortuna’s whimsical interest in humanity.  Continue reading

Foundations of Shylock

Via Artstor

Written in 1596, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice teems with anti semitism. Interestingly, however, during Shakespeare’s life time there were no Jews in England—they had been expelled from the country in 1290 and were not permitted to resettle until 1665. Why, then, would Shakespeare write one of the Merchant of Venice’s most pivotal characters as a Jew? And what was the religious and political climate that inspired him to create Shylock as such an unsavory character? Continue reading

Death by the State

Sitting leisurely in my apartment yesterday evening, I was stirred by the vibration of a NYTs alert, flashing on my phone’s screen: “Eric Garner Case Is Settled by New York City for $5.9 Million.” A year ago, Eric Garner was interrogated for selling single cigarettes on a street corner in Staten Island. Attempting to subdue Garner in the course of an arrest, officer Daniel Pantaleo used an illegal chokehold that resulted in Garner’s death. His fateful last words, “I can’t breathe,” were captured on video and motivated protests across the country. Four hundred years after its publication, Shylock’s alienated ending in The Merchant of Venice provokes a compelling stream of analysis.  Continue reading