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    ''The quality of mercy is not strain''d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven'' Bassiano, a noble Venetian, hopes to woo the beautiful heiress Portia. However, he requires financial assistance from his friend Antonio. Antonio agrees, but he, in turn, must borrow from the Jewish moneylender Shylock. As recourse for past ills, Shylock stipulates that the forfeit on the loan must be a pound of Antonio''s flesh. In the most renowned onstage law scene of all time, Portia proves herself one of Shakespeare''s most cunning heroines, disguising herself as a lawyer and vanquishing Shylock''s claims; meanwhile, Shylock triumphs on a humanitarian level with his plea for tolerance: ''Hath not a Jew eyes?'' Viewed paradoxically as anti-Semitic, while at the same time powerfully liberal for its time, The Merchant of Venice is at its core a bittersweet drama, exploring the noble themes of prejudice, justice and honour.

  • In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter for five guineas at a country fair. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a personality.

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    ''When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books; for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved, and the heart.'' Set in 16th-Century England and following the lives of two young boys, The Prince and the Pauper is a classic and timeless tale. Tom Canty, the lowly pauper is almost identical in appearance to Edward Tudor, a prince. Unbeknownst to those around them, the boys strike up an unlikely friendship and soon realise that with their similar looks they could easily pass for one another.
    When the Prince''s father dies, some of the more underhand court officials persuade the pauper to act as the Prince in order to reap the benefits of the ''mistake'' and there follows a tale of friendship and growing up in one of Mark Twain''s most infamous works.