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Contemporary Themes of The Merchant of Venice

One of the many elements that make up a classic, is that the book, novel or play can be read in any generation, decade, century or in any part of the globe at any time and have relevance to the reader. The themes of the work should be universal, so that the reader can take something and create a parallel to an event or situation in his or her own life. The Merchant of Venice has elements that make it a classic. The Merchant of Venice has many contemporary themes in it. In this essay I will provide you with examples of themes that still hold true today, many years after Shakespeare wrote this masterpiece. The re-occurring themes of love, antiSemitism and inter-racial marriages are a few examples of contemporary themes that are manifest in The Merchant of Venice that are still issues that we discuss, worry, and care about today.

A key theme in the book is love. There are many loving relationships in this play and not all are the type that involves the love that a man has for a woman, or vice versa. Bassanio and Portia, Jessica and Lorenzo and Gratiano and Nerissa are all types of love that involve a man and a woman, which are of course relevant to today's society. When one looks deeply into these relationships, they would see parallels to the ones of today. For instance, the concept that all three marriages will probably not last, is a parallel to the number of divorces that are occurring today. More and more divorces are happening and the increase from other years is shocking! One of the main reasons why this is happening is that more people

are getting married too fast and leaving no time to realize that there are not meant for each other. This is the same in two - and possibly three - of the relationships. Gratiano and Nerrissa got married after knowing each other for only several hours and Bassiano and Portia got marri ed before they go to know each other (, but you can't fault Portia for this, for strict policies were ordered onto her). Jessica and Lorenzo's marriage might split for other reasons. The second relationship that is explored in The Merchant of Venice is the type of man to man. Homosexuality is a type of love that happens in any period in time and is even more relevant today, as homosexuality has blossomed even more in the 1990's, creating a large issue. Antonio's "love" may not be the type that we are thinking about, but if this happened today we might see it as homosexuality. Many say that Shakespeare is a homosexual from evidence from his many plays. The third type is between a man and his money. Shakespeare's portrayal of Shylock is a cold-hearted man, who only has one true love, his money. He would sacrifice anything for money (even his own daughter). Once again this theme is good, because you will find people like this in every period of time.

The second theme is anti-Semitism. Although we are not sure of Shakespeare being an anti-Semite we might think that he is, through his depiction of Shylock as a cold-hearted Jew, that hates Christians and wants to kill them. This view is well represented by the following excerpt from literary criticism: "[Shakespeare] planned a Merchant of Venice to let the Jew dog have it, . . . The text itself preserves enough evidence of the author's fixed intent to exhibit his Shylock as an inhuman scoundrel, whose diabolical cunning is bent on gratifying a satanic lust for Christian flesh,

the Jew, in fact, who was the ogre of Medieval story and the cur to be exacerbated by all honest men" ( Charleton 7). Anti-Semitism is a very talked about issue not only for the Jewish people, but also for many nonJews. The Merchant of Venice has been banned from public school's shelves in Toronto, for its endorsement of anti-Semitism. Parents and school boards are afraid the uneducated, young teenagers who have no real fir st hand interaction with Jewish people will believe that Shylock is the model of a common Jew and start hating all Jews. For a Jewish person learning this book, he or she can create a parallel to anti-Semitic situations in his or her life to the ones faced by Shylock in the play (i.e. the courtroom scene). So this is a good contemporary theme, because it affects both Jews and non-Jews.

Finally, the theme of an inter-marriage, explored by Jessica and Lorenzo, is also a contemporary one. This theme is more understood to a Jewish person (rather to a non-Jew) in today's society. More and more Jews are leaving their faith in order to marry a gentile. The loss of Jewish identity across the world is staggering and is a very frightening issue for rabbis and Jewish people who practice and believe in the faith. The reaction, in a sometimes-left out silent scene, of Shylock after he learns that Jessica has eloped with Lorenzo is fantastic. We see him crying, screaming and then ripping his clothes and falling to the ground. This is a symbol of the way a Jew mourns for a lost loved one. To him, Jessica is dead and unfortunately that is something that is happening in many more Jewish households and even more unfortunate, the reaction of Shylock is not present.

Is The Merchant of Venice a classic? That is an issue that will be discussed for many years to come. But the argument for it being a classic definitely has some truth and evidence for it. The many themes of the play that are still relevant to us today, proves, to an extent, that The Merchant of Venice is a classic play. And those themes will always be contemporary for better or for worse and the play will always be... a classic.

Prejudice in The Merchant of Venice

It is my strong belief that the play, "The Merchant of Venice", should be taught in classes. If this play was banned from schools it would most certainly be a form of censorship.

The play teaches us about prejudice, and why it is wrong. People would see how everyone was hurt at one time or another by a prejudice, whether it was the Christians making fun of Shylock or Shylock showing his prejudice to the Christian's. I imagine that anyone watching, listening or reading this play would see how everyone was hurt, and would learn of racism's faulty basis's for judging someone.

Some people would have you think that the play itself is racist, and provides a forum in which racism can grow and become only a bigger problem. I think that this is a flawed way of looking at it. I see the play as a confrontation of a modern day problem which society still faces. Rather than providing a forum for racism to grow, the play provides a forum for anti-racism discussion, if all proper steps are taken. When I say if all proper steps are

taken, I am referring to having this play taught by a teacher, who can explain the plays meaning in it's fullest so that the students do not miss any important points from it.

Another point that may have been missed when the presentation was made to the school board to ban the material from being taught inside the school system was that everyone is bad in the play. The Christians portrayal was just as bad as the Jewish man, Shylock's portrayal. In fact I think that the play gave a worse portrayal of the Christian's because they ended up being the most evil, through taking away everything that Shylock had and making him become Christian. While Shylock did want to kill someone, the punishment invoked on him was even worse.

As you can see, there are many reasons why "The Merchant of Venice" should be taught in classrooms. A. Whitney Griswold said in a speech (1952), "Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas." I think that this is particularly true in this case, the bad ideas of racism in the play can be attacked through positive reinforcement of anti-racism views and showing how wrong racism is. Suppose we were to censor "The Merchant of Venice" what happened if one day someone picked it up, read it, and followed the anti-Semitism in it. I think that if it will stop one person from being racist, by teaching them it is wrong by teaching everyone then it will all be worth it.

A Comedy?

