Professor Richard Weisberg wrote of The Merchant of Venice, “[p]erhaps no text except the Bible and the United States Constitution has so implicated audiences in fierce straggles for dominance and control.” The remark's seeming hyperbole diminishes when one considers the controversy that surrounds nearly every production, with one New York school district going so far as to remove the text from its curriculum as a consequence of debate over the showing of the BBC's 1981 production of the play to students. It is no different when one turns to the legal scholarship though, arguably, it is the legal Academy's general silence regarding the play that most soundly articulates its rejection of it. It is a silence that cannot be ignored given Merchant's centrality to matters of law. And indeed, when legal theorists do turn their attention to the play, once again it spurs contentious debate.
Though most literary critics agree that the play is thematically rich, presenting a “parade of binaries,” for legal scholars the primary tension is between law and mercy and how, or whether, justice unifies that tension within itself. This question has generated widespread and vehement debate among legal scholars. It is the same with the literary criticism.