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Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
Is the play anti-Semitic, or does it challenge anti-Semitism? Does it merely represent anti-Semitism on stage? How do we know?
Is Shylock a victim, a villain, or some combination of both?
Are Portia and Bassanio really in love? Do they love each other equally? Since Bassanio was clearly after Portia's money when he started courting her, do you think he could ever genuinely fall in love with her, or is his quest for her—and his love for her—tainted by his original position as, let's face it, a gold digger?
Is Antonio interested in platonic friendship or a romantic relationship with his pal Bassanio? When talking to Portia, Bassanio likens Antonio to an old true Roman, meaning the kind of guy who would kill himself for his friend (see Shakespeare's Julius Caesar). Is Antonio's willingness to die for Bassanio just a throwback to old-school friendship, or is it something more?
What's up with the Jessica-Lorenzo side plot? How does this story support the main plot structurally? Thematically? What's the effect of having it there at all?
Jews aren't the only minorities in the play. How do the Venetian characters discriminate against the Prince of Morocco and the Moor who is pregnant with Lancelot's child?