In this lively comedy of love and money in sixteenth-century Venice, Bassanio wants to impress the wealthy heiress Portia but lacks the necessary funds. He turns to his merchant friend Antonio, who is forced to borrow from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. When Antonio's business falters, repayment becomes impossibleand by the terms of the loan agreement, Shylock is able to demand a pound of Antonio's flesh. Portia cleverly intervenes, and all ends well (except of course for Shylock).
Linguist and translator Burton Raffel offers help with vocabulary, pronunciation, and prosody and provides alternative readings of phrases and lines. His on-page annotations give readers all the tools they need to comprehend the play and begin to explore its many possible interpretations. Raffel provides an introductory essay, and in a concluding essay Harold Bloom examines Shylock, one of Shakespeare's most bewilderingly original characters.