Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge
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 the first few rows of the theater was bound to leave covered in saliva.
The first law school for women in the United States, founded in 1908, was named Portia Law School after Shakespeare's heroine in The Merchant of Venice. In 1969, the school was renamed New England School of Law (source).
The Nazis were not particularly subtle in their use of the play as an anti-Semitic vehicle. In a 1942 production of The Merchant of Venice in Berlin, the director planted extras in audiences to shout and whistle when Shylock appeared, thus cuing the audience to do the same (source).
In Nazi Germany productions of The Merchant of Venice, the intermarriage of Jessica and Lorenzo was often omitted (source: Werner Habicht, Shakespeare and Theater Politics in the Third Reich).
"If you prick us, do we not bleed?" is one of the most quoted lines of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. The next line, usually not quoted, is "If you tickle us, do we not laugh?"
George Washington was a huge Shakespeare fan. His papers are full of references to plays like The Merchant of Venice (source: Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life).