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Did You Know

Venice was thought of in Shakespeare's day, as it still is, as a beautiful and romantic city, and was then, as it is today, a popular destination for travelers. It was also thought of, as it is no longer, as a great financial power, one of the centers of the world's shipping industry, and renowned for its tough but fair judicial system, an idea taken up in Shakespeare's courtroom scene. In 1593, a traveler witnessed two young noblemen tortured and executed for singing blasphemous songs in the streets.

The Merchant of Venice was relatively unpopular in the century following its first performance. But in the 18th century, the play was "improved" by heavy-handed playwright George Granville, and his version, The Jew of Venice, was among the most popular English comedies of the century. Granville cut a number of minor characters, and injected a good dose of melodrama, as when Bassanio draws his sword and challenges Shylock in the courtroom scene. A number of Shakespeare's plays, including King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest, underwent similar rewritings in the 18th century, and the plays that that century knew and loved as "Shakespeare's" were in large part the handicraft of their none too skillful contemporaries.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Scene 1.1
Scenes 1.2 and 1.3
Scenes 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3
Scenes 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6
Scenes 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9
Scenes 3.1 and 3.2
Scenes 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5
Scenes 4.1 and 4.2
Scene 5.1


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