July 13, 2013 · 3:00 PM
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"The drama of The Merchant of Venice is a legendary comedy, whose main action is so nearly tragical that the play barely escapes becoming a tragedy. It may be further classified as external, since its conflict lies in the realm of reality and is developed by natural rather than supernatural means. Its time relation falls in the palmy days of Venetian greatness, before the enterprise of Da Gama had made the front door of Europe to open on the Atlantic ocean, leaving the Mediterranean seaports to be only unimportant side-entrances. From busy Venice the scene shifts to Belmont, whose name in literal derivation, beautiful mountain is strikingly suggestive.
The purpose of the drama is to set forth the main conflict between the right to property and the right to human life; and the lesser conflict between the will of the parent and the child's right of choice. The play divides itself easily into two lines of action: the strife in Venice, and the strife in Belmont. But so closely interwoven are the interests of the two that they stand each to the other in the relation of means to an end. "
From Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice by Margaret Hill McCarter