The Merchant of Venice has the most varied and controversial performance history of any Shakespeare play. Opposite ends of the social and political spectra appropriate it to make entirely different arguments. Ironically, the play itself is about the difference between the letter and the spirit of language and the law. The play abounds in antitheses. The living and the inert, the productive and the fruitless, the spiritual and the material are its foundation.
Following World War II, the play was untouchable for several decades. The prejudice and vitriol directed at Shylock were inescapably [...]