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About the Author

John Gross FRSL was an eminent English man of letters. A leading intellectual, writer, anthologist, and critic, The Guardian and The Spectator were among several publications to describe Gross as "the best-read man in Britain"


Amazingly, Shylock is in only five scenes in the Merchant of Venice . Yet, as pointed out by Gross, the theater critic for the London Sunday Telegraph , his impact and significance transcend his physical presence, so much so that his name and ``pound of flesh'' idea are almost universally known. In the first part of this character/cultural study, Gross examines the antecedents of Shylock and the play, and his development within the play. The second part considers ``interpretations'' both theatrical and literary in England and America until World War II; the third part considers Shylock more broadly as a touchstone (e.g., how his ``type'' is used by the Victorians--Trollope's Lopez, Dickens's Riah, Ruskin's use of him in Munera Pulveris ). There's not much new here--Shylock and Merchant of Venice have both consumed tons of interpretive ink--but the book is readable and puts a lot of sundry information in one place. For collections heavy in Shakespeariana and/or Judaica.-- Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.

Shylock, the villainous Jewish usurer of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, has elicited sharply divergent responses, as Gross reveals in this valuable, entertaining study. To John Ruskin, Shylock was the personification of rapacious capitalism. To psychoanalyst Theodore Reik, the Bard's moneylender was an oral-aggressive personality, his demand for a pound of flesh a symbolic circumcision of Antonio. Film director Ernst Lubitsch drew on the Shylock story in To Be or Not to Be (1942), a satirical attack on Nazism. English theater critic Gross discusses the prominent place of Shylock in anti-Semitic invective. Karl Marx, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Freud, Pushkin, actress Ellen Terry, T. S. Eliot and Henry James figure in a narrative that sheds new light on Shakespeare (whose moneylending father was hauled into court for usury), on anti-Semitism and on a literary figure who has assumed mythic proportions. (Apr.)

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