To the reader, The Merchant of Venice, may seem horrible and it be impossible to find the comedy at all. Perhaps, Shakespeare may have been simply trying to make people laugh at the appalling injustice we cause one another because of the small differences among us. Or, perhaps, he may have at first wanted the viewers of The Merchant of Venice to feel that they, the Christians, had nothing in common with the Jew, Shylock. What on earth could the Christians have in common with a Jew? Shakespeare demonstrates that the Christians were just as hungry for money and fortune as the Jew. Perhaps this is a comedy after all. That Shakespeare sees people, Jew or Christian, as simply people, and if he could not make people see that they were all people with common ground, then he would have to start with something he knew everyone could relate with. The best item to come to mind was money. No matter if the amount is in ducats, dollars or pesos, everyone understands this concept. Although it does not seem perfectly clear in what way Shakespeare was trying to deliver the comedy in this play, one thing is evident, Shakespeare was a man before his time. So, besides trying to find where the comedy is, maybe one should try to find where the most superficial person lies. Who is more superficial in this play? The Jew whose only business is money, or the Christians? It seems apparent that both are superficial, and one no more than the other. In the play Bassanio does not try to hide the fact that he needs to marry a woman of wealth to restore his fortune. Shylock's daughter Jessica, promises to steal jewels and fortune from her father, proving that she too is money hungry. Even Salerio and Solanio seem to talk of nothing more than riches and wealth throughout the play. So yes, they all are superficial, and one can not peg one any more than another.So again, we are back to the comedy of the whole thing! Now that I think about it, it seems strange that the majority of our class found no humor in this play. When one thinks of why this may be, it is simple. We do not laugh when we read this play because we have not changed. Since the time of this play, we have inched very little away from prejudice and belittling people because they are what we feel is different, therefore making them strange. So, we know the Sylocks and Bassanios of today, and that is not a laughing matter. It provides valuable insight to study Shylock's vocabulary and the understanding of other's vocabulary in the text. Shylock has nothing in common with the people of Venice. He does not share in religion or pleasures with them. Even his speech is an unpretentious style; however, he does understand and share in the same vocabulary. Or does he? Shylock seems to be very narrow minded in what the definition of a word is. In his mind it seems to have one meaning and only one meaning, "Shylock tends to narrow its meaning" (Barton 285). A good example of this is where Bassanio and Shylock are talking. Shylock decides that he may accept Antonio's bond because "Antonio is a good man" (I.iii.12). Here, Shylock believes Antonio to be good in a financial way, not a moral way. In Shylock's eyes there is only one way to be good and that is financially. Shylock goes on to explain that Antonio is good because he is "sufficient." Here it is obvious that Shylock is not only narrow of mind, but totally and completely established about, on and around money. In other words, he is a typical Jew. Another example of Shylock's narrow-mindedness comes about later in the play when he is unable to grasp the meaning of the word, "mercy." It is very evident from the endless wars in the middle-east that Jews are unable to grasp the meaning of mercy, compassion, tolerance, and many other words and concepts easily understood by Christians. This is perfectly logical since Christians learn these concepts from and early age from the study of the life of Jesus in the New Testament. Jews study only the Old Testament which teaches the merits of hate and revenge using such sayings as an eye for an eye. Perhaps, The Merchant of Venice, is not a comedy at all. Perhaps, Shakespeare may have been

simply trying to make the viewers of The Merchant of Venice aware that they, the Christians, had nothing in common with the Jew, Shylock. Why on earth would the Christians want to be like a common Jew? Shakespeare demonstrates that the Christians and the Jew do not even share the same vocabulary. Perhaps there is no comedy after all.

The Character of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice

Often, The character Shylock, in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, is portrayed as a beastly monstrosity, with a lust for Antonio's life. Through a more careful examination it can be determined that Shylock was an upstanding member of his community, who endured abuse, forgave easily, and upheld the customs and law.

Shylock endured much of Antonio's abuse, overt a long period of time. This can be seen by the sheer volume of disgraces he has bore. A good example is in Act 3 Scene 1, beginning with line 52:

"He hath disgraced me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies..." -Shylock

Shylock had such a magnanimous spirit, that he even offered Antonio, who had abused him terribly, a loan, free of interest. Shylock was willing to loan money to one who totally ruined him in public, on terms that were nicer than his normal business terms. This kind, forgiving heart can be seen in Act 1 Scene 3 beginning with line 148:

"Why, look how you storm ! I would be friends with you and have your love, forget the names that you have stained me with, supply your present needs and take no doit of usance for my moneys, and you'll not hear me! This is kind I offer." -Shylock

Often, this quote from Act 3 Scene 1 line 83,

"Why, there, there, there, there! A diamond gone cost me two ducats in Frankfurt! The curse never fell upon our nation till now, I never felt it till now. Two thousand ducats in that and precious, jewels! I would my daughter were dead


other precious, at my foot and the

jewels in her ear;" portraying Shylocks' treatment of his daughter, after she ran away, is manipulated to make Shylock seem beastly. But, within the Jewish culture and the time period, his response was appropriate. After his daughter ran away, she was, for all intents and purposes, disowned. Thusly, the theft of his jewels reduced her to the level of a thief, and so she deserved to be punished.

Shylock is also an honest, law abiding citizen of Venice, before the very end. His great respect for law and order are shown in the following quotes from Act 4 Scene 1.

Line 104: "I stand for judgment" Line 213: "I crave the law" Line 257: "O Noble judge!"

Shylock the Jew, through a careful examination of The Merchant of Venice, is found to be an enduring, magnanimous, forgiving, and law abiding citizen of Venice. As opposed to his typical role as the wicked blood thirsty villain.

Antonio and Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice

Antonio, the protagonist of the story, is extremely good friends with Bassanio. I have come up on a hypothesis that Antonio is gay and Bassanio is a bisexual. Antonio seems to like Bassanio in a romantic way. Antonio is a male. Bassanio is a male. Bassanio likes Antonio in a romantic way and also loves Portia, a female.

Also, there is another pair who I am suspicious about. They are Salanio and Salerio. The reason is that they are always together, just like siamese twins. When Salanio comes, Salerio comes. When Salerio goes, Salanio goes.

Here is a famous quote by Shakespeare, The love that dares not speak its name. In the play, there are many places where Antonio expresses love for Bassanio; for example, love the world for Bassanio and also great affection for Bassanio.This certainly appeals to me that Antonio likes Bassanio as more than just a friend. Great affection means you love, adore, or even worship someone. Antonio therefore adores Bassanio.

Another thing that makes me wonder is where Salerio and Salanio come and go? They are always together. Unless they are living together, this is a mystery. But lets say they are living together. A male and a male doing the same things and living together?

I conclude that Antonio is gay because he loves and adores Bassanio, Bassanio is bisexual because he loves both Antonio and Portia. But this is not the end. Think about these: In the masquerade, Jessica went as a boy. She likes to dress up as boys; Nerissa likes Portia in a romantic way. I will not go into these subjects because the essay would be too long.

The Prejudiced Message of Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice portrays a prejudiced message. This is first evident in Act one when Shylock openly says to himself, "I hate him because he is a Christian....May my people be cursed if I forgive him!" All throughout the book the Christians are battling with the Jews and neither of them will listen to the other because their hearts are filled with intense prejudice. Antonio proves that he is unwilling to change his feelings toward Shylock when he says, "I'm likely to call you names again, spit on you again, and shun you again." They don't seem to realize that their prejudiced attitudes could get someone (Antonio) killed.

There are different times during the play that Shylock could be viewed as a villain and other times that he could be seen as a sympathetic character. When he doesn't allow his daughter, Jessica to marry Lorenzo just because he's a Christian, that's when we start to think that Shylock just isn't a very nice guy. But he was also the target of a lot of prejudice himself. Antonio didn't like him because he was a Jew, and he let Shylock know his feelings. However, two wrongs don't make a right.

