Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice combines a light-hearted romance with a dark, sinister melodrama. We will consider the play’s delightful language, intriguing plot, and lively characterizations. But the Bard also raises serious moral issues-the problems of prejudice and discrimination-ones we have yet to solve. We must decide: is Shylock, the famous Jewish money lender a victim or a villain in vowing to legally murder his Christian enemy? To better understand the play, in addition to our discussions, group members will read aloud parts from the script, and we will view selections from the video of a live performance. Why has the play sometimes been banned? Was Shakespeare anti-Semitic? Did Shylock receive justice? What moral lessons might we learn from the play?
GROUP LEADERS: Virginia Mason "Ginger" Vaughan taught Shakespeare at the introductory and advanced levels at Clark University from 1976 to 2014. She has published books on Shakespeare and served as an “expert Shakespeare commentator” for Julie Taymor’s DVD of The Tempest.
Helen Whall completed her PhD at Yale University in 1976, then began teaching Shakespeare and modern drama at The College of the Holy Cross. She has published a book on pre-Shakespearean drama and numerous essays on Shakespeare, renaissance literature, and contemporary theater. She has been an editor of theater reviews for Theater Journal and a frequent contributor to theater program notes and discussion groups. Professor Whall retired from Holy Cross in the spring of 2017.
BOOK (required): any copy of The Merchant of Venice.
Worcester Institute for Senior Education (WISE)
Assumption College, 500 Salisbury Street, Worcester MA 01609