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I think you can find much to assist you in helping you gain some more insight into Shakespeare's work. The first source I would examine is the enotes summary of the play: http://www.enotes.com/merchant-of-venice
I believe that this will be helpful for you because it will give you a good base from which to work in terms of analyzing the play and your reading of it. Use them together, and greater understanding will result. You will find many different reads on the play, itself. If you go to the enotes discussion area on the play, you will find questions that talk about how the play is a good example of Marxist thought, and you can survey those interpretations of the play. Additionally, you can go on the web and examine how other people analyze the play. One analysis of the play is that it is anti- Semitic, meaning its depiction of treatment of Shylock demeans people of the Jewish faith. I have included some sites here to assist you with this reading of it. Going to this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Merchant_of_Venice will also help you gain a better understanding of how people have traditionally viewed this play as an example of Anti- Semitism and how people have taken the opposite view. Namely, Shakespeare was pointing out how Anti- Semitic Elizabethian society was and how it needed to stop. Additionally, you can find analysis of the play that suggests some of the propensities of love on the parts of the characters and how Shakespeare might have been suggesting that the play is an example of unrequited and lost love. I have given three sites to assist, but you can examine other sources to read different interpretations of the play.
In the final analysis, reading the play for yourself and then comparing it to the different analyses that others have on it will allow you to develop a greater appreciation for it.
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