Auden, W. H. “Brothers & Others.” In The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays, 218–237. New York: Random House, 1962.
Auden compares mercantile Venetian society in The Merchant of Venice to the feudal societies portrayed in Shakespeare’s medieval history plays, examining how the different economic systems create different value systems in the worlds of the plays. He gives a history of usury and analyzes the contrast between idyllic Belmont and mercantile Venice in The Merchant of Venice.
Gross, John. Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.
Gross explores Shylock’s changing legacy throughout the play’s history, discussing his evolution on stage and his importance as a cultural figure much larger than the play. His analysis includes discussion of Shylock as an economic symbol and as a comic and tragic character.
Holmer, Joan Ozark. The Merchant of Venice: Choice, Hazard, and Consequence. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1995.
Homer examines the structural unity of The Merchant of Venice, asking whether the play’s multiple plot lines and two settings were effectively incorporated. She analyses Shakespeare’s artistic choices and risks along with the cultural and historic context in which he made them.
Kaplan, M. Lindsay. The Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002.
This edition of the play is accompanied by illustrations and early modern documents providing cultural context for the play. These documents include woodcuts, sermons, Bible excerpts on moneylending, Anti-Catholic tracts, statues, maps, scenes from a morality play, contemporary treatises on the role of women, diplomatic reports, etc.
Mahon, John W. and Ellen Macleod Mahon. The Merchant of Venice: New Critical Essays. London: Routledge, 2002.
New Critical Essays is a collection of seventeen essays by different authors. The essays examine The Merchant of Venice through the lenses of modern literary and cultural theories such as feminism and post-colonialism. The texts cover a wide variety of concepts ranging from anti-Semitism, to Christopher Marlowe, to the play’s historical stagings.
Shapiro, James S. Shakespeare and the Jews. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.
Shapiro discusses The Merchant of Venice in the context of the history of Jews in England. He describes the culture of the Elizabethan society where the play was first staged, discussing the prevalence of myths about Jewish threats to Christian bodies and of conversion fantasies.
Spencer, Christopher. The Genesis of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Lewiston, New York: E. Mellen Press, 1988.
Spencer traces Shakespeare’s sources for the play along with the myths that developed into the flesh-bond story. He examines the characters’ names and the history of usury in Europe along with giving the stage history of the play and the history of interpretations of Shylock.
Smith, Emma. The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare introduces new readers of Shakespeare to a range of his texts through sections exploring character, performance, texts, language, structure, sources, and history. The text encourages independent thinking instead of a reliance on previous scholarship and provides readers with resources for research.