Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Study Guide


The Merchant of Venice has become perhaps the most contentious of all Shakespeare’s plays. This is because it deals with the dangerous issue of race, and deals with it even more controversially than Othello. Critics have always argued over whether or not the play is anti-semitic, and the extent to which its central character, Shylock, is a hero or a shamefully treated victim. In this short, brilliant analysis, the leading Shakespearean scholar Michael Neil looks at the arguments about the play, analyses its power and shows why, ultimately, it refuses the comfort of any single “view of the world”.

Paperback ISBN : 978-1-907776-21-2

How pessimistic is Hamlet? 


The characters

A summary of the plot
Act one
Act two
Act three
Act four
Act five

What is The Merchant of Venice about? 

Does The Merchant of Venice set out to teach a moral lesson?

What is the significance of The Merchant’s two settings?

What kind of play is The Merchant of Venice

Is The Merchant of Venice an anti-semitic play?

What is the significance of Shylock’s “bond”? 

Why do Antonio and Shylock so detest one another? 

Who is the play’s true protagonist?

What makes Portia an engaging character? 

What is Jessica’s role in the play?

What is the function of Lancelot Gobbo in the play?

What view of the world does The Merchant of Venice leave us with?


Three views of Shylock
Moral confusion in The Merchant
Shylock and Antonio
The bond plot in
Il Pecorone
An Elizabethan Dr No
Shylock as the Devil
The medieval legend of the
Processus Belial
Ten facts about
The Merchant of Venice
Sir Thomas More 
The Marxist view
After the Holocaust

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