The Merchant of Venice

  • by William Shakespeare
  • Narrated by Antony Sher
  • 2 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, agrees to lend Antonio, a Venetian merchant, three thousand ducats so that his friend Bassanio can afford to court his love, Portia. However, Shylock has one condition: Should the loan go unpaid, he will be entitled to a pound of Antonio's own flesh.
Meanwhile in Belmont, according to the terms of her father's will, Portia's many suitors must choose correctly from three caskets. Bassanio arrives at Portia's estate and they declare their love for one another before he picks the correct casket. Antonio falls into bad fortune and finds he cannot repay Shylock: A dramatic trial ensues to decide his fate.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Bravo!

Fantastic, subtle sound effects, well cast, superbly acted, and, unlike the BBC version, it does not omit any lines - thus, we have a terrific audible rendition of Shakespeare's play.
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- M. W. Roberts

Great production, difficult play

It's very exciting to see the Naxos Shakespeare recordings appearing on Audible in the new enhanced format. If you can manage the extra space they take up, small enough in the grand scheme of things, the improvement in sound quality is well worth it. The crispness of the music and voices, and the stereo effects, come through particularly well in this recording.

That said, this is a tough play. Portia is probably the most appealing character in the bunch, but even she has a dark side: she is, after all, the main engine of Shylock's downfall. Anthony Sher gives a somber and dignified performance as Shylock: not necessarily a man more sinned against than sinning, but a man plenty sinned against.

Shakespeare, here as always, remains an unblinking observer of all sides of the moral equation. The Christians spit on Shylock, call him dog, do their best to make his business fail -- one of the only businesses that, by law, he was allowed to engage in. (It's an intriguing biographical footnote that Shakespeare's own father was brought up at one point on charges of usury.)

Shylock is no passive victim: he fights back with the one tool left him, the commitment of Venice to the rule of law. On the other hand, the awful judgement meted out to him at the end of the trial scene -- an economic straitjacket and a forced conversion -- is allowed to stand: I've seen the play done where Shylock is played as a stereotypical Jewish villain who gets a well-earned comeuppance. The attempts of many recent productions to build sympathy for Shylock are supported but are not required by the text itself. However nuanced the production -- and this one is finely nuanced -- this ambiguity about its sympathies makes it a very hard play to digest.

In other words, thought-provoking, unsettling, and worth every minute.
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- Tad Davis

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-30-2008
  • Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks