Relationship Dynamics in The Merchant of Venice | readwithamy
(vi) What type of contemporary relationship among England, Scotland and France is reflected To introduce Bassanio, Nerissa recalls the visit ofa young Venetian along (b) set a deep glass Clpes which forbade him dining WIth Christians. This scene establishes the close relationship between Antonio and Bassanio and Portia and Nerissa look out at the suitors who have lined up to test their luck. in his disgust at dining with his neighbors, Shylock demonstrates his lack of. The character of Shylock is so large and the themes of prejudice and justice Shakespeare's examination of families and the relationships between father and child. of Saxony's nephew” as a marital prospect, Portia asks Nerissa: “For fear of . Sample Itineraries · Directions · Lodging/dining · Transportation · Sightseeing.
Lorenzo, Jessica and Salerio arrive from Venice with a letter for Bassanio from Antonio, in which he explains that he is ruined and Shylock is determined to exact his revenge by demanding his pound of flesh according to the bond. She suggests that they settle with Shylock, even if that means paying him twenty time the value of the bond. Bassanio leaves for Venice but vows to return with all speed.
Shylock demands justice Act 4 Scene 1 The Duke presides over the courtroom in Venice, where Shylock demands the penalty from Antonio for defaulting on the bond. Shylock resolutely demands justice according Venetian law. The Duke has sent for Bellario, a legal expert from Padua, but learns from a letter that he is ill so has sent a young man, Balthasar, in his place.
Portia, disguised as Balthasar, enters the courtroom accompanied by her clerk Nerissa in disguise. Bassanio bids farewell to Antonio, who is told to prepare himself for the penalty.
John Barton 1978 and 1981 productions
Outwitted, Shylock prepares to leave the courtroom but is called back to face the penalty for threatening the life of a Venetian citizen. He will be executed and all his goods will be divided between Antonio and the state and unless he asks the Duke for mercy.
Shylock agrees and leaves the courtroom. Bassanio explains that he promised his wife never to part with the ring but Antonio urges him to hand it over, so reluctantly he gives it to Gratiano to deliver to Balthasar. A messenger arrives to tell them that Portia and Nerissa will be with them presently. Lancelet Gobbo informs them that Bassano and Gratiano will also be home soon. Lorenzo orders music and light to welcome back his friends. When Portia and Nerissa arrive, Lorenzo and Jessica promise not to mention their absence.
Bassanio, Gratiano and Antonio arrive and are welcomed by Portia. Gratiano also reveals that Bassanio gave his ring to Balthasar. Both husbands are accused of giving their rings to other women. Portia and Nerissa give the rings back to their husbands and explain the deception, producing a letter from Bellario and another for Antonio with the good news that three of his ships have safely reached harbour. Antonio replies that he would do anything for Bassanio. However, all Antonio's money is tied up in his ships.
He gives Bassanio a signed slip of paper and tells him to go out and see if he can gain credit in Antonio's name. This scene establishes the close relationship between Antonio and Bassanio and also sets up the events that will occur as a consequence of Antonio's and Bassanio's actions. Act 1, Scene 2 Scene 2 is set in Belmont, where Portia lives. Here the audience hears Portia complaining about her father's will that commands her to stand passively by, watching suitors try to win her by guessing which out of three chests contains her picture.
She feels helpless, unable to choose her own husband and unable to deny a suitor to whom she is not attracted. Portia's servant maid, Nerissa, teases Portia, telling her that the whole world should have the problems of Portia—a woman who does not want for any material goods. Nerissa also reminds Portia that Portia's father was a wise and virtuous man and must have known what he was doing. By having suitors challenged by the test, her father knew that the one who figured the puzzle out would be the man best suited for his daughter and would provide Portia with a man she could truly love.
Portia and Nerissa look out at the suitors who have lined up to test their luck. The two women privately judge them by their appearances and manners and make fun of them. Then Nerissa remembers a handsome man who once visited Portia's father at Belmont and asks Portia if she remembers the man called Bassanio. Portia does recall Bassanio as having been very attractive and intelligent.