In other words, just because Antonio hated Shylock and spit in his face, there's no reason why Shylock couldn't just show Antonio love or just stay away from him. Shylock chose to get revenge, so he probably would be viewed as a villain.

Prejudice doesn't get anyone anywhere. This is probably the strongest message of the play. Antonio's prejudice against Shylock almost got him killed, and Shylock's prejudice against Antonio converted him to Christianity and robbed him of all his possessions. If there's anything that we can learn from this play, it would be to just get along with everybody and don't think that you are any better than anyone else. True Love in The Merchant of Venice

Among the various themes presented in the Merchant of Venice the most important is the nature of true love. The casket plot helps illustrate the theme. Through a variety of suitors the descriptions of the caskets, Shakespeare shows the reader how different people view true love. He also shows what is most important to the suitors and in some cases it is not true love, but material things and outward appearance.

The first suitor who tries to win Portia's hand is the Prince of Morocco. When he first arrives in Belmont, the reader can see how arrogant the prince is, He says, "The best regarded virgins of our clilme/ hath loved it too..." (2.1, 10-11). He is referring to the color of his ski n that is black. He is telling Portia that his complexion has won him many women and he is dressed in all white. The fact that he is, suggests that he is only concerned with outward appearance, and not with more important

things such as true love. The Prince of Morocco's s...

... middle of paper ...

... the play, Bassanio shows what true love really means and how one can not mistake outward appearances for true love. Put succinctly, one can do nothing but agree with the adage love conquers all. Merchant of Venice: Portia was No Feminist

The question has been proposed whether Portia was her own woman, and if after she married Bassanio would she still be the protector of her fortune. I researched for evidence to the theory that Portia was not her own, her fortune was not her own, and she was bound financially to her husband after marriage. There is nothing out of the ordinary about this particular arrangement, and I don't feel that the relationship should continue to be hailed as a progressive, feminist relationship.

The best evidence I could find were the words which were spoken out of Portia's own mouth,

One half of me is yours, the other half yours-Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours, And so all yours. III.ii.16-18.

There you have it. Portia is Bassanio's. This may be idle lover's talk; however, it does signify the beginning of a possessive relationship in which Bassanio is the possessor!

Directly after Portia is "won" by Bassanio's correct choice in caskets she states,

Happiest of all, is that her gentle spirit Commits itself to yours to be directed, As from her lord, her governor, her king. Myself, and what is mine, to you and yours

Is now converted. . . . I was the lord of this fair mansion, master of my servants, Queen o'er myself; and even now, but now This house, these servants, and this same myself Are yours. . . . III.ii.163-171

I struggle to see how the relationship between Portia and Bassanio is worthy of feminist hurrahs. I believe Portia is a woman worthy of feminist scholarship, but not the relationship to her husband. She loses the opportunity to be noteworthy when she gives up her possessions, and ultimately herself.

This is just one of the many problems I have with the character of Portia. Feminists uphold her as the proof that Shakespeare was not misogynistic; however once we delve into the character of this hailed heroine, it becomes obvious that she was just like every other Renaissance woman who inherited a little money. Romantics and Merchants in The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare's comedies usually follow a clearly defined pattern. He presents a conflict, and the characters eventually resolve the conflict in a relatively happy ending, which involves marrying off the hero and his entourage to the heroine and her companions, leaving the villain outside the "magic circle" of protagonists. In The Merchant of Venice, Antonio is presented as the hero, and Shylock the villain, but neither is within the circle of marriages at the end of Act V. In fact, Antonio's depression exposed at the beginning of the play seems unresolved at the end, and he goes on his melancholy way, as he supposes he must. Can The Merchant of Venice, then, be considered a true comedy? The strongest argument discounting Merchant as a true comedy is that though Antonio appears to be the major protagonist in the story, he is also as far outside the magic circle as his villain, Shylock. While Bassanio, Portia, and their associated parties marry off at the end of Act V, Antonio is left to his ships and his money, still going about his depressed way. At the beginning of the play, Antonio expresses his dissatisfaction with his situation to his friends. "I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, a stage where every man must play a part, and mine a sad one" (I.i.81-83). Throughout the play, and Shylock's relentless pursuit of his macabre repayment, Antonio remains in this dreary, defeated state. He seems almost too eager to end his suffering at the hands of his debtors and his apparently lost business. "Grieve not that I am fall'n to this for you," he tells Bassanio in court, "for herein Fortune shows herself more kind than is her custom: it is still her use to let the wretched man outlive his wealth, to age of poverty, from which ling'ring penance of such misery doth she cut me off" (IV.i.278-284). He begs the court to make no more attempts to save his life, comparing such futile endeavors to abate the flood waters or question the wolf's killing of sheep (IV.i.71-84). Completely resigned to his grisly fate, he announces, "I am a tainted wether of the flock, meetest for death. The weakest kind of fruit drops earliest to the ground, and so let me" (IV.i.116-118). Even in Act V, after the dispute with Shylock is decided in Antonio's favor, the melancholy merchant plays no role in the resolution of the play. While Portia and Nerissa play trickeries with their respective grooms, Antonio despairingly states, "I am th'unhappy subject of these quarrels" (V.i.254). Even at the end, when in barely passing mention Portia informs Antonio of the favorable fate of his merchant fleet, he

