The Merchant of Venice 1596


First official record
: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 22 July 1598
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1598 as The most excellent historie of the merchant of Venice. With the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Jewe towards the sayd merchant, in cutting a just pound of his flesh: and the obtayning of Portia by the choyse of three chests
First recorded performance: the play was performed at court for King James on 10 February 1605.
Evidence: The play was obviously in existence by 1598, however, other evidence places its date of composition as earlier, probably 1596. Shakespeare's source for the casket
subplot is believed to have been Richard Robinson's translation of the Gesta romanorum, which wasn't published until late 1595. 
The play shows the influence of Miles Mosse's tract The Arraignment and Conviction of Usury published in 1595
Salarino's reference to "my wealthy Andrew docked in sand" is thought to refer to the San AndrĂ©as, a Spanish merchant vessel that ran aground in Essex in June 1596. It is also thought by scholars that the play was written to capitalise on the enormous success of Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta.

ACT I

SCENE I. Venice. A street.

Enter ANTONIO, SALARINO, and SALANIO
ANTONIO
In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn;
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.
Full text of play