Nerissa states that of all the men who have come to Belmont, she believes Bassanio is the most deserving of Portia. Bassanio mentions Antonio's name when he asks to borrow money. Shylock tells Bassanio that he is well acquainted with Antonio and knows Antonio is a good businessman. Shylock also mentions that shipping can be a tricky business because a ship can go down in a storm. However, he suggests that he is willing to consider the loan. Bassanio asks Shylock to dine with him and Antonio, but Shylock points out the disparity between Christians and Jews.
Shylock tells Bassanio that he will walk, talk, sell, and buy with them, but he will not eat or pray with him. Antonio enters the scene. In an aside as if Shylock is talking to himself or directly to the audienceShylock states that he hates Antonio because he is a Christian. Then Shylock discusses the interest rate that he will charge, how long he will hold the loan, and other terms of lending money.
Shylock chides Antonio, reminding him that Antonio used to say he would neither lend nor borrow money. Shylock also reminds Antonio how he has, in the past, insulted Shylock in the Rialto, the meeting place of businessmen in Venice. Antonio, in the past, has called Shylock names and has also spit on him. Shylock finds humor in the fact that Antonio must now come to him to borrow money.
Antonio makes it clear to Shylock that this loan in no way should be interpreted that he wants to be friends with Shylock. He tells Shylock that it is best that they remain enemies. Then, if Antonio should fail to pay back the loan, Shylock can gain great happiness in the forfeiture.
Shylock pretends to be offended by this. He mockingly tells Antonio that to prove he lends this money to Antonio in friendship, he will not charge him any interest. Instead, Shylock will write up a bond that Antonio must sign, a contract that states if Antonio does not pay the money back in three months, Shylock can take his payment in the form of one pound of Antonio's flesh from any part of Antonio's body that Shylock determines. He does not want this heavy weight on his conscious and tells Antonio not to sign the contract.
Antonio waves Bassanio off. Antonio is sure that he will have ten-fold the money he owes Shylock in three months. Shylock again contends that he loans this money in friendship. What profit would he gain from a pound of flesh, he asks Antonio?
Act 2, Scene 1 Back at Belmont, Morocco, a king from northern Africa, arrives to try his hand at solving the puzzle of the chests. Launcelot meets with his old father, whom he has not seen in many years and asks him to go with him to Bassanio's.
There, the father offers some of his wares to Bassanio, enticing him to hire his son. Bassanio agrees to do so.
He is a friend of Bassanio's. Gratiano begs Bassanio to take him to Belmont. Antonio tells Gratiano that he is too wild, rude, and bold. Bassanio, who enjoys Gratiano at Venice's parties, is concerned that Gratiano will not make a good impression on Portia in Belmont. Gratiano promises to behave; and Bassanio agrees to take Gratiano with him.
But before the servant leaves, Jessica asks him to deliver a letter to Lorenzo, a friend of Bassanio's. Later, while Jessica is thinking out loud, she claims that if Lorenzo truly loves her and comes for her, she will become a Christian.
Act 2, Scene 4 Lorenzo and Gratiano plan a small entertaining skit and a party for Bassanio that night. But when Launcelot delivers Jessica's letter, small revisions in their plans must be made. Lorenzo and Gratiano plan how they will go into the Jewish quarters that night and steal away Jessica from her father. Shylock agrees, this time. Before Shylock leaves, he tells Jessica to stay away from the windows and to lock the doors.
Launcelot whispers to Jessica that she should look out for a masked Christian who will come calling for her. Act 2, Scene 6 Gratiano and Salerio arrive at Shylock's house later that evening.
They wait for Lorenzo to appear. Lorenzo calls out for Jessica, who is dressed like a boy. She goes with Lorenzo, stealing a large portion of her father's money as a dowry. The two young people profess their love for one another. He must choose one chest among three. The first chest is made of gold. It has a note attached to it that reads: Then he chooses the gold chest, the only chest worthy of Portia's beauty, he assumes. However, Morocco has chosen the wrong one.
The audience learns that Bassanio has set sail for Belmont and has taken Gratiano with him. Shylock has discovered that Jessica is missing. He went to the duke to try to have Bassanio's shipped searched. Antonio swears to the duke that Jessica is not with Bassanio. Solanio then states that he heard Shylock wailing in a very strange way in the streets that night.
First Shylock cried for his daughter; then he cried for the loss of his money. Shylock moans that if he finds his daughter, he is sure he will also find his money. Salerio says that he heard a rumor that a ship from Venice has capsized. He hopes it is not one of Antonio's.
He chooses the silver chest; and he chooses wrong. Shylock is still lost in his misery of having lost his money and his daughter. He is seen wandering around, asking Solanio and Salerio if they knew Jessica was planning her escape or if they had seen her in the town.
They are able to tell him nothing. They do mention, though, that one of Antonio's ships has gone down and wonder if Shylock knows this.
Saleria, who is worried about Antonio, asks what good a pound of flesh would be to Shylock. He says Antonio has laughed at him, mocked him, and spit on him. It is at this point that Shylock makes his famous speech, noted by some as one of the more impelling speeches against prejudice ever written.
Shylock begins with the statement that Antonio has done all these hateful things against him merely because Shylock is a Jew. Hath not a Jew hands? He uses his speech, however, to also justify his own revenge against Antonio because Shylock is doing only what has been done to him.
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- The other couples in the story…
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He has learned about revenge, he claims, from the Christians. Tubal, a friend of Shylock's, then appears. He tells Shylock that he has heard news of Jessica. She has been spending a lot of money. Tubal also tells Shylock that Antonio has lost another ship.
Then Tubal switches back to the topic of Jessica. She has sold a family ring in order to buy a monkey. Then he talks of Antonio again, pushing Shylock back and forth emotionally, from feeling sad about his daughter to feeling glad that Antonio is failing. Tubal assures Shylock that Antonio is sure to fail. Shylock tells Tubal that if Antonio cannot pay back the loan on time, he plans to take Antonio's heart, the pound of flesh, in payment.
Act 3, Scene 2 In Belmont, Bassanio arrives. Portia sees him and debates in her mind whether she should help him choose the correct chest. She knows she cannot really do this without breaking her vow to her father, but she wishes that she could. Bassanio and Portia talk, hinting at one another's love. Portia tells Bassanio that she is locked inside one of the chests.
As Bassanio stands in front of the chests, he thinks out loud, trying to figure out the scheme behind the notes accompanying each one. Then, as he stands in front of the lead chest, he claims: He finds a picture of Portia inside. Bassanio and Portia celebrate. In the midst of this, Gratiano and Nerissa announce that they too want to be married. A messenger from Venice arrives with a letter for Bassanio from Antonio. Portia notices the changes in Bassanio's expression and wants to know the news.
Bassanio confesses that he came to Portia not only a man without money, but a man who is in debt. He owes everything to Antonio. And now Antonio is in jail and must pay off that debt with his flesh. Portia says the amount of money is small. She will double it and give it to Shylock.
Jessica warns them that her father has sworn that if Antonio, himself, does not pay back the money, he will have Antonio's flesh. Portia believes she can solve this problem, but first she wants to become Bassanio's wife. Act 3, Scene 3 Antonio is in prison. Shylock insists on having Antonio's flesh, no matter how much Antonio and his friends beg for mercy. When Shylock refuses, Antonio is resigned to his death. He knows that Shylock has the law on his side.
There is nothing anyone can do. Antonio signed the bond, which is binding. Act 3, Scene 4 Lorenzo praises Portia for coming to the aid of Antonio.
Portia tells him that if Antonio is Bassanio's friend, then he must be as good as Bassanio and is worth anything she can do. She tells Lorenzo that he must look after her estate as she and Nerissa are going to a monastery to pray until this ordeal is over. Portia then turns to a servant and gives him a letter to take to Padua to her cousin Doctor Bellario. Then he is to bring the things that Bellario will give him and deliver them to Portia in Venice.
Portia tells Nerissa that their husbands will see them sooner than they think but they will not recognize them because the wives will be disguised as men.
Act 3, Scene 5 Launcelot teases Jessica that she is like her father but then says maybe Shylock is not really Jessica's father.
Jessica comes back by saying that would be no better, since that would make her tainted by the sins of her mother. Jessica then says that she is not concerned about her relationship to Shylock because by marrying Lorenzo, a Christian, she has been saved. Lorenzo comes in and upon finding out what they have been talking about, Lorenzo further develops the topic of racism, chiding Launcelot that the black servant he has been sleeping with is pregnant with Launcelot's baby.