simply thanks her and falls silent once more. No customary "happy ending" awaits Antonio at the end of the play, as it does the rest of the Christians in Venice. The argument against Merchant's comedic nature loses sight of the parts of the play which do fit Shakespeare's customary pattern. Bassanio and Portia, the subjects of Merchant's other major plot, do experience the happy ending fit for a Shakespearean comedic hero and heroine, and are at the center of the magic circle at the end. Their meeting and marriage in Belmont traces a fairy-tale-like path through the minefield of disputes over Portia's father's conditions for her marriage. Bassanio's almost whimsical (but successful) attempt at the three chests is a fantastical, romantic tale which plays itself out far removed from the troubles in Venice. When those characters return to the city, that magical, fantastic atmosphere comes with them, providing for Antonio's sudden rescue by the wily Portia and Nerissa. Both of these women from Belmont fit Shakespeare's common "strong woman" archetype, which he uses in other comedies (like Viola in Twelfth Night). The magic circle does form around most of the protagonists, and Shakespeare throws six bachelor characters at each other and ends up with three married couples with the full intention of living happily ever after. There, the restraining forces on those marriages -- namely, Antonio's bond, Jessica's religion, and the husbands' forfeiture of their rings -- are all lifted, and the comedy comes to its expected conclusion. Likewise, Shylock, the blatantly evil villain of the play, is accordingly shunned from the magic circle and left to his own devices, stripped of his money, his assets, his daughter, his bond with Antonio, his Jewish faith, and his dignity as a Venetian merchant. Shylock is completely bereaved of everything he holds dear, and is completely excluded from the fairy tale's conclusion in Act V. Such a treatment befits the villain of a comedy. Considering these facts, and excluding the problem of Shakespeare's treatment of Antonio, The Merchant of Venice stands as a near-perfect example of Shakespeare's comic pattern. However, the question still remains: What about Antonio? If he really is the hero of the play, and if Shakespeare's comedies are always to end on a happy tone, can The Merchant of Venice really be considered a true comedy, leaving Antonio as melancholy and alone as he began? The argument against discounting Merchant as a comedy derives its strength from the fundamental difference in the play's protagonists and their placement in the dual settings, Venice and Belmont. The suitors' relentless pursuit of Portia in Belmont, the contract of the three chests drawn up by her dead father, Bassanio's magical inspiration to pick the right chest, and Belmont's inherent obscurity (neither Shakespeare nor any of his characters give any indication as to Belmont's actual geographic location) all enhance its fantastical, romantic, fairy-tale atmosphere. Love and marriage are not the main concerns of the people of Belmont; rather, love and marriage are their only concerns. Therefore, all those characters who are married at the end of Act V have some sort of association with Belmont and its inhabitants, and their "happy ending," which could only involve marriage to their predestined spouses, is fully realized. Antonio and Shylock, however, have no association with the land of Belmont; they are cold, calculating merchants of Venice. Their sole concern is not love or marriage or any sort of romantic destiny; it is the pursuit of profitable ventures in the markets of Venice. Shylock goes so far as to miss his ducats before his daughter when both disappear, and takes only delight in Antonio's losses at sea (III.i). For the characters in Venice, then, the only way to banish Shylock the villain from society and provide for Antonio the happy ending he deserves as the hero is to use money, not marriage, as the measure of success. Already stripped of his daughter, Shylock can only be punished by depriving him of his money. "Take my life and all," Shylock hisses at the court. "You take my house when you do take the prop that do sustain my house; you take my life when you do take the means whereby I live" (IV.1.390-393). Whereas Portia lives only to be married, Shylock lives only to make money as a merchant of Venice, so separating him from his money is as effective a treatment as a villain as separation from loved ones normally is. Likewise, the resolution of Antonio's conflict comes with his release from Shylock's bond and the news that his ships have safely reached port (V.i.292-298). Thus while everyone else enjoys their marriages, Antonio receives the greatest blessing that his native Venice can give him: the safety of his assets. "Sweet lady," Antonio proclaims, "you have given me life and living; for here I read for certain that my ships are safely come to road"

(V.i.306-308). Though it receives only passing mention, the success of Antonio's ships is as important a resolution as the marriages are to the couples. The Merchant of Venice provides for the customary treatment of its heroes and villains by shifting the focus from romantic to economic success for those characters who remain in Venice. Though it does not strictly fit the pattern of Shakespeare's other comedies, The Merchant of Venice remains a comedy by using its two different settings to produce two distinct goals for its heroes to reach, thereby providing for a happy ending for all the protagonists. Unresolved Issues in The Merchant of Venice For much of the play, The Merchant of Venice appears to be vintage Shakespearean farce. A group of buffoons vie to marry the beautiful and wealthy Portia; women dress up as men and fool their betrothed; servants are willing accomplices in playful deceits. Where Merchant of Venice departs from the pattern of a typical Shakespearean farce is with the appearance of Shylock, the Jew. Shylock transforms this play from a simple comedy to a work of enormous complexity. In The Merchant of Venice, the contrast between the tragedy of Shylock and the comedy of the other characters raises many issues that are left unresolved for the thoughtful reader. As the action begins Antonio, a wealthy merchant who deals in overseas trade, is sitting on a bench preening. The character of Antonio is clearly written as full of affection and devotion towards Bassanio. Bassanio wishes to borrow money to woo Portia, a woman of beauty and means who is constrained by her dead father's demand that she marry the man who solves the riddle and chooses the right metal casket. Antonio is having acash flow problem, with his many ships out at sea and not yet returned, so he suggests borrowing the necessary funds from the Jew, Shylock. He agrees to post the required bond. Enter Shylock, a comical yet sympathetic fellow, who makes clever jokes at the expense of the Christians in his presence, while conveying the pain and rage he feels as the victim of an unfriendly society. Quickly, the reader learns that he lends money because there are laws which prevent him from pursuing any other career. He resents that Antonio lends to his friends without charging interest, thus cutting into Shylock's market. When Bassanio requests a loan, Shylock clearly feels he at last has an upper hand in his dealings with Antonio. He takes full advantage of his edge, asking not for his standard fee, but rather for a pound of flesh should the debt not be repaid in three months' time. Since Antonio is sure his ships will return by then, he is not afraid to make the deal. And therein lies the fulcrum of the story. What follows for several scenes is amusing entertainment. Bassanio solves the riddle and wins Portia; Gratiano is smitten with Portia's servant, Nerissa, and woos her successfully; Shylock's daughter, Jessica, elopes from her father's house to marry the Christian Lorenzo, albeit stealing her father's money and goods for her beloved. All the necessary ingredients for a Shakespearean comedy. But then the trial scene appears. Antonio erred in his confidence. Three months have passed and no ships have returned. In fact, he has received word they are wrecked. Shylock is owed his bond. In court, the judge concurs that there is no law that can prevent Shylock from extracting the pound of flesh he was promised in the deal. "Thou call'dst me dog before thou hadst a cause, But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs...", Shylock warns, driven by revenge at a Christian world that he sees as robbing his dignity and now his daughter. Portia and Nerissa appear in court dressed as male lawyers, determined to be part of the proceedings. Portia invokes her verbal agility to tell Shylock he is due his pound of flesh but may take no blood or he will put to death. Shylock agrees to be recant and only demand his principal, but Portia quotes chapter and verse of the law which says an alien who seeks the life of a citizen puts his very life at the mercy of his intended victim and must forfeit half his estate to the state and half to the intended victim. Antonio agrees to spare Shylock's life, a seeming act of mercy far more generous than Shylock would give him. However, in exchange for his life, the Jew must become a Christian and

bequeath his worldly possessions to Lorenzo, his Christian son-in-law. What passes for mercy from Antonio may really be a sentence more painful than death for Shylock. Shylock is thus a completely broken man - without "the means whereby I live," destroyed by Portia's clever and ingenious methods of legal gymnastics. This is hardly the fare of romantic comedy. Indeed, the plight of Shylock is tragic by anyone's account. His controlled rage at the beginning of the play, fueled by a life of discrimination and isolation, gives way to a quest for revenge. Indeed, the Jew appears as a complex character, molded by the lot life has given him, full of wrath born of mistreatment, spreading hate which spills from him without control. It is not difficult to understand how treatment by oppressors can beget anti-social, hateful behaviors. It is the stuff of many modern-day sociological studies of the ghettos. What is difficult is to switch from this distressing and thought-provoking study of what can happen to human nature and what man can do to man, to the light-hearted scene sympathetically depicting the persecutors in their charmed lives. Their very playfulness trivializes Shylock's fate. The three couples are reunited, and after a teasing battle based on the playful subterfuge of Portia and Nerissa, they proceed with their lives of pleasurable leisure. The scene is disquieting and, though not Shakespeare's intent, rattles the sensibilities of anyone concerned with the ills of society. It appears too easy to turn away from the pain of others to the comfort of our own lives. No thought or mention is given to Shylock and his end. Only Antonio seems disheartened, and seemingly only because he has lost the affection of Bassanio to Portia. Shylock is the driving force that catapults The Merchant of Venice from simple comedy to a work of enormous complexity. The contrast between the tragedy of Shylock and the comedy of the other characters is difficult to dismiss. Many questions are raised and issues left unresolved for the thoughtful reader. The presence of Shylock makes the play unsettling, raising once again the subjects of discrimination, revenge, mercy, and the very essence of human weakness.

