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Analysis

Literary Devices in The Merchant of Venice

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

As we know, Bassanio needs some cash so he can woo Portia in style. We're talking a team of servants, a new set of fancy threads, and plenty of bling to impress the rich heiress. The problem is, B...

Setting

Venice is an exciting, cosmopolitan setting for the play because it's a hotspot for trade. While Jews had been legally banned from England since 1290, Venice had laws in place to protect non-Venet...

Narrator Point of View

Though all works of literature present the author’s point of view, they don’t all have a narrator or a narrative voice that ties together and presents the story. This particular piece o...

Genre

The Merchant of Venice is technically classified as a comedy, but it's sometimes referred to as a "problem comedy" (mostly because it's so controversial) or a "tragicomedy," because it shares featu...

Tone

Shakespeare is supposedly writing about comedic characters in a comedic situation (see our discussion on "Genre" for more on this), but the plot of the play, and its constant closeness to danger, f...

Writing Style

Most of this play is written in verse (poetry) and the rest in prose (the way we speak normally). We break all of this down in the paragraphs that follow, but here's one thing to remember about S...

What’s Up With the Title?

Today we know the play as simply The Merchant of Venice, which seems to refer to Antonio, who is just that: a merchant living in Venice (as opposed to, say, Shylock, who is a moneylender living in...

What's Up With the Ending?

Spoiler alert! Now would be a good time to cover your eyes if you haven't finished the play yet, Shmoopsters...Like all Shakespearean comedies, Merchant ends with the promise of one or more hook-u...

Plot Analysis

Antonio loves Bassanio, and Portia's father has set up the game of the caskets. Everything is in a relatively uncomfortable place to begin with. In Venice, Antonio is sad, likely because he knows...

Three Act Plot Analysis

Antonio borrows money from Shylock using his own flesh as collateral so that Bassanio can woo Portia, who is stuck at her estate waiting for her true love to propose.Once Bassanio has won Portia's...

Trivia

Dustin Hoffman played Shylock on Broadway at the National Theater in 1989. In this production, every time Shylock spoke, he was spit upon. Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro joked that anyone in t...

Steaminess Rating

The Merchant of Venice isn't as sexy as some of Shakespeare's other comedies, but there are lots of dirty jokes. There are almost always weddings in Shakespeare's comedies, and weddings are followe...

Allusions

Jesus casts devils into a herd of swine (1.3)Jacob and Laban's sheep: Genesis 25-35 (1.3)Jacob's staff (2.5)Hagar's outcast son, Ishmael (2.5)"sin of the father...": Ezekiel 18:20 (3.5)Christian hu...
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