Written on: 22/02/2008 by The quality of mercy is not strained (43 reviews written)
This is a classic. This can also raise a good subject of debate about whether Shylock is a villain or a victim. Women also have some power in the denouement of the play because if it wasn't for Portia's careful reading, Antonio would surely have lost his life.
The play puts a lot of emphasis on how Shylock is a Jew and then puts him in a negative light. The only other character that could possibly count as a Jew is Jessica, and she discourages the virtue of being proud of your race/religion by converting to Christianity as soon as she elopes with Lorenzo. Oh, and did I mention that she stole from her own father? Another negative element is the ease with which Bassanio is encouraged to break a commitment to his wife.
Though the basic plot of the play is good overall, I would not recommend this play for reading aloud to children. At the least, a person should be thirteen before reading the play. It would be worth discussing the fact that Shylock is somewhat of a victim after reading the play. It would also be good to point out that none of the main characters are perfect by the standards of Shakespeare's time. If you look closely, you can see that Antonio is gay and is in love with Bassanio. Bassanio is a prodigal who put his friend at the mercy of a moneylender rather than borrow the money himself. All three female characters have at least one scene where they appear dressed as the opposite sex.
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