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The Merchant of Venice, Essential Revision Notes

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Table of Contents

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare 5

Context 5

Summary 7

Characters 9

Shylock 9

Portia 9

Antonio 9

Bassanio 9

Gratiano 9

Jessica 9

Lorenzo 10

Nerissa 10

Launcelot Gobbo 10

The prince of Morocco 10

The prince of Arragon 10

Salarino 10

Solanio 10

The duke of Venice 10

Old Gobbo 11

Tubal 11

Doctor Bellario 11

Balthasar 11

Themes and Symbols 11

Themes 11

Self-Interest Versus Love 11

The Divine Quality of Mercy 12

Hatred as a Cyclical Phenomenon 13

Symbols 13

The Three Caskets 13

The Pound of Flesh 14

Leah’s Ring 14

Important Quotations Explained 14

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare


The most influential writer in all of English literature, William Shakespeare was born in 1564 to a successful middle-class glover in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Shakespeare attended grammar school, but his formal education proceeded no further. In 1582 he married an older woman, Anne Hathaway, and had three children with her. Around 1590 he left his family behind and travelled to London to work as an actor and playwright. Public and critical acclaim quickly followed, and Shakespeare eventually became the most popular playwright in England and part-owner of the Globe Theatre. His career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I (ruled 1558–1603) and James I (ruled 1603–1625), and he was a favourite of both monarchs. Indeed, James granted Shakespeare’s company the greatest possible compliment by bestowing upon its members the title of King’s Men.

Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of fifty-two. At the time of Shakespeare’s death, literary luminaries such as Ben Jonson hailed his works as timeless. Shakespeare’s works were collected and printed in various editions in the century following his death, and by the early eighteenth century, his reputation as the greatest poet ever to write in English was well established. The unprecedented admiration garn...

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