Shylock as Villian in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice

In Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice the antagonist of the play is Shylock. Shylock is a wealthy Jewish moneylender. Shylock is probably the most memorable character in the play because of Shakespeare's excellent characterization of him. Shylock is the antagonist in the play because he stands in the way of love, but this does not necessarily make him the villain of the play. Shylock can be seen as both the villain of the play and as a man who is very human.

The villain that we see in Shylock is the greedy moneylender. Shylock charges high interest rates and when he is not repaid he insists on

revenge. In the play Shylock loans Antonio money, and out of jest he suggests that should the loan not be repaid in time Shylock may cut off one pound of flesh from Antonio's body. Soon after Shylock's daughter runs away from home with Lorenzo, a Christian, and takes her father's ducats with her. When Antonio's ships do not come in and he is not able to repay the loan Shylock is no longer interested in getting his money back. Shylock want revenge for the loss of his daughter through the fulfillment of the bond. In court Shylock is defeated because of his selfishness.

Shakespeare also shows the human qualities of Shylock throughout the play. Shakespeare brings out these human qualities by causing us to feel sympathy for him. After the loss of his daughter Shylock ran through the streets crying "My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!" as children followed him, mocking him. This causes us to feel sympathy for Shylock, even though we may feel him to be a villain. Besides the loss of his daughter and his ducats, after the trial Shylock also looses his property and his religion. The loss of his property was certainly a blow to Shylock but it can hardly compare to his loss of his religion. His forced conversion to Christianity brings out more sympathy for him.

Shakespeare's manipulation of our feelings for Shylock show Shakespeare's gift as a writer. He gave Shylock the ability to make us hate him at times, and sympathize with him at others. This makes Shylock one of the most vivid characters of the play.

Refuting the Critics

In The Jew of Venice, Granville takes up and refutes the principal "subversions," in The Merchant of Venice that modern and postmodern critics have imposed upon on the play. Without its alleged contradictions, the play has a tight formalist structural unity, it focuses on an essentialist Platonic idea, and, resolving all conflicts, it ends in closure. On the topic of Antonio's sadness, Granville picks up a clue that to my knowledge no modern critic has noticed. In his "methodizing" process, he moved Antonio's play-opening line--"I know not why I am so sad"--to Bassanio's feast, between the toasts and the masque, and merged it with Jessica's fifth act misgiving--"I am never merry when I hear sweet music" (5.1.69). Listening to the music at his friend's feast, Granville's Antonio laments,

O Bassanio! There sits a heaviness upon my heart Which wine cannot remove: I know not But music ever makes me thus. (2.2.35-38)

Lorenzo's comforting answer to Jessica in act 5 of Shakespeare's play then becomes Bassanio's comforting answer to Antonio act 2 of Granville's: The reason is, your spirits are attentive: For do but note, a wild and wanton herd Or race of youthful [skittish] and unhandled colts Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud, If they but hear by [per]chance a trumpet sound, Or any air of music touch their ears,

You strait perceive 'em make a mutual stand, Their savage eyes turned to attentive gaze, By the soft power of music. Therefore the poet Did feign that Orpheus melted stones and rocks; For what so hard, so stubborn, or so fierce, But music for the time doth change its nature. The man, who has not music in his soul, Or is not touched by the concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils, The motions of his mind are as dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus, Let no such man be trusted. ----Mark the music. [Here to be a complete concert of vocal and instrumental Music, after the Italian Manner.] (JV 2.2.35-59)

Here at one stroke, Granville connects the masque to the plot, couples friendship with social concord and social concord with music, associates Shylock with social discord, and answers the riddle of the original play's first line. The masque shows how much the future Belmontese love music, how much their lives are permeated by it. (Here Granville simply magnifies the continual presence of music at Portia's house). Bassanio's (originally Lorenzo's) answer identifies music as an analogue, echo, or even generator of social harmony, a force that converts destructive brute force into constructive civilized force. When fanfares of music greet the first three toasts, we are to understand that the feelings they express are congenial.

When Antonio commands silence following Shylock's toast to money--

Let birds and beasts of prey howl such vows, All generous notes be hushed: pledge thyself, Jew: None here will stir the glass Nor shall the music sound (2.2.32-35)--

we are to understand that the cash nexus between man and man is perfectly antithetical to friendship; it makes no music, produces no harmony, and abets discord. Shylock's hatred of music is well established in the original. Immediately after forbidding any musical accolade for Shylock's toast, Antonio is seized by his unfathomable melancholy. By this juxtaposition Granville answers the riddle: Antonio is sad because of Shylock, or, more precisely, what he represents is sad because of what Shylock represents. He, the exemplary friend, is "tuned in" to celestial concord, and therefore his "attentive spirits" are more sensitive to discord. "If this be Nature's holy plan,/Have I not reason to lament/What man has made of man?" Loving music more than most, he is more unhappy than most with a scratchy phonograph needle. There are good grounds for giving Antonio Jessica's response to music. Both she and he are sad; neither can abide Shylock, one for his Puritanical austerity, the other for his cruel mode of livelihood. Because music equates to friendship, Antonio "has music in his soul," and Shylock, who hates music, is "fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." In The Jew of Venice, Granville, who resides in Shakespeare's own moral community, takes up and refutes the principal "subversions," "leaks,"

"interrogations," and "dark shadows" in The Merchant of Venice that modern and postmodern critics, working from what I argue are irrelevant postcapitalist prejudices, have imposed upon on the play. Without its alleged contradictions, the play has a tight formalist structural unity, it focuses on an essentialist Platonic idea, and, resolving all conflicts, it ends in closure. Unless there are other reasons than those commonly given for alleging that The Merchant of Venice is "multivalent and "plural" in meaning, we will have to assume, for the time being at least, that it isn't.

