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Literary critic Ann Barton points out in The Riverside Shakespeare, "Shylock has sometimes been presented as the devil incarnate, sometimes as a comic villain gabbling absurdly about ducats and daughters. He has also been sentimentalized as a wronged and suffering father nobler by far than the people who triumph over him."
Barton, Anne. "The Merchant of Venice." The Riverside Shakespeare. Vol. 1. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974. 251. 2 vols. Print.
Shylock and History
"Although Shakespeare wrote possibly the most famous Jew in English literature, there were virtually no Jews in England during his lifetime. It isn't known whether Shakespeare would have come into contact with anyone who was Jewish. It would also be impossible to surmise how detailed his knowledge of the historical facts about Jews in England was, but fact and myth were certainly handed down through the ages, and it is safe to assume that he would have been aware of his country's historical folklore."
To read the complete essay, go to the link below.
Rogers, Jami. "Shylock and History." PBS Masterpiece Theatre: The Merchant of Venice. PBS, n.d. Web. 27 June 2011. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/merchant/ei_shylock.html>.
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