“All that glisters is not gold.” ~The Merchant of Venice #

Spring is Shakespeare time here at Brave Writer, and we continue to follow our tradition of offering the study of a different aspect of Shakespeare's work each spring. In the past, we have studied Shakespeare's Sonnets and Soliloquies as well as the plays Much Ado about Nothing, Hamlet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and Romeo & Juliet. This spring we will be delving into the world of the Shakespearean “problem comedies” with an up-close-and-personal study of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.  

Students who have previously taken our Literary Analysis courses of Shakespeare’s plays will find much new and interesting material in this course centered on perhaps Shakespeare’s most controversial character, the Jewish moneylender Shylock, along with the beautiful, virtuous, and extremely intelligent Lady Portia and the beleaguered Venetian merchant Antonio. Throw in the clown, Launcelot Gobbo, a confusing courtship ritual involving the choice among three caskets, several romantic relationships, and the most famous trial in all Shakespeare, and we’ll have tons to discuss this spring!

In this course intended for students working at the high school level, Susanne Barrett, MA in English and former university instructor, will lead the class in reviewing the pertinent facts about Shakespeare’s life and times, the Elizabethan theater scene, the language of Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, and the background sources of Merchant of Venice. Then we will read and discuss the play act by act, pondering plot, characters, motifs and themes, use of language, and symbolism. Many resource links will be provided, including audio and film versions of the play. 

We'll close the class with a 500-1000 word Final Writing Project on one of four possible topics: 1) a poem/letter written from one character to another; 2) a formal review of a live or film performance of Merchant of Venice; 3) a formal comparison/contrast essay on two characters in the play; or 4) an exploratory essay on one of the themes of the play. All in all, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice will be an enjoyable challenge for students working at the high school level. 

Recommended versions of the play (with original and modern texts on facing pages): 

Shakespeare Made Easy: The Merchant of Venice by Barron’s (affiliate link)

No Fear Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice by SparkNotes (affiliate link)

“The quality of mercy is not strained, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:  It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” 

                  ~Portia in the Merchant of Venice: Act IV, Scene i

For more information about how the classes are run, please read about online classes.

Class Structure Description #

Brave Writer online classes are specially designed with the busy homeschooling parent in mind. Classes last anywhere from four to six weeks. We offer courses that address a specific writing need so that you can take the ones that suit your family throughout the school year. Short class sessions enable you to work around family vacations, out-of-town swim meets, recovering from wisdom teeth removal, and visits from grandparents. We operate on the quarter system, including a summer session. Our most popular classes repeat each quarter, while others are seasonal.

Our classes meet in a customized online classroom, designed specifically to meet the needs of Brave Writer. Only registered students and the instructor have access to the classroom to ensure your privacy. Assignments and reading materials are posted by Brave Writer instructors each week (no additional supply fees necessary, unless otherwise indicated). Either you (homeschooling parent) or your child (homeschooling student) will visit the classroom daily at your convenience to read helpful information about the current topic or to find the writing assignment. We operate "asynchronously" (which means that the discussion is not live, but that posted information remains available to you in your time zone at your convenience). Instructors check the classroom throughout the day to answer questions and give feedback on writing.

Writing is done at home and then typed into the classroom, and shared with both the instructor and other classmates. You're not required to be online at any specific time of the day. We have students from all over the world participating in our classes so "live" discussion is impossible. Instead, the online classroom enables the instructor to post information and assignments when it is convenient to the instructor. Then, when it is convenient for you, you come to the classroom and read the latest postings.

Instructor feedback to student writing is offered for all participants to read. Writing questions are welcomed and encouraged! That's the point of class. We aim to give you immediate support as you face writing obstacles.

Brave Writer takes seriously the need for encouragement and emotional safety in writing. No student is ever at risk of being humiliated or mistreated. All online dialog is respectful and supportive of your child's process. This is the core of Brave Writer philosophy. You can read about Brave Writer values here.

What makes our program especially unique in the world of online education is that we value a corporate experience. Rather than teaching your child in a tutorial format, we prefer students to have the opportunity to both publish their work for an audience (other students) and also to have the chance to read other student writing. In no other setting is this possible. Schools-in-buildings rarely have students read each other's work. Homeschooled children are rarely in a classroom environment to begin with, so the opportunity to read peer-writing is nil.

Our classes provide an utterly unique experience in the world of writing instruction. Since most writers grow through emulation of good writing, it is a real advantage to Brave Writer kids to get the chance to read the writing of their fellow home-educated peers. They love it! They get to examine and internalize other ways of writing, analyzing and expressing ideas similar to their own. They have the chance to validate and cheer on their peers. And of course, the best part of all is that they receive the praise and affirmation of kids just like them.

Not only that, all instructor feedback is posted to the classroom for all students to read. That means your kids get the benefit of instructor comments on many papers, not just their own. We've noted that this style of instruction is especially effective and hope you'll test it and agree!

Click here to login to a sample classroom.