The Merchant of Venice is a play set in a very male and Christian dominated society where other religions and women rights werent very well accepted by the community. However Portia, a rich woman who had previously been controlled by men, triumphs as she manipulates tricks and saves the lives of the men. We see how she is manipulated by men through her father, who though dead, still manages to control who she marries from his will. He states in his will that from three different caskets the suitors will have to chose, in each of which will contain either a letter to the suitor or a picture of Portia. In one of the three caskets, either the lead, silver or gold casket, there will be a picture of Portia the suitor picking the casket containing the picture will be the suitor who will get to marry Portia. I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike, so is the will of living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father this shows that Portia would rather have a say as to who she gets to choose rather than being told who she has to marry. She overcomes that after two suitors who she wishes not to marry choose the wrong casket letting her know which casket contains her picture, so that when Bassanio becomes a suitor and she falls for him she is able to hint to him which casket to choose: Tell me where is Fancy bred, Or in the heart, or in the head? How begot, how nourishd? She uses her linguistic knowledge to lead him to the lead casket by rhyming the words at the end of each line with lead: bred, head & nourishd. Throughout the rest of the play we see Portia fight back not only through giving herself control of who she marries but also through deceiving the Duke into believing that she is a clever, young lawyer named Balthazar by writing a letter that the Duke receives from, supposedly, Bellario telling him that he cannot make the court hearing but he has sent a young man, a disguised Portia, called Balthazar to take his place. She starts the letter with flattery, saying, Your Grace shall understand This makes the Duke feel elevated and respected because Your Grace is a sign of humbleness showing respect and a feeling of status. She then writes that Bellario is very sick so that the Duke would have sympathy for Bellario and therefore be more likely to agree to Balthazar being the prosecution councillor. As she mentions Balthazar she says that Balthazar was there in loving visitation which reassures the Duke because if he is to trust Bellario then he will trust a close friend of Bellarios, which is what the two words imply. She then refers to Balthazar as a young doctor of Rome the Rome bit is important because it links with the point of religion because the Pope is in Rome which

makes Balthazar seem almost holy. You may think that calling him a young doctor isnt a wise move because its not very reassuring but Portia reassures the Duke further down the letter when she says I beseech you let his lack of years be no impediment to let him lack a reverend estimation, for I never knew so young a body with so old a head which means that dont let the fact that hes young stop you from letting him replace me because I have never met such a young boy that is as clever as a man with 50 years worth of experience. That is reassuring because Bellario seems to be a much respected Doctor of Law and we can therefore presume that he has met a number of very important people young and old and for him to say that of Balthazar will be put in very high regard with the Duke. She then writes after that, we turned oer many books together; he his furnished with my opinion, which, bettered with his own learning, the greatness whereof I cannot enough commend this is probably the most reassuring thing that she could write to the Duke and say because the Duke wanted Bellario in the first place having much respect for him on the understanding that he is one of the best doctors around, so for him to say that they have looked over the case and read many books is to say that about the case they know as much as the other. He also says that his furnished with my opinion, which, bettered with his own learning so Bellario is saying that Balthazar has a great knowledge but with the opinions and thoughts of Bellarios experience he has a greater knowledge than Bellario himself. By writing the greatness whereof I cannot enough commend this is saying that he is speechless when it comes to the amount of knowledge that Balthazar seems to have, this could almost in it self make the Duke want to see Balthazar because to say, for example, that someone was so beautiful that you couldnt put it into words, you would want to see for yourself just how beautiful this person is. He then repeats flattery at the end of the speech I leave him to your gracious acceptance this suggests that he doesnt want to over-do the whole letter because if he had ended it, for example, with please, please take him I promise you that he will be the best and that if you dont therell be consequences which possible makes him think that hes not that good and that Bellario made it up to get out of the court hearing, but he leaves it in the Dukes hands and lets him make the decision. She adds persuasion at the end by saying that the trial would be better with Balthazars presence. Another example of Portia fighting back is when Portia uses trickery to make Shylock stick exactly to the bond causing him to be condemned to Christianity and to give half of his belongings to Antonio and the other half to the state. After she has asked for and read the bond she asks him if he has gathered everything, scales, knife and she asks him if he would have a surgeon standing by, Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge, to stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death, to try and stop him bleeding to death however even if a doctor was on hand there would still be a large chance of him dying however Shylock replies, thinking that he has beaten the amazing Doctor of Law, I cannot find it; t is not in the bond, so he is saying that it doesnt say in the bond so he wont ask for a doctor to be by side waiting. She then tricks him back when she says this bond doth give thee here no jot of blood the words expressly are a pound of flesh this means that he can shed no blood because it doesnt say so in the bond and he cant then say, come on be a bit lenient, because he wouldnt allow the doctor because it wasnt in the bond, and he wanted to stick the precise words of the bond. So this shows Portia tricking Shylock into cutting a pound of flesh exactly, no more, no less without spilling a drop of blood which is impossible. This in turn saves Antonios life. Again we see Portia fighting back against the control of men when she tricks Bassanio with the marital rings. After they marry she tells him that if he were to loose, sell or give away his ring then whatever they may have shared when married, money, estate, but most important to her, love will no longer belong to him and she also is allowed to accuse him no matter what his excuse is, Myself, and what is mine, to you and yours is now converted. But now I was the lord of this fair mansion, master of my servants, queen oer myself; and even now, but now, this house, these servants, and this same myself are yours, my lord! I give them with this ring, which when you part from, lose, or give away, let it presage the ruin of your love, and be my vantage to exclaim on you. Then after the court scene, where both Bassanio and Portia are with Portia in disguise as Balthazar, Portia (Balthazar) ask for, as

a payment, his ring, Give me your gloves; Ill wear them for your sake; and, for your love, Ill take this ring from you. Do not draw back your hand; Ill take no more, and you in love shall not deny me this! So disguised as someone else she takes his ring and plans to use it against him later on through the play. When Gratiano and Bassanio arrive back Gratiano tells Portia that Bassanio gave away his ring to the judge that begged him for it, and who deserved it; however he doesnt mention that its their marital ring. So following his explanation Portia asks What ring gave you, my lord? Not that, I hope, which you received of me. He replies a solemn yes, instead of forgiving him because she knows the truth she plays it out; she tells him that she will not come into their bed again until she sees the ring, even though shes the one with the ring. I think she does this because, as we have evidence of, she was controlled a lot by men so that when she puts up her guard and starts to fight back shes not going to let it down even though she knows shes in the wrong. Poetic Verse and Rhyme in The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, is a comedy play about the love exploits of several Italian characters, told in an objective third-person point of view. The play is set in Venice, Italy during the Renaissance. The protagonist, Antonio, is a merchant of Venice who is affluent, well-respected, and sociable. The title supports the supposition that Antonio is the protagonist because it is termed The Merchant of Venice, indicating the story of the merchant. Antonio's best friend, Bassanio, is an impecunious romantic who borrows money on Antonio's credit to court the woman he loves. Since Bassanio is in a perpetual state of indebtedness he requires money to appear affluent enough to marry Portia, the beautiful maiden from Belmont. The central antagonist is Shylock, a Jewish money lender who gives Bassanio the desired funds on Antonio's credit, but on one unusual condition. Instead of his usual rate of interest if the debt is not repaid in three months, Shylock desires to take one pound of flesh off Antonio's body. Antonio's ships (his bond) are due to return before the contract expires so Antonio agrees to the contract which is legally signed under Venetian law. Meanwhile, Shylock's daughter, Jessica, falls in love with a Christian and friend of Antonio named Lorenzo. Against her father's wishes Jessica elopes with Lorenzo and Bassanio and Portia are wed. However, misfortune hits Antonio as his ships are lost or destroyed at sea; and thus, his bond can not be fulfilled. Shylock takes Antonio to court to force him to pay the bond. In court, Shylock is despised by those present while Antonio is looked upon commendably. Portia and her lady-in-waiting, Nerissa disguise themselves as judge and clerk, respectively, and proceed to carry out the case. Shylock insists that he be allowed to take a pound of Antonio's flesh as the legal contract states and refuses to accept triple the amount owed to him. Portia then cleverly agrees to Shylock's demands, but instructs him that he may only take one pound of flesh and not spill even a drop of Antonio's blood or he will "diest, and all [his] goods are confiscate." Realizing the impossibility of his task, Shylock reluctantly concedes to become a Christian and give the deeds to his holdings to the state and Antonio because his task is unfeasible. In the first Act Solanio, a friend of Antonio and Bassanio, makes an allusion to Roman mythology. "Now, by two-headed Janus, Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time." Solanio then makes an analogy, "[they] will laugh like parrots at a bagpiper," in an attempt to brighten up Antonio who is depressed over the condition of his ships. Also in the first Act, Antonio reveals his genuine friendship and devotion to Bassanio: "Within the eye of honor, be assured My purse, my person, my extremest means Lie all unlocked to your occasions." Antonio has declared and assured his best friend that his money, himself, and his most earnest efforts are available to Bassanio. Friendship is a key theme of The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio quickly uses Antonio's friendship to beget another loan from him after Antonio discloses his devotion to Bassanio. When Antonio is placed on trial though, Bassanio admits that "life itself, my wife, and all the world / Are not with me esteemed above thy [Antonio's] life. / I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all / Here to this devil [Shylock] to deliver you." In this moment, Bassanio pronounces his persistent friendship with Antonio.

