The Merchant of Venice is perhaps most associated not with its titular hero, Antonio, but with the complex figure of the money-lender, Shylock. The play was described as a comedy in the First Folio but its modern audiences find it more problematic to categorize. The vilification of Shylock 'the Jew' can be very uncomfortable for a post-holocaust audience, and debates continue as to whether Shakespeare's portrayal of this complex man is sympathetic or anti-semitic. A exacting and controversial comedy, The Merchant of Venice explores prejudice and the true nature of justice.
Illustrated throughout by Sir John Gilbert (1817-1897), famous for his depictions of historical scenes. As well as Shakespeare, he illustrated works of Sir Walter Scott, Cervantes, Wilkie Collins and Wordsworth.
With an Introduction by Ned Halley.