Putting The Merchant of Venice in context: a summary of sources

This summary of sources is a quick and easy way to explore the contexts for The Merchant of Venice – from early modern ideas about trade and usury, Venice and Jewish culture to 20th-century productions by both Nazis and Yiddish companies in the shadow of the World War Two.

Ideas for using this resource:

  • Use it as a handy guide to the site’s rich sources on The Merchant of Venice. There’s a link to each of the items, so you can explore them further through fuller descriptions, accessible analysis and vibrant visual images.
  • Divide the sources amongst your group. Each person could highlight the key facts, find relevant quotes from The Merchant of Venice and share their findings with others. Together you could then explore how Shakespeare reflects or challenges the ideas in these sources.
  • Select three of these ideas to weave into an essay on The Merchant of Venice. Raise your grade by showing your understanding of the contexts in which the play was written and received.
  • Project the images onto your screen and use them as a springboard for discussing key themes and questions raised in The Merchant of Venice.
  • Print out the coloured hand-out and use it as a revision guide.