Several allusions to Greek mythology are present in The Merchant of Venice. When Bassanio tells Antonio of Portia's wealth, beauty and the attempts of her suitors, he uses an allusion. Referring to Jason of Greek mythology, Bassanio states: "Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks/ Hang on her temples like a golden fleece,/ Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' stand,/ And many Jasons come in quest of her." Later in Act III, Gratiano, another friend of Antonio and Bassanio, also alludes to the story of Jason after Bassanio has won the hand of Portia: "We are the Jasons, we have won the Fleece." An archetype and metaphor from Greek mythology can be found in the interaction of Launcelot, a clown and servant to Shylock, with Jessica in Act III after Portia and Bassanio are to be wed: "Thus when I shun Scylla, your father,/ I fall into Charybdis, your mother." Each scene in the first and last Acts end in rhyme as do several intermediary scenes in the play. In the first and last act the following end-line rhymes are used: "Make/sake," "before/door," "dismay/day," and "thing/ ring." The rhymes add to the poetic verse of the characters' lines. Each of the three scrolls contained in Portia's boxes includes proverbial messages which are written in complete rhyme, usually rhyming the same word. The rhyme strengthens the importance of the scrolls and the action surrounding their use. After Bassanio opens the lead box and has been determined to be the true suitor for Portia in Act III, his acceptance pronouncement is delivered entirely in rhyming prose, stressing the significance of that event. It is important to note that only the protagonist, Antonio, has all of his lines written in verse. All other characters oscillate between verse and prose. The main theme of The Merchant of Venice is love versus money. The conflict arises in the suitors of Portia, and in the character of Shylock. Each suitor is given the choice to discover the portrait of Portia from one of three boxes; gold, silver, and lead. The suitors prior to Bassanio, choose the boxes of precious metals, raising the issue of appearance versus reality, another theme of the play. However, they are unsuccessful because as the scroll informs: "You that choose by the view/ Chance as fair and choose as true." Thus, the superiority of reality over appearances is established. Furthermore, the motto of the gold casket blatantly states: "All that glisters is not gold." By choosing the least precious box, which inscription states that its chooser must "give and hazard all he hath," Bassanio chooses his love for Portia rather than her wealth. Shylock is an avaricious outsider, distinguished from the other characters by his religion, profession, and hatred of the beloved Antonio. Shylock demonstrates his viciousness by utilizing symbolism to attack Antonio when his bond falls through: "Thou call'dst me dog before thou hadst a cause, But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs." Upon hearing the news of his daughter's marriage to a Christian he laments: "My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!...My ducats and my daughter." His equal concern for his money and his daughter demonstrate his distorted values and overemphasis on money. Shylock's money is his life and his only protection so that he becomes obsessed by it. Portia, Bassanio, and Antonio only use money to achieve an end result. Bassanio uses borrowed money to travel to Belmont and win over Portia. Portia offers her wealth to Bassanio to help his best friend, Antonio, who freely lent his indebted friend more money. Thus, Portia, Bassanio, and Antonio do not allow their lives to revolve around money as Shylock does. During the trial in Act IV though, Shylock demonstrates that he has learned money is not everything: "If every ducat in six thousand ducats / Were in six parts, and every part a ducat, / I would not draw them, / I would have my bond." Shylock recognizes that forcing Antonio to suffer forfeiture of his flesh for the bond is more important than mere money. Religious prejudice and stereotypes are present and perform important roles in the lives of the characters. Shylock, a Jewish moneylender who subsists on the practice of usury, is disdained and discriminated against by the dominantly numbered Christians in the play: "O, be thou damned,

inexexcrable dog/... for thy desires / Are wolvish, bloody, starved, and ravenous." He is taunted with a pun by Gratiano: "Not if thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew, / Thou mak'st thy knife keen." Shylock feels wronged by Antonio and by other Christians merely because "I [Shylock] am a Jew." In Act III, Shylock informs Salerio of his true reasons for desiring Antonio's flesh: "[because] it / will feed my revenge." His motives are revealed in this scene, as he attempts to prove his equality by hypothetically asking: "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, / organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?" However, his questions fall upon indifferent ears. Shylock faces the external conflict of man versus society because he is a minority, and is overwhelmed witty Christians. The climax of the play occurs in the fourth Act when Antonio is placed on trial. The previous acts had built up to the climax by establishing the contract and introducing Portia's quest for marriage, and Bassanio's success. In the fourth act, resolution is made of the contract which Antonio and Shylock had signed. Unexpectedly appearing at the trial, Portia arbitrates the disagreement. Her emergence allows Bassanio to repay his debt to Antonio by freeing Antonio of the bond due to Shylock. Portia and Nerissa had disguised themselves as men to achieve a favorable outcome to the trial. Their act of deception, is a motif that appears in The Odyssey and The Orestia Trilogy. During the trial the theme of mercy versus revenge emerges. In the beginning of the trial Portia insists that "the Jew be merciful," but Shylock is insistent on the specifics of his contract and the promise of flesh. Clever Portia, however, declares that "This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood; / The words are expressly are 'a pound of flesh.'" When Shylock realizes that his task is impossible he is taunted a second time by Gratiano, in an ironic tone: "A Daniel still say I, a second Daniel! / I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word." Portia then sentences Shylock to further humiliation; to surrender his assets and even convert to Christianity. The final act of the play takes place in the moonlight of Belmont with musicians playing. Portia, Nerissa, and Jessica each reveal their double-identities as members of the court to Lorenzo and Bassanio. Lorenzo's use of poetic alliteration while talking to Jessica enriches the setting and supports the theme of harmony in the conclusion of the play: "How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank! / Here will we sit and let the sounds of music / Creep in our ears. Soft stillness and the night / Become the touches of sweet harmony. / Sit Jessica." William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, contains poetic verse and rhyme that creates vivid and logical imagery. The powerful bond of friendship between Antonio, the protagonist, and Bassanio is revealed through their words. Shylock, the antagonist, is portrayed as a villainous Jew, dependent on usury and void of mercy. However, the clever Portia is able to out wit Shylock and obtain justice for the Christians. The Importance of Setting in Merchant of Venice

