The Merchant of Venice: Exploring Shylock

Lesson rationale

These activities encourage students to explore the character of Shylock, setting him against the backdrop of myths and fears about Jews that existed in Shakespeare’s England. Students will examine some of the ways in which Shylock has been depicted on stage and will relate these different interpretations to changing cultural sensitivities.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • In what ways can Shakespeare’s depiction of Shylock be linked to the stereotypes of Jews that existed at the time he was writing?
  • How did early stage productions present Shylock?
  • How have subsequent productions tried to highlight the complexities in Shylock’s character and in the play’s treatment of him?
  • What factors might have influenced these different presentations of Shylock?