Author(s): William Shakespeare
In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare weaves together two ancient folk tales, one involving a vengeful, greedy creditor trying to exact a pound of flesh, the other involving a marriage suitor's choice among three chests and thereby winning his (or her) mate. Shakespeare's treatment of the first standard plot scheme centres around the villain of Merchant, the Jewish money-lender Shylock who seeks a literal pound of flesh from his Christian opposite, the generous, faithful Antonio. Shakespeare's version of the chest-choosing device revolves around the play's Christian heroine, Portia, who steers her lover Bassanio toward the correct humble casket and then successfully defends his bosom friend Antonio from Shylock's horrid legal suit.
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright of the 16th and 17 centuries, now widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the word's pre-eminent dramatist. Stanley Wells, the Series Editor of the Penguin Shakespeare, is Emeritus Professor of the University of Birmingham and Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Peter Holland is McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies in the Department of Film, Television and Theatre, at the University of Notre Dame. He is editor of Shakespeare Survey, general editor of the series Redefining British Theatre History, and co-general editor of Oxford Shakespeare Topics.