First of all… I LOVE Shakespeare. I took every class I could possibly take that required me to read Shakespeare, Marlowe, or the like. So, I was throughly amused when I discovered that “The Merchant of Venice”, one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays is often on the banned book list.
Now, for those of you that have read Shakespeare before, you know that he often writes with a cheeky-wit that is full of sexual innuendos and violence/death. However, “The Merchant of Venice” is not banned for any of those reasons. It is often banned because of it’s treatment of the antagonist, a Jewish man named Shylock.
Now, the reader must keep in mind that this was written in the 17th Century. So, this is pre-Holocaust by at least 300 years, though there were the same stereotypes present as today regarding the Jewish race. Shylock is the villain who is cheap and cunning. He does anything within the text in order to keep his money. It is truly, a stereotypical portrayal of the Jewish race. However, is that enough to make it banned? Apparently, yes.
The argument goes back to one of my previous posts regarding racial issues. When taken from a historical perspective, like “Huckleberry Finn” and “The Merchant of Venice”, the work takes on a different tone. It becomes a time piece of history’s view of certain races and characters throughout the book.
P.S. If you have never seen the movie version of the play with Al Pacino as Sherlock, check it out!
Moral: Shakespeare is awesome and I still love him.