It is neither desirable nor appropriate in the context of this volume to offer a complete overview of the history of The Merchant of Venice in production. However, selected practitioners will be of use because they serve as appropriate cultural signposts by which we may engage with a discourse that, in the different moments of history and context, has been changed by, or has changed, the ways in which we ‘read’ the play in performance. The criteria by which we approach these mediated forms of the play are not based on any essentialist sense of ‘value judgement’, but function more as exemplars of how our curiosity may be served in the quest for a fuller understanding of continually shifting values in art. While most of the productions listed below will be employed as reference points, those marked with an asterisk will be the subjects of a fuller discussion. Clearly, any discussion will have to give worthy attention to the matter of Shylock and how he has been represented, his daughter Jessica and occasionally his friend Tubal, who, while being a minor character, may play a significant role depending on how his relationship with Shylock is drawn. Moreover, no account of this play’s theatrical life can avoid a reference to the portrayal of Shylock as a comic figure.
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