Act 4, Scenes In the courtroom in Venice, Antonio is brought in. The crowd, which now includes Bassanio and Gratiano, jeers when Shylock appears and when he denies Antonio any mercy. Even when Bassanio presents a chest filled with money, Shylock says that Bassanio could have brought multiple chests similar to the one there and he still would refuse to release Antonio from the bond.
Shylock wants his pound of flesh and will not settle for anything less. He points out to the court that this is his legal right. The court tries to persuade him, asking for mercy. Shylock absolutely will not give in Antonio finally tells everyone that it is senseless to try to reason with "the Jew. The duke asks how Shylock could ever hope for mercy from the court if he is unwilling to provide mercy to Antonio.
Shylock claims he has done no wrong, so why should he worry about the court granting him any mercy. Shylock then points out that there are people in the courtroom who own slaves. He asks if he should tell them to let the slaves go. If he does, Shylock claims, the owners would say that the slaves are theirs.
So too does Shylock say that Antonio is his. Bellario to the duke, telling the duke that he is ill but in his place, he has sent two young men which is in fact Portia, disguised and referred to as Balthazar, and Nerissa. Bassanio and Gratiano call Shylock a dog, a devil, and other names.
Portia continues to dicker with Shylock, offering him three times what is owed him. Shylock refuses all offers. Antonio prepares to die. He says good-bye to Bassanio. Bassanio tells Antonio that nothing is greater than Antonio's life, not his own life, his new wife, or anything in the whole world.
Portia hears this and comments: He proceeds; but Portia suddenly stops him. She says that he is lawful in taking the pound of flesh, but if he extracts one drop of blood in the process it will be considered a crime.
Shylock abruptly changes his mind. He tells the court that he will now take thrice the amount of the contract and will let Antonio go. Portia denies him this. All he is entitled to is the pound of flesh. Shylock then turns to leave, but Portia tells him to stay. She says the court will take everything from him.
Antonio protests, telling the court that he will take half of what Shylock has, but the other half should go to Lorenzo and Jessica upon Shylock's death. In the meantime, Shylock must give up his faith and become a Christian. Bassanio and Gratiano approach Portia and Nerissa, still in disguise and ask what payment they might request for their having saved the life of Antonio.
Portia says she needs nothing, except for the ring on Bassanio's finger. It is the ring that Portia gave to Bassanio before they were wed, telling him that if he ever takes it off his finger, it would mean that his love for her has ended.
Bassanio gives the young lawyer the ring. In this way, Portia appears to test Bassanio's love for her. Some critics believe that there is a tug of war going on between Antonio and Portia to see whom Bassanio loves more. Portia intends to teach Bassanio a lesson. Acting as if Portia's shadow, Nerissa also asks for Gratiano's ring and receives it. Act 5, Scene 1 Back in Belmont, Portia welcomes her husband and shortly after, asks to see his ring. When he cannot produce it, Portia brings the ring forth, confessing that she was the young lawyer.
She berates Bassanio for having given it away. He promises never to do that again. Nerissa does the same to Gratiano. Some critics have complained that the rest of this act is used to merely tie up loose ends, especially the part in which Antonio finds out through a letter, which Portia mysteriously produces, that all of Antonio's ships are safe. He owns several ships that travel all over the world. Antonio's best friend is Bassanio. Antonio's situation is that he would do almost anything for Bassanio, but in the beginning of the play, when Bassanio asks for a loan, Antonio is short of cash.
Bassanio, who has been frivolous with his money in the past, promises that he has a plan that will allow him to pay back Antonio everything he owes him.
Because of his love of his friend, Antonio seems unable to refuse him. Since Antonio has no cash, he does the next best thing, he offers his credit to Bassanio. Whether Bassanio knows it or not, he ends up borrowing money from a man Antonio detests, Shylock. Antonio, who is a proud and confident man when it comes to money, signs a bond authorizing Bassanio to borrow 3, ducats gold coins from Shylock.
