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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 modern, post-holocaust audience and debates continue as to whether Shakespeare's portrayal of this complex man is sympathetic or anti-Semitic. John Drakakis' comprehensive introduction traces the stage history of the figure of the Jew and looks boldly at twenty-first century issues surrounding it. He also explores other themes of the play such as father/daughter relations, the power of money and the forceful character of Portia, to offer readers an energetic, original and revelatory reading of this challenging play.
John Drakakis is a professor at the University of Stirling, Scotland.