A brilliant play that I must now make a priority to go and see along with a live production of Hamlet and The Crucible. I particularly loved the way Shakespeare provided his characters with greater depth than in other plays and this will become one of my favorites along with Hamlet.
The Merchant of Venice clearly reveals Shakespeare's vast wit, a fact that he has become noted for amongst scholars. Not to mention the manner to which he vastly added to the English language which was at the time of his writing immensely limited compared to what it is today. Not only that but its intricate twists and convolutions wrap around a clever and well developed plot which I found far more entertaining than his tales like Romeo and Juliet. The very logical claim of 'you can have one pound of flesh but no blood' made me smile because it was so literal and to the letter of the law.
Shakespeare's tale also reveals highly modern ideas. The women in his play are independent and strong. They are the sole reason that Antonio survives the ordeal before him in the end. Another modern idea is revealed in the challenging question by Shylock when he states: I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.
This is the idea that despite differences in beliefs, ideals and appearance all people are humans. We all bleed, eat, sleep, dream and feel similar sensations in life and to that regard should not trample upon anyone as lower than us.
For all of these reasons I encourage anyone to read this play as one of the prime examples of Shakespeare at his finest. Not only is he a play-write extraordinarily, but a man of modern belief and great insight. So read his work and be astounded. Or better yet view it in its full glory upon the stage.