A history of twentieth‐century censorship. Shakespeare's company staged the first production of The Merchant of Venice sometime between 30 July 1596 and 22 July 1598. From the day of that presentation, it is probable that the play has annoyed, perhaps even offended, many who have seen or read it, the source of the offense being the disparaging portrait of a major character, Shylock. On the stage for many years, there have been radically discrepant interpretations of the Jewish usurer. Since the day of Sir Henry Irving, actors and directors have often chosen to present Shylock in a way that transforms the role from that which Elizabethan playgoers may have seen and heard, or may have thought they had seen and heard, to the complex, ambivalent personality depicted in all productions since Irving first projected Shylock as a tragic hero.
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