The Merchant of Venice

Like many of Shakespeare’s plays, Shakespeare drew inspiration for The Merchant of Venice from sources and real events, in some cases ‘borrowing’ from aspects such as plot and characterisation. In the the case of The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare drew inspiration from:

  • Plot borrowed from Giovanni Fiorentino’s The Simpleton (1558)

  • Plot devices from Unknown Author’s Gesta Romanorum (1577)

  • Language borrowed from Anthony Munday’s Zelauto (1580)

  • Characterization from Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta (1589)

The basic plot outline with characters such as the merchant, the poor suitor, the fair lady, and the villainous Jew, were fairly common in traditional Italian Literature before he wrote it.

The Italian setting and marriage plot are similar to Shakespeare's earlier comedies.

Shakespeare knew very little about the Jewish people and lived in an environment which was anti-semitic due to ignorance

Shakespeare had a negative view on marriage, his own was supposed to be a shotgun marriage, and pushed on him due to getting his wife pregnant before marriage. This led to his despise of the thought of marriage