Apr 1, 2010
"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.