The bond with Shylock states that Antonio will owe no interest; but in its place, Antonio must give Shylock a pound of his flesh if he cannot pay the debt back in the stipulated time period. Antonio barely squirms, so sure is he of having triple that amount in three months. He signs the agreement without a shrug. The play is set in Venice, but it is set in the s rather than the s. It is available on video. Goodman's Shylock is said to be a soft-spoken and less spiteful version of this character.
Containing beautiful photography and great acting performances, this version is available on DVD. Antonio's emotions lie elsewhere—not in business dealings. In the first lines of the play, Antonio admits to sadness. It appears that he does not know the reason for this sadness. It is possible, he says, that it is his fate to be melancholy. People around him find no reason for Antonio to be depressed. He is one of the most successful businessmen in the city.
If it is not money, then it must be a lack of love or maybe it is too much love. The curious circumstances surrounding Antonio's melancholy at the beginning of the play have generated some debate among critics. Some commentators interpret the merchant's sadness as an indication of his inability to reconcile the accumulation of wealth with his Christian faith; others read Antonio's sorrow as a manifestation of his unconscious homosexual love for Bassanio.
In some productions of this play, Antonio appears to be in love with Bassanio, not necessarily in a sexual way, but nonetheless he is very affected by Bassanio. He feels a strong friendship and bond with Antonio. He will do anything for him. Toward the end of the play, Portia questions just how deep that love is between Bassanio and Antonio, and whether it might be threatening to her love affair with Bassanio. There is no specific reason given for Antonio's sadness, unless one might read into the play that he could sense the impending fate that would fall upon him, the threat against his life.
Of all the characters in the play, Antonio is the most outspoken in terms of his hatred of Jews. He is disgusted at the thought of Shylock, calls Shylock names, and continually makes prejudicial statements about him. To some degree, due to Antonio's hatred, audiences might be persuaded to accept, or at least understand, Shylock's lack of mercy toward the man. Critics generally agree that while the merchant Antonio is generally overshadowed by both Shylock and Portia, he nonetheless remains crucial to the interweaving of the Belmont and Venice plots.
Commentators note that while Antonio is depicted as the consummate Christian because of his humility and charity, his treatment of Shylock conforms to conventional attitudes toward Jews rather than the unconditional love advocated in the New Testament. Is Antonio a hypocrite? Or is he a man fashioned by his times? These are some of the questions that are raised by this play in reference to Antonio. Balthazar Balthazar is one of Portia's servants. However, when Portia goes to Venice, this is the name she uses when she is disguised as a young lawyer in the courtroom—the young lawyer who eventually saves Antonio's life.
Bassanio Bassanio is a Venetian gentleman and Antonio's close friend. He borrows money from Shylock and therefore commits Antonio, who signs the bond, to a loan with a heavy payment should Antonio forfeit payment. Bassanio appears young and irresponsible in the beginning of the play, spending money without much care on meaningless things like parties, and then borrowing more. However, once Bassanio solves the riddle of the caskets by choosing the lead chest and thus winning Portia for his bride, Bassanio seems to take a turn toward maturity.
He realizes the heavy cost of his frivolity of the past, putting Antonio's life on the line, and does his best to try to save his friend. However, Bassanio makes one more mistake when he gives his ring to Balthazar after the trial, failing to live up to his promise to his wife. By the end of the play, however, there appears to be hope that Bassanio has learned his lesson and has matured. Shakespeare invented Bassanio by exploiting a popular dramatic convention of the time in which a hero of a play wins the hand of a maiden by solving a perplexing riddle.
Because of the significance Bassanio places on Portia's wealth early in the play, his character has been interpreted in two conflicting ways. Some commentators maintain that Bassanio is a scheming opportunist, drawn only to Portia's wealth and position. By contrast, others view the character as a portrait of the ideal Elizabethan lover, arguing that Shakespeare's audience probably considered Bassanio's actions perfectly acceptable.
Women of that time were supposed to offer their husbands a dowry. Bassanio merely follows with the fashion of the day. Launcelot Gobbo Launcelot was, at one time, Shylock's servant.
