In defining moments of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Shylock justifies his vengeance and Portia pleads with him to be merciful. Scholars, actors, audiences, and readers have debated Shakespeare's intentions. Is Shylock a villain because he insists on exacting a pound of flesh from the merchant who cannot pay his debt, or is Shylock a victim of a racist society? Is Portia as admirable as she sounds when defining the quality of mercy? What is Shakespeare's concept of justice? Is The Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic? While categorized as a comedy in the First Folio, this story of friendship, isolation, power, hatred, and love ultimately defies classification. In our OLLI sessions, we will address the drama's conflicts, contradictions, and ambiguities as well as our personal reactions to Shakespeare's controversial masterpiece. Through discussion, film, and exploration of monologues and scenes, we will experience the script in a variety of ways. Lecture (plus questions). Facilitated Discussion. Viewing Videos. Please note: For the best learning experience for everyone, please purchase the Folger Shakespeare Library (Simon and Schuster) paperback edition of the text.