Shylock’s Bond

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Sciences & Technology
Business & Management
22217 reviews

Course Description

Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt (John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities) guides learners through an exploration of Shakespeare’s unforgettable character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and his historical origins.

In the first act of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the Jewish moneylender Shylock proposes a “merry sport” to the merchant Antonio: he will lend Antonio the money he needs if Antonio agrees to let Shylock take a pound of his flesh should he default. Shylock calls this contract a “merry bond,” and Shakespeare’s First Folio calls the play a comedy. But what does Shylock want from the bond, and how merry does the play ultimately prove? 

This course introduces learners to Jewish history both in Venice and in England, to the ways in which Shakespeare’s own audience might have responded to the play and its genre, and to the history of the play’s production through the twenty-first centur...

Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt (John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities) guides learners through an exploration of Shakespeare’s unforgettable character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and his historical origins.

In the first act of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the Jewish moneylender Shylock proposes a “merry sport” to the merchant Antonio: he will lend Antonio the money he needs if Antonio agrees to let Shylock take a pound of his flesh should he default. Shylock calls this contract a “merry bond,” and Shakespeare’s First Folio calls the play a comedy. But what does Shylock want from the bond, and how merry does the play ultimately prove? 

This course introduces learners to Jewish history both in Venice and in England, to the ways in which Shakespeare’s own audience might have responded to the play and its genre, and to the history of the play’s production through the twenty-first century. 

Learners will also be invited to share their own theatrical interpretations of The Merchant of Venice and to ask how the meaning of a work of art may change in different times, contexts, and cultures.


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Reviews 9/10 stars
2 Reviews for Shylock’s Bond

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Kristina Šekrst profile image
Kristina Šekrst profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 102 reviews
  • 102 completed
1 year ago
Wow. After Hamlet's Ghost, this was amazing too. You'll learn about the background of the play, the position of the Jews in Venice, the ghetto, and the intercultural context, the connections and fights of Christians and Jews, and many more. You'll go into the depth of the play, and you'll even hear F. Murray Abraham speak, so if that's not a glowing recommendation... :) Professor Greenblatt is amazing. These two courses motivated me to pursue Shakespeare, even though I come from a totally different area. I can't wait to read his books and articles, since his knowledge and teaching style is so inspiring. I hope to see a sequel soon. Thank you, Harvard!
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Ana Maria profile image
Ana Maria profile image

Ana Maria

10/10 starsTaking Now
1 year, 7 months ago
If I were to use a few words to describe this course I would say it is simply "Extraordinary , engaging, surprising, memorable!". I would say that it delivers on the learning expectations set in the beginning, but it also brings so much more: rich discussions, new points of view, fresh opinions and deep contextual analysis.
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