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Gordon Clark mentions another possibility. At the time, the prefix shy- meant "of questionable character, disreputable, shady" as in the modern shyster , while shy-cock was slang for "a wary or cowardly person.
The venture, therefore, entirely failed, and in January he had to petition the Privy Council for relief and assistance. In June he was again petitioning the Privy Council, from the Fleet Prison , condemned at the suit of William Borough to pay for a ship bought for Frobisher's last voyage, though he claimed the debt was not his; he was also bound for a larger debt of the Cathay Company.
In —15 he was still being sued for a debt for stores supplied to Frobisher's ships.
Calling an untrustworthy businessman "shy Lok" would be an easily understood reference to Elizabethans. Shylock is a Jew who lends money to his Christian rival Antonio , setting the security at a pound of Antonio's flesh.
When a bankrupt Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock demands the pound of flesh. This decision is fuelled by his sense of revenge, for Antonio had previously insulted, physically assaulted and spat on him in the Rialto stock exchange of Venice dozens of times, defiled the "sacred" Jewish religion and had also inflicted massive financial losses on him. Meanwhile, Shylock's daughter, Jessica, falls in love with Antonio's friend Lorenzo and converts to Christianity, leaves Shylock's house and steals vast riches from him, which add to Shylock's rage and harden his resolve for revenge.
In the end — due to the efforts of Antonio's well-wisher, Portia — Shylock is charged with attempted murder of a Christian, carrying a possible death penalty, and Antonio is freed without punishment. Shylock is then ordered to surrender half of his wealth and property to the state and the other half to Antonio.
However, as an act of "mercy", Antonio modifies the verdict, asking Shylock to hand over only one-half of his wealth — to him Antonio for his own as well as Lorenzo's need — provided that he keeps two promises. First, Shylock has to sign an agreement bequeathing all his remaining property to Lorenzo and Jessica, which is to become effective after his demise, and second, he is to immediately convert to Christianity. Shylock is forced to agree to these terms, and he exits citing illness. In Shakespeare's time, no Jews had been legally present in England for several hundred years since the Edict of Expulsion in However, stereotypes of Jews as money lenders remained from the Middle Ages.
Historically, money lending had been a fairly common occupation among Jews, in part because Christians were not permitted to practise usury , then considered to mean charging interest of any kind on loans, and Jews were excluded from other fields of work.
Hyam Maccoby argues that the play is based on medieval morality plays , exemplum , in which the Virgin Mary here represented by Portia argues for the forgiveness of human souls, as against the implacable accusations of the Devil Shylock. Jacob Adler and others report that the tradition of playing Shylock sympathetically began in the first half of the 19th century with Edmund Kean. Kean's Shylock established his reputation as an actor.
Since Kean's time, many other actors who have played the role have chosen a sympathetic approach to the character. Edwin Booth was a notable exception, playing him as a simple villain, although his father Junius Brutus Booth had portrayed the character sympathetically. Henry Irving 's portrayal of an aristocratic, proud Shylock first seen at the Lyceum in , with Portia played by Ellen Terry has been called "the summit of his career".
Kean and Irving presented a Shylock justified in wanting his revenge.
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Adler's Shylock evolved over the years he played the role, first as a stock Shakespearean villain, then as a man whose better nature was overcome by a desire for revenge, and finally as a man who operated not from revenge but from pride. In a interview with Theater magazine, Adler pointed out that Shylock is a wealthy man, "rich enough to forgo the interest on three thousand ducats" and that Antonio is "far from the chivalrous gentleman he is made to appear.
He has insulted the Jew and spat on him, yet he comes with hypocritical politeness to borrow money of him. Some modern productions explore the justification of Shylock's thirst for vengeance. For instance, in the film adaptation directed by Michael Radford and starring Al Pacino as Shylock, the film begins with text and a montage of how the Jewish community is abused by the Christian population of the city.
One of the last shots of the film also highlights that, as a convert, Shylock would have been cast out of the Jewish community in Venice, no longer allowed to live in the ghetto.
But he would likely not have been fully accepted by the Christians, as they would remember his Jewish birth. Another interpretation of Shylock and a vision of how "must he be acted" appears at the conclusion of the autobiography of Alexander Granach , a noted Jewish stage and film actor in Weimar Germany and later in Hollywood and on Broadway. All of the marriages that ended The Merchant of Venice are unhappy, Antonio is an obsessive bore reminiscing about his escape from death, but Shylock, freed from religious prejudice, is richer than before and a close friend and confidante of the Doge.
Arnold Wesker 's play The Merchant is a reimagining of Shakespeare's story.
Davies is portrayed both in and out of character, presenting and stripping down the layers between character and actor. After the Holocaust, the play has become a battleground for those who argue that the play represents Shakespeare's ultimate statement against ignorance and anti-Semitism in favour of a liberal vision of tolerance and multiculturalism. Other critics have pointed out that the play is, after all, a comedy that ultimately pokes fun at a 16th-century Jew.
In fact, the bare outline of the plot suggests that the play is far more complex than either of these characterisations. Bassanio, a feckless young Venetian, asks his wealthy friend, the merchant Antonio, for money to finance a trip to woo the beautiful Portia in Belmont. Reluctant to refuse his friend to whom he professes intense love , Antonio borrows the money from the Jewish moneylender. If he reneges on the deal, Shylock jokingly demands a pound of his flesh.
When all Antonio's ships are lost at sea, Shylock calls in his debt, and the love and laughter of the first scenes of the play threaten to give way to death and tragedy. The final climactic courtroom scene, complete with a cross-dressed Portia, a knife-wielding Shylock, and the debate on "the quality of mercy" is one of the great dramatic moments in Shakespeare. The controversial subject matter of the play ensures that it continues to repel, divide but also fascinate its many audiences.
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