He convinces Bassanio to employ him because Shylock does not treat him well. Shakespeare uses Launcelot in this play mostly as comic relief. Launcelot is witty at times, but quickly dismissed when not needed, which is for most of the play. Gratiano Gratiano is a Venetian gentleman and a companion of Bassanio's. He is mostly a party boy, and is less practical than Bassanio.
He follows Bassanio around, mimicking many of Bassanio's moves, such as marrying Nerissa, Portia's handmaiden, in a double wedding with Bassanio and Portia. Gratiano also gives away the ring that Nerissa has given him, thus further mirroring Bassanio.
Whereas, at the end, Bassanio seems to have matured, Gratiano ends his appearance on the stage with a crude joke, exhibiting his attachment to—and reluctance to give up—his youth. Jessica Jessica is Shylock's daughter. She elopes with Lorenzo, stealing a portion of her father's wealth for her dowry.
She leaves her home without noticeable regret, portraying her father as the enemy. She feels she is saved from her father's reputation because she has married a Christian, as if this has absolved her from some nonexistent crime, that of being a Jew. Her role is a minor one, used mostly to further deepen the hatred of Shylock that is exposed elsewhere. Lorenzo Lorenzo is Antonio and Bassanio's friend.
He falls in love and elopes with Jessica. His role is used to set up another facet of the relationship between Christians and Jews. His Christianity is seen as a way for Jessica to cleanse her soul from being a Jew, at least that is what Jessica believes.
She is saved because she will now become a Christian. This reflects the sentiment in Elizabethan England. Queen Elizabeth I was willing to kill anyone who professed a faith other than that of the Protestant Church of England. People, in that time, were truly saved when they either converted to Christianity or at least pretended to.
Nerissa Portia's lady-in-waiting, Nerissa marries Gratiano and later accompanies Portia to Venice disguised as a law clerk Nerissa's character is not fully developed. She appears to be in this play mostly to help Portia reflect on her thoughts. Nerissa, if she acts on her own, merely mimics what Portia does. Portia Portia is a rich heiress living in Belmont. She marries Bassanio, who successfully passes the casket test.
Determined to help her husband save Antonio from Shylock's bond, Portia travels to Venice disguised as a lawyer named Balthazar to represent the merchant at the trial. Many commentators assert that Portia is one of Shakespeare's finest dramatic creations. Highly intelligent and resourceful, she is viewed as a paragon of femininity, with much more complexity of character than the fairy-tale princesses found in the literary sources available to the playwright.
Some critics view Portia as an initially disruptive force in the play because, as an unmarried and wealthy young woman, she poses a threat to the male-dominated Elizabethan worldview—her situation is similar to the unmarried Queen Elizabeth I 's problem.
This dramatic tension is relieved, however, when Portia conforms to societal conventions through her marriage to Bassanio. On a more symbolic level, Portia represents the influence of Christian mercy and forgiveness. Perhaps the two most notable instances of Portia's benevolence occur when she attempts to persuade Shylock to have compassion on Antonio during the trial scene, and when she pardons Bassanio for forfeiting her ring. Prince of Arragon A suitor to Portia, he incorrectly selects the silver box during the casket test.
Prince of Morocco A suitor to Portia, he incorrectly chooses the golden box during the casket test. Shylock Shylock is a Jewish moneylender living in Venice. He is also Jessica's father. He loans Bassanio 3, ducats on Antonio's behalf, stipulating that he will take a pound of Antonio's flesh if the sum is not repaid on time. Shylock suffers a lot of abuse in this play, representing the treatment of Jews in Venice during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Although Venice was a fairly religious-tolerant city, Jews were still not considered equal to Christian citizens. This play clearly demonstrates the demeaning attitudes toward Jews through the attitudes and actions of Antonio. This is not to say that Shylock is a virtuous man who suffers without any cause. For example, when Jessica runs away, it is unclear if Shylock misses her or merely misses his money. In anger, he also says that he would see his daughter dead. In addition, Shylock does not hide his hatred of Antonio.
But despite his poor treatment at Antonio's hands, it is hard to forgive Shylock for wanting to kill Antonio merely because he was late in paying his loan. Of course, this is not the only reason for his anger. It is merely an excuse for Shylock to get his revenge for the abuse that Antonio has given him in the past.
