Chapter

Ironising the Human: <i>The Merchant of Venice</i>

Andy Mousley

in Re-Humanising Shakespeare

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748623181
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652211 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623181.003.0004
Ironising the Human: The Merchant of Venice

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This chapter investigates two representative examples of approaches to The Merchant of Venice that foreground in different ways the issue of irony. It first provides a broad sense of what reading with or without irony involves and how these approaches bear upon the issue of scepticism, on the one hand, and the ‘how to live’ question of literary humanism, on the other. Shylock is Shakespeare's prescient sign of the pervasiveness of market values, prescient because capitalism is of course now a global phenomenon whose effects on all aspects of human life are seemingly irresistible. It is concluded that the multiple ironies in the play mean that the human as a source of identification in the play keeps shifting about: from Belmont to Venice, from Christian to Jew back to Christian, from capitalism via the affectively charged culture of debt and credit to the play's anti-capitalist critique.

Keywords: irony; scepticism; Merchant of Venice; literary humanism; Shylock; Shakespeare; Belmont; Venice; Christian; Jew

Chapter.  7376 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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