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The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. The title character is the merchant Antonio, not the moneylender Shylock, who is the play's most prominent and most famous character. William Shakespeare (circa 1564 - 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.