Introduction to the Merchant of Venice

9780217853484: Introduction to the Merchant of Venice

This historic book may have numerous typos and missing text. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. Not indexed. Not illustrated. 1921. Excerpt: ... Introduction to The Merchant of Venice CHAPTER I Prefatory 7HE MERCHANT OF VENICE is quite generally agreed to be "Shakespeare's first undisputed and original masterpiece." And, indeed, it is a masterpiece. The play is even more than this. It is a Shakesperean masterpiece. In writing it Shakespeare took romantic incidents from old ballads, plays and stories; then like a Michael Angelo, he moulded them together into one massive, coherent, impressive whole; after which he breathed the divine spark of life into it, and gave us a play which Dr. Furnival calls "the first full Shakespeare," and which is held up this very day as an enviable model for modern dramatists to study. Primarily, Shakespeare wrote this play for the same reason that he wrote his other plays--to make a living. Of course, that is why most playwrights write today, but it was more particularly true at that time. Literary production was not as remunerative when Shakespeare lived as it is today. It was not yet a recognized profession. In the Diary that was kept by Philip Henslowe (who was the Belasco of his day, being the then biggest manager of plays and actors in London,) he records the sums he spent at the tavern when the company met to hear a play read, advances made to free delinquent authors from prison, and occasional special expenditures. In the season from October 14, 1589, to July 10, 1590, he spent a total of £222 5s 6d. Of this sum a little over half was paid to playwrights for some twenty plays; which would mean an average of less than £6 per play. In contrast to this might be noted the fact that he records the expenditure of £20 for silk and taffeta u3ed as part of the costumes in a single play, that of the Seven Wise Masters. From the same Diary it is also learned...

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