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Discussion questions for Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice


1. Is Shylock a villain or a sympathetic character?


2. Is the play anti-Semitic or anti-Christian?


3. Is the Merchant of Venice a comedy or tragedy?


4. Why does Shylock demand a pound of flesh from Antonio? Why not his entire heart?


5. Trace the theme of fathers and children that runs through the play.  How would you define this relationship?


6. Discuss the relationship between Jessica and Shylock. Are we meant to sympathize with the moneylender's daughter? Does Shakespeare seem ambivalent in his portrayal of Jessica?

7. There are three stories told in this play: the casket story, the bond of flesh story, and the ring story.  What do these stories have in common?

8. Discuss how the trial scene reveals a conflict between justice and mercy. Is the conflict resolved? If so, how?

9. How does this play reveal the conflicts of European society as it evolved out of feudalism and into a commercial society?