The Merchant of Venice is variously described as disturbing, challenging and haunting. Most theatre audiences and students of the play would agree that it is both fascinating and unforgettable. In this sourcebook S. P. Cerasano provides a balance of clear commentary and crucial reprinted materials to allow a rich understanding of one of Shakespeare's most widely performed plays. She begins by exploring the contexts of the play, highlighting early modern mythologies of Venice, images of Jewishness and issues of commercialism not only in the text but in the theatre and in Shakespeare's London. The following part of the book, Interpretations, samples modern criticism of the play, in sections entitled The Economic Framework, Choosing and Risking, and Shylock and Other Strangers. This is followed by an invaluable discussion of the play in performance, which examines the staging issues facing those who direct or act in the play, including the way in which the roles of Portia and Shylock might be interpreted. 'Key Passages' reprints and closely examines important sections of the play text and, finally, a section on further reading prepares readers for additional study.
Assuming no prior knowledge of the play, this sourcebook draws together text, context, criticism and performance history to provide an integrated view of one of the most dazzling works of the early modern theatre.
S. P. Cerasano is the Edgar W. B. Fairchild Professor of Literature at Colgate University, Hamilton NY