Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice

A Great Books Discussion Course

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Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice as Christian Comedy

A rare opportunity for rigorous, culturally-sensitive, non-sectarian engagement with one of the Bard’s most controversial plays.

Although modern interpretations of The Merchant of Venice often focus on the play’s characterization and treatment of the Jewish moneylender Shylock, both the play’s title and plot suggest that Shakespeare’s focus was on the Christian merchant Antonio.  Through a careful reading and discussion of Shakespeare’s play in conjunction with selections both from Christopher Marlowe’s roughly contemporaneous The Jew of Malta and from the New Testament, this course will explore Shakespeare’s exaltation of “graceful Christianity” in both the major and minor plot threads of one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays.





Adam Rose

Educated principally at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, Adam Rose is a teacher and scholar with over 20 years’ experience leading exceptionally effective, award-winning Great Books discussion courses in Western Classics for adult and undergraduate students of diverse ages and backgrounds. Mr. Rose’s teaching emphasizes the development of students’ cognitive skills (close reading, analytical thinking, careful listening, precise speaking and powerful writing) and critical empathy (viewpoint appreciation) as part of facilitating a multifaceted appreciation of the text(s) studied. Mr. Rose is the President and Education Director of Great Discourses.

Course #: 



  • 4 Weeks


  • 1 hr 45 min


  • Online


US$ 145


“Early Bird” reduced tuition (US$ 115) is available through September 10, 2017.

Section A(Course #: 170904A)

Sunday, 2:00 PM CT
Sep 24, 2017 to Oct 15, 2017

Course Documents

Please Note

General Information

Like all Great Discourses discussion courses, this live, interactive online discussion course is designed to facilitate the collaborative close readings of classics in ways that help participants transform the challenging into the exhilarating and elevating through “Aha!” moments of profound discovery. Participation requires an Internet-enabled computer or mobile device. The course is open to adults from all walks of life (and to mature teens with parental consent) and does not require any specialized prior knowledge or experience. Students do a modest amount of reading homework in preparation for each live online class session, but there are no papers, no tests and no grades. The readings and discussion are in English.


Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice (c 1597).
Recommended Edition: Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN: 978-0300115642.
View/Buy at: Amazon (US), Amazon (CA), Amazon (UK), Amazon (IN), Amazon (AU)

Please Note

You are responsible for obtaining your own copy of each book used in this discussion course. Most books are available in a number of editions, in both print and digital formats. All editions are acceptable unless otherwise noted, although print format texts are generally recommended. If you do choose to use a digital text, try to access it on a device other than the one you will using to connect to the online classroom.

Additional Readings

This course may have additional short readings that will be used during the first class session as well as during other class sessions. These will be available to you on the dedicated course page at the Great Discourses Collaboratory Online Course Center once you have completed your registration for this course.


To get the most out of this discussion course, you will have to do a modest amount of reading homework in between class sessions — usually about two hours of reading for each hour of class time. No homework is required before the first class session (although some technical and general preparation is required).

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What students are saying

I was struck and impressed by Adam Rose’s total “blankness”, if I could call it that. There was never any hint as to what his religious background is. I was immensely curious as to what, if any, belief system he brought to this class [Lost Books of the New Testament]. None was revealed. That is quite amazing!

Adam Rose is a great virtual teacher — voice, control, knowledge, timing, texts … all great.

In my humble opinion, Adam Rose is one of the better instructors I have ever encountered — that includes eight years of Jesuit education.

Adam Rose adds so much to the class. He is pulls people into discussion, has an expectation that each of us will do proper preparation, able to control potential hijackers, and leads us on a good journey when we are not able to get there on our own.