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 PublicationThere 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