This text is part of a series in which the standard Shakespearean texts have been slightly abridged to enhance student understanding of the essential story lines, characters and themes. The text is primarily designed for years 9 - 11 in the New Zealand curriculum, although it may be used at any level in English or drama classes. The author's aim is to make Shakespeare more accessible as the original texts are often regarded as too long and involved for many students. The abridgements take out just enough to make the play ...
This text is part of a series in which the standard Shakespearean texts have been slightly abridged to enhance student understanding of the essential story lines, characters and themes. The text is primarily designed for years 9 - 11 in the New Zealand curriculum, although it may be used at any level in English or drama classes. The author's aim is to make Shakespeare more accessible as the original texts are often regarded as too long and involved for many students. The abridgements take out just enough to make the play manageable and enjoyable, yet remain meaningful and "true" to the originals. Each title in the series has a different introduction, so that if different plays are used at different levels there is minimal repetition of supporting information. In one there may be an introduction to the Globe Theatre, while in another the introduction may be on Elizabethan society. This variation in treatment aims to ensure the series has the widest possible application in schools at all levels. The series is structured as follows to ensure the texts are effective with all students: each text is designed to be a complete unit; the abridged version is accompanied by "Word Banks" designed to give definitions and explanations of some of the more difficult words and phases; each text is followed by a series of activities designed to allow students to become confident with the text; character and theme information is presented in a student-friendly manner; and each text concludes with a collection of activities which are designed for teachers to form an individual programme best suited to their students' needs.
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"The Merchant of Venice" is often condemned for its look at the Jewish community during Shakespeare's day, but it is sadly accurate to that time: antisemitism was rife across Europe and the feelings expressed by characters are ones that were felt by most of the non-Jewish society. It may disturb readers on this side of the Holocaust to read a play that portrays the Jew as the stereotypical hard-nosed banker, but it must at least be recognized that the sentiments expressed here were, however wrong, accurate to the age.
As for the rest of the play, it has some memorable characters (such as Portia, the heroine), a light-hearted brand of romance, and a few parts of comedy that lighten up the story considerably. The style was enjoyable and, if you can view the antisemitism without taking too much offence, the play is worth reading.
Nov 8, 2007
In recent years it seems to have become almost obligatory for those who would wish to be thought 'right-minded' to condemn this play as 'racist'. It is not. This is a play ABOUT racism and racial hostility. Shakespeare never approves or condemns what his characters say; he is only interested in why they say what they say.
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