The Merchant of Venice is often considered to be Shylock's play, for the reading of his character generally influences the interpretation of the drama as a whole. If Shylock is perceived as a comic villain, with all the stock characteristics associated with such a role, then he receives his due in the trial scene, and the work is truly a comedy. However, if Shylock is seen as the hero of the drama, then his humiliation indicates that the work is a tragedy.
Both views can be argued based on the ambiguous content of the play. Numerous commentators have discussed the extent to which Shakespeare was influenced by the anti-Semitic sentiment of his day. While it might be true that the playwright began writing his play with the stereotypical Elizabethan conception of a Jewish usurer in mind—a figure that was quite common in drama at that time—Shakespeare created in Shylock a complex and memorable figure who defies those conventional attributes and who overshadows the rest of the work.
By giving Shylock sympathetic human traits—most notably his feelings of persecution at the hands of the Venetians—Shakespeare raises the question of whether Shylock's villainous behavior toward Antonio is purely malicious, or whether his actions reflect the desperate attempts of an outsider attempting to secure justice and revenge against the enemies who have wronged him THEMES Economics Economics is a prime concern in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, and critical perspectives often treat the play as a clash between emerging mercantile sensibilities of the times and religious traditions.
During Shakespeare's era, usury lending money for interest grew to be an accepted business practice as profits became increasingly more important than religious principles.
Usury was one of the few ways that Jews were allowed to make a living in Elizabethan England. Pressure was mounted on this profession when Christian moneylenders lent funds without charging interest. This made it more difficult for Jewish people to make a profit. The rivalry between Antonio and Shylock, in this play, is often viewed as an example of two conflicting business ethics. Although Shylock represents usury as a pragmatic and legitimate business practice, Antonio embodies a more idealistic perspective of the practice of lending money.
Following Christian precepts, merchants were to generously lend their money interest-free because their wealth was such that they could afford to do so. This fundamental economic contention, in addition to the two characters' religious differences, establishes their enmity toward one another and creates a rivalry that reaches its climax in the trial sequence in act 4.
Bassanio's marriage to Portia demonstrates another economic dimension of the play. Because of rising costs during the Renaissance, aristocrats, in many cases, had to concern themselves with obtaining more wealth to maintain their expected lifestyle, and a generous dowry from a woman to her future husband was considered a respectable means of achieving this end.
Many critics contend that even though Bassanio is virtually penniless because of his extravagant spending prior to marrying Portia, his open desire to marry her for her money—in addition to her charm and beauty—should not be construed by modern readers as the shrewd enterprise of an unscrupulous fortune hunter. In fact, an Elizabethan audience probably would have interpreted Bassanio's suit of love as an ordinary and perfectly acceptable arrangement.
A similar situation occurs when Jessica steals her father's money before eloping with Lorenzo; in a sense, she is helping herself to her dowry. Love Different types of love and rivalry are other important topics in The Merchant of Venice. The suitors who vie for Portia's hand all represent different types of love.
The Princes of Arragon and Morocco—the two unsuccessful petitioners—symbolize a shallow and limited form of love. Arragon, by selecting the silver casket on the basis of its inscription "Who choo-seth me shall get as much as he deserves"in act 2, scene 7, reveals that his concept of love is self-serving and vain. Morocco's choice of the gold casket indicates that his notion of love is based on superficiality or physicality "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire".
However, when Bassanio correctly identifies the lead casket, he demonstrates a superior understanding of love, as he judges the box on the inner qualities it may possess rather than on its dull, outer appearance. This represents a deeper and more spiritual type of love. The issue of rivalry in love is evident in the association between Antonio, Portia, and Bassanio. Some critics argue that the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio may be a homosexual one, citing the merchant's unexplained melancholy at the beginning of the play as the result of Portia displacing him as the object of Bassanio's affection, as well as Antonio's desire to keep Bassanio happy by continually supplying him with money, despite the consequences.
In addition, the two couples—Bassanio and Portia and Jessica and Lorenzo—represent two antithetical kinds of love in this play. Bassanio and Portia demonstrate a socially acceptable courtship; not only do they obey her father's request that Portia's suitor successfully pass the casket test, but they also uphold the legal provisions of the test as mandated in the father's will.
