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"I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage, where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one."
The Merchant of Venice is probably the most controversial of all Shakespeare's plays. It is also one of the least understood. Is it a comedy or a tragedy? What is the meaning behind the test of the caskets? Who is the real villain of the trial scene? Is Shylock simply vicious and venomous, or is he more sinned against than sinning?
32 pp, $3.95
ICE Study Guides are constructed to aid the reader of ICE classics to achieve a level of critical and literary appreciation befitting the works themselves.
Ideally suited for students themselves and as a guide for teachers, the ICE Study Guides serve as a complement to the treasures of critical appreciation already included in ICE titles.
Can the play be described as anti-semitic? What exactly is the quality of mercy? Is Portia one of the great Christian heroines of western literature? And what of the comedy of the rings with which Shakespeare ends the play? These questions and many others are answered in this critical edition of one of the Bard's liveliest plays.
A look at the essays
Michael G. Brennan mixes cultural, economic, and geographical tensions in "Shakespeare's Italian Stages". Crystal Downing, meanwhile, gives a compelling argument for more careful and circumspect reading by illustrating three levels of understanding one can have of the play. [Read excerpt.]
Anthony Esolen celebrates "The Hazard of Love"; James E. Hartley provides an informative history of usury; Daniel H. Lowenstein compares Portia's and Shylock's commitment to law, stressing that Portia's is greater than usually supposed, but of a different type; and Michael Martin reveals Shakespeare's treatment of the different kinds of friendship, a topic very much in vogue at the time.
Joseph Pearce situates the reader with the introductory essay.
Books by Author
by last name, except for Wm. Shakespeare
Meet the Minds behind the Merchant of Venice Edition
Joseph Pearce is writer in residence at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, and director of the Aquinas Center for Faith and Culture. He is the editor of the St. Austin Review and the Ignatius Critical Editions series editor. He is the author of three books on Shakespeare, published by Ignatius Press: The Quest for Shakespeare: The Bard of Avon and the Church of Rome (2008), Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays (2010), and Shakespeare on Love: Seeing the Catholic Presence in Romeo and Juliet (2013). He has also published books on a number of modern literary figures, including Oscar Wilde, G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Roy Campbell, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
James Bemis is an editorial board member, weekly columnist, and film critic for California Political Review and is a frequent contributor to Latin Mass Magazine. His five-part series "Through the Eyes of the Church", on the Vatican's list of the forty-five "Most Important Films in the Century of Cinema", was published in the Wanderer. His essays on film adaptations of King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth have appeared in the Ignatius Critical Editions of the plays. He is currently writing a book on Christianity, culture, and the cinema.
Raimund Borgmeier is professor emeritus of English Literature at the University of Giessen, Germany. He has been visiting professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in both Madison and Milwaukee. His research fields are Shakespeare, eighteenth-century and Romantic poetry and culture, special genres (science fiction and crime fiction), nineteenth-century fiction, and contemporary literature. In 2000, he was honored with the Festschrift Lineages of the Novel: Essays in Honour of R. B., ed. B. Reitz and E. Voigts-Virchow.
Michael G. Brennan
Michael G. Brennan has taught Renaissance literature and Shakespeare at the School of English, University of Leeds, since 1984 and is currently professor of Renaissance there. His most recent books include The Sidneys of Penhurst and the Monarchy, 1500 – 1700 (Ashgate, 2006) and a study of the early modern English travelers on the Continent, The Origins of the Grand Tour (The Hakluyt Society, 2004).
Crystal Downing received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is Distinguished Professor of English and Film Studies at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. She has published on a wide variety of literary topics, from Shakespeare to the Brontës, and has won both national and international awards for her essays on film. Her three books explore the relationship between Christianity and poststructuralism: Writing Performances (2004); How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith (2006); and Changing Signs of Truth (2012).
Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College. His work includes the Modern Library translations of Dante's Divine Comedy (Random House), Ironies of Faith: The Deep Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature (ISI Books), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery).
James E. Hartley
James E. Hartley is Professor of Economics at Mount Holyoke College, where he teaches courses on macroeconomics and money and banking, as well as a year-long interdisciplinary course on Western civilization. Currently, he is also serving as the director of the first-year seminar program at Mount Holyoke.
Daniel H. Lowenstein
Daniel H. Lowenstein is Professor of Law, Emeritus, at the University of California, Los Angeles. Previously he was the first chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. His specialty is election law, but he also has published commentary on Shakespeare, Dickens, and other authors. He is the director of the UCLA Center for the Liberal Arts and Free Institutions.
Michael Martin teach English at Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan. His criticism, essays, and poetry have appeared in many journals and magazines. Michael lives on a small farm outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his wife and eight children.