The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Although classified as a comedy in the First Folio, and while it shares certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps more remembered for its dramatic scenes, and is best known for the character of Shylock. The title character is the merchant Antonio, not the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who is the play's most prominent and more famous villain. Though Shylock is a tormented character, he is also a tormentor, so whether he is to be viewed with disdain or sympathy is up to the audience (as influenced by the interpretation of the play's director and lead actors). As a result, The Merchant of Venice is often classified as one of Shakespeare's problem plays.
A complex and controversial play from the master playwright
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, in 1564. The date of his birth is unknown but is celebrated on 23 April, which happens to be St George's Day, and the day in 1616 on which Shakespeare died. Aged eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. They had three children. Around 1585 William joined an acting troupe on tour in Stratford from London, and thereafter spent much of his life in the capital. By 1595 he had written five of his history plays, six comedies and his first tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. In all, he wrote thirty-seven plays and much poetry, and earned enormous fame in his own lifetime in prelude to his immortality.