The play, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare has two main settings. One setting is Venice, a city where many businessmen live, a place full of unhappy and unkind people. It is a world of commerce and law. Venice has been portrayed by Shakespeare as the real world. The other setting is Belmont, a city which houses a rich, happy and sophisticated society of beautiful people. Belmont is a fairy-tale world of music and love. In this play it is evident that, good things occur in Belmont and not so pleasant events take place in Venice. In the very first line of the play, Antonio, a rich merchant of Venice is moved to complain: In sooth, I know not why I am so sad (I.1), this shows that money and wealth has not brought happiness to this man. Shylock, a wealthy businessman who lives in Venice is not happy because he is an outsider and he is treated badly because of his Jewish religion. I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? (III.1) All his money could

not buy him the happiness he wanted. Shylocks daughter Jessica, in her opening lines, exclaims, Our house is hell. (II.3) This is a woman who belongs to the privileged leisure class of Venice but still she is not happy, even with all that money she possessed. This rich society of Venice is pathetically dependant on money for support and satisfaction but it still does not bring them to happiness. Belmont consists of a happier society. The young people there play tricks on each other, wittiness and humor is part of their daily life style in Belmont. Portia, a beautiful, rich young woman who lives in Belmont enjoy playing light-hearted tricks on others for amusement, and everybody has a good laugh at the end. She plays a trick on her own husband, Bassanio, by dressing up as a lawyer and taking away the ring she herself gave him when they got married. She had made him promise that he would never take it off, loose it or give it away. Afterwards when Portia asks Bassanio of the ring, he has to confess that he gave it away to a lawyer as a reward for saving his best friend from an important court case. Then she pretends to be very hurt and offended by his lack of love, faith and honor towards her by saying: If you had known the virtues of the ring, or half her worthiness that gave the ring, or your own honor to contain the ring, you would have not parted with! the ring. (V.1) But then laughingly she reveals the truth as to who the lawyer really was. All the people present at the scene were amused and they all enjoyed the light-hearted trick played on Bassaio by his own wife. Evidently people are happier in Belmont. As shown in the play Venetians are unkind people. ..... you spit on me on Wednesday last; you spurnd me such a day; another time you calld me dog (I.3) says Shylock the Jewish businessman addressing Antonio, a Christian Venitian who has been so cruel to him simply because hes a Jew. Also the people in Venice mock and laugh at Shylock when his daughter eloped with his money to marry a Christian. Salarino and Salanio make fun of him by saying ..... the dog Jew did utter in the streets: My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats! Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter! ..... all the boys in Venice follow him, crying, his stones, his daughter and his ducats (II.8) They had no sympathy towards the man who has just lost his only family and his precious money. Maybe he is greedy, but it was still his money and one would expect people to feel sorry for him but they were even more cruel to him by laughing at his losses. Even though one should feel sorry for Shylock, he himself is a very cruel and vindictive man. He hates Antonio and all Christians and when he got the opportunity to take revenge he was more than prepared to do so. He and Antonio had a bond which stated that if Antonio was not able to pay off the debt of three thousand ducats he borrowed from Shylock within three months, he would have to pay the debt by letting Shylock cut a pound of flesh from his body close to the heart. When Antonios ships were lost and he was not able to pay off the debt Shylock rejoiced in his lose. ..... other men have ill luck too: Antonio, as I heard in Genoa, .....hath an argosy cast away, coming from Tripolis (III.1) said Tubal, a friend of Shylocks informing him about Antonios misfortune. Shylock rejoices saying I thank God, I thank God..... I thank thee good Tubal: good news, good news! ha, ha! ..... Im am very glad of it: Ill plague him; Ill torture him: Im glad of it (III.1) This! shows that he was a horrible man. Later when he was offered the money, he refuses saying that he would rather have Antonios flesh than money When I was with him I have heard him swear to Tubal and to Chus, his countrymen, that he would rather have Antonios flesh than twenty times the value of the sum that he did owe him (III.2) says Jessica, Shylocks daughter informing Bassanio and Portia how much of a cruel man her father really is. These unkind attitudes of Venitians have originated from Venice being a commercial city of trade and business. People are untrustworthy and cunning. People who live here have to be aware of their fellow citizens, thus they have developed a untrusting, unkind attitude towards others. People who live in Belmont are kind and helpful. When Portia learns that Bassanios best

friend, Antonio would have to fulfill a bond between him and a Jewish businessman by giving him a pound of flesh from his body because of not being able to pay off the debt; without hesitation she gives Bassanio the money to go and save him, you shall have gold to pay the petty debt twenty times over (III.2) says Portia giving him more than that was needed. She also postpones her honeymoon and urges Bassanio to return at once to his friend. This shows that she was a kind young woman who sincerely cared for this mans life, a person she has never met. Later, Portia dresses up as a lawyer and saves Antonio from getting a pound of flesh cut off his body as the bond stated. She and her maid Nerissa went through the trouble of traveling to Venice from Belmont to save Antonio and they never took money as a reward for their good work. Portia was thoroughly unselfish. Although she has never met Antonio, she does not hesitate to risk all in order to save him. These kind attitudes are practiced in Belmont because its a clam and quite place which houses happy and sincere people. The laws of Venice are very strict and cruel. At the trial Portia recalls the law by which an alien who plots against the life of a Venetian, is liable to forfeit his life and goods Tarry Jew: The law hath yet another hold on you. It is enacted in the laws of Venice, if it be proved against an alien that by direct or indirect attempts he seeks the life of any citizen the party gainst the which he doth contrive shall seize one half his goods; the other half comes to the privy coffer of the state; and the offenders life lies in the mercy of the duke only,..... The laws of Venice were against a foreigner but if Shylock was a citizen of Venice it would have not been ordered by the court that all his lands and money be taken away from him. Also the Venetian laws accepted the inhumane bond between Shylock and Antonio which stated that Antonio will get a pound of flesh cut off his body if he doesnt pay off the debt on time. The law of Venice allowed Antonio to declare in the court of justice that as a punishment for trying to seize a life of a citizen of Venice, Shylock becomes a Christian, ..... that, for his favor, he presently become a Christian The final act opens at Belmont. Music sounds and we know that all is well with the world again. The act ends happily with all the lovers reunited, Bassanio with Portia, Gratiano with Nerissa and Jessica with Lorenzo. There is no place for Shylock in Belmont, he is a man who hates music and festivals the man that hath