When Barbara Rader first invited me to do this casebook on The Merchant of Venice, I was not sure I could or should accept her kind invitation. Although I had written and edited many books, including conventional casebooks--collections of essays by modern critics--I had never done the kind of book she proposed, especially one for high school students and teachers. But the more I thought about it, the more I found the invitation appealing. High schools, after all, are where many more students study and learn than in colleges and universities, where I have spent all of my professional life. It seemed like an opportunity to make a real difference in the way students and their teachers approach Shakespeare's most controversial play.
Although I had done a scholarly edition of The Merchant of Venice in 1993, I found--as scholars inevitably do when they restudy one of Shakespeare's plays--that there was still a good deal more to learn. I am grateful to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, where most of the basic research was carried on, for once again affording me the use of their excellent resources and for the many kindnesses of their incomparable staff. I am grateful, too, to the University of Delaware for granting me a leave of absence to continue my research. Debts are also owed to Lynn Malloy, who succeeded Barbara Rader as managing editor for this