New Readings of The Merchant of Venice
The last decade has witnessed a spate of high-profile presentations of The Merchant of Venice: the 2004 Michael Radford film, 2010’s New York City “Shakespeare in the Park” production, as well as the play’s Tony Award-nominated 2010-11 Broadway run. Likewise, new scholarly works such as Kenneth Gross’s Shylock is Shakespeare (2006) and Janet Adelman’s Blood Relations (2008) have offered poignant insights into this play. Why has this drama garnered so much attention of late? What else can we learn from this contentious comedy? How else can we read the drama’s characters? Where do studies of The Merchant of Venice go from here?
This collection offers readers sundry answers to these questions by showcasing a sampling of ways this culturally arresting play can be read and interpreted. The strength of this monograph lies in the disparate approaches its contributors offer – from a feminist view of Portia and Nerissa’s friendship to psychoanalytic readings of allegories between the play and Shakespeare’s Pericles to a reading of a Manga comic book version of The Merchant of Venice. Each essay is supported by a strong basis in traditional close reading practices. Our collection of scholars then buttresses such work with the theoretical or pedagogical frameworks that reflect their area of expertise. This collection offers readers different critical lenses through which to approach the primary text.
Although Shakespeare scholars and graduate students will no doubt appreciate and employ the work of this collection, the primary audience of this anthology is undergraduate students and the professors who work with them. Many budding scholars have had the experience of checking out a monograph from the library and then finding it was a waste of time because the author spends three hundred pages discussing a perspective of which they have no interest. With this collection, students will not only see how multi-faceted interpretations of the play can be but they also are more likely to find essays that appeal to their own research interests.
Horacio Sierra, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of English at Bowie State University. Dr Sierra regularly teaches courses on Shakespeare, early modern women writers, Renaissance literature, and Hispanic literature. He earned his PhD in English from the University of Florida in 2010. He earned his BS in Communication from the University of Miami in 2004. He is fluent in English and Spanish. He is a member of the Modern Language Association, the Sixteenth-Century Studies Society, the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women, the Shakespeare Association of America, and the Renaissance Society of America. He has published articles dealing with early modern literature in Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal and MESTER. He has published book and performance reviews in The Sixteenth Century Journal, Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and Theatre Journal.
‘These essays seek to find new ways to read and interpret The Merchant of Venice and do so using a variety of perspectives. The point of the book is to provide actors, directors, and scholars new ways to think about Merchant, whether for critical purposes or for production. They look at Merchant through the lenses of queer theory, semiotics, law, feminist theory, postcolonialism, and postmodernism. [….] This book is to be seen as a piece of dramaturgy, a collection of ideas for actors and directors to consider when mounting Merchant. It is also useful for English, humanities, and theater scholars. I loved every page and I highly recommend it.’
—Michael A. Cramer, Borough of Manhattan Community College; Sixteenth Century Journal, XLV/1 (2014), pp. 191-192.
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