The other couples in the story… | Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
Jessica and Lorenzo's courtship, however, illustrates a romantic love linked to the great lovers of myth, particularly in the illicitness of their elopement. Unlike Portia and Bassanio's union, Jessica and Lorenzo's defies social traditions because their aspiration to get married causes them to step out of the bounds of the accepted rules of society as well as the rules of the father.
Ideal Shakespeare's delicate balancing of the worlds of Venice the real and Belmont the ideal is another central issue in The Merchant of Venice. On one side is the city of Venice, which reflects a complex reality that includes many different principles but also many contradictions.The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare - বাংলা লেকচার - Bengali Lecture
Venice is supposedly governed by Christian values. However, the Christians are shown to be hypocritical. Christian values advocate charity, mercy, and virtue, and yet Antonio discriminates against Shylock and further denigrates him by ultimately forcing Shylock to renounce Judaism completely and embrace Christianity.
In addition, although Christian values support the idea of loaning money without charging interest, Shylock and other Jewish businessmen contribute a mercenary dimension to the affairs of the city, in which lending money for interest is considered a legitimate business practice. Further confirming this practice, breaches of lending contracts are immediately redressed with legal action. In other words, usury, which supposedly goes against Christian principles, is sanctioned by Venetian civil laws.
Hypocrisy is also exposed in the Christian attitude toward Jewish people in the city. Although accepted by the Venetians on an economic level, Shylock and his fellow Jewish families remain outsiders in the city.
They are cursed by the Christians, who profess love and acceptance for all mankind. Portia and Belmont represent the ideal, the counterpoint to Venice, by embodying the qualities of an idealistic world that markedly contrasts with the hypocrisy, revenge, and commercial exploitation that dominate affairs in Venice.
In essence, Belmont represents a fairy-tale realm where happiness and love flourish and Christian charity and forgiveness are actually upheld. These benevolent qualities manifest themselves in Portia, whose confrontation with Shylock in the courtroom can be interpreted as a direct clash between the retributive justice ordained in the Old Testament which Shylock represents and the mercy and charity advocated in the New Testament.
Shakespeare provides The Merchant of Venice with a happy ending by emphasizing the love, joy, and forgiveness that thrives in Belmont. Nevertheless, the reader is left with the unsettling impression that hypocrisy and hatred persist just down the road in Venice. Religious Prejudice Religious prejudices prevail in this drama. From the opening act to the courtroom scene toward the end of this play, debilitating, prejudicial insults are thrown from one character to another.
Shylock is the target for many of these hurtful remarks, but he demonstrates that he is also capable of delivering them. Prejudice makes a person see a group of people as stereotypical stick figures, contaminated with negative characteristics.
These impressions are based merely on the fact that a group of people may look different, embrace different principles, or act in different manners. A prejudiced person does not consider that individuals in that group might differ from one another. Nor does he or she allow that there is a common core that runs through all human beings—a place where everyone can relate to one another. For example, Shylock confesses in the beginning of this play that he hates Antonio because Antonio is a Christian.
Shylock does this in spite of the fact that he makes a magnificent speech in act 3, scene 1, in which he attempts to make Christians understand how hurtful prejudice can be. Shylock states that just because he is a Jew does not mean that he is not human.
Conversely, Antonio spits on, mocks, and rails against Shylock, because Shylock is a Jew. When Antonio suspects that Shylock is doing something good, such as when Shylock insists on not charging interest on his loan to Antonio, Antonio tells Bassanio, "This Hebrew will turn Christian: Also, in the courtroom scene, Antonio states that trying to change Shylock's "Jewish heart" would be as impossible as changing nature. Mercy and Hypocrisy The concept of mercy comes to a head in the courtroom scene.
It begins earlier, once rumors are spread that Antonio might have lost one or more of his ships. As the tension grows toward the date that Antonio's loan to Shylock is due, the cries for mercy begin to rise among the Christian citizenry. Mercy implies the ability of one person to forgive another, a strong Christian principle that is advocated in many Christian pulpits on Sunday morning.
Though this virtue of mercy is often preached, Shakespeare shows that his Christian characters in this play do not always practice it, thus demonstrating their hypocrisy.