A deeply misunderstood play because of its complexities. The key to understanding the play is that Shakespeare has created and blended into one play two totally different plays. There is the Comedy in which Shylock is the comedic villain and the tragedy in which he is the doomed hero. Both plays are seamlessly combined together and it is the inability that people have in seeing this that leads to all the confusion of what the play is about. The two plays interact with each other in complex ways, and the beauty of the play emerges out of these complexities.
Shakespeare at close to his most experimental and powerful.