Topic outline

  • The Merchant of Venice

    The Merchant of Venice is one of William Shakespeare’s most popular yet most controversial plays. The major controversy focuses on the character of Shylock the Jew; although there are critical debates on the "true" nature of Antonio, Portia, and the Christian characters in general.

    The Merchant of Venice: Composition and Publication

    There is ample evidence to believe that, Shakespeare wrote the play between 1596 and 1598. It was first published in a quarto edition in 1600 from Shakespeare's original manuscript, which contained editing and proofreading insertions. It was published in its final form in 1623 - with addition of a number of stage directions, mainly musical cues - as part of the First Folio, the first authorized collection.

    The Merchant of Venice:Characters

    • Antonio – a prominent merchant of Venice in a melancholic mood.
    • Bassanio – Antonio's close friend; suitor to Portia; later the husband of Portia
    • Gratiano – friend of Antonio and Bassanio; in love with Nerissa; later the husband of Nerissa
    • Lorenzo – friend of Antonio and Bassanio; in love with Jessica; later the husband of Jessica
    • Portia – a rich heiress; later the wife of Bassanio
    • Nerissa – Portia's waiting maid – in love with Gratiano; later the wife of Gratiano; disguises herself as Portia's clerk
    • Balthazar – Portia's servant
    • Stephano – Portia's servant
    • Shylock – a miserly Jew; moneylender; father of Jessica
    • Jessica – daughter of Shylock, later the wife of Lorenzo
    • Tubal – a Jew; friend of Shylock
    • Launcelot Gobbo – servant of Shylock; later a servant of Bassanio; son of Old Gobbo
    • Old Gobbo – blind father of Launcelot
    • Leonardo – servant to Bassanio
    • Duke of Venice – authority who presides over the case of Shylock's bond
    • Prince of Morocco – suitor to Portia
    • Prince of Arragon – suitor to Portia
    • Salarino and Salanio (also known as Solanio) – friends of Antonio and Bassanio
    • Salerio – a messenger from Venice; friend of Antonio, Bassanio and others
    • Magnificoes of Venice, officers of the Court of Justice, gaolers, servants to Portia, and other attendants and Doctor Bellario, cousin of Portia

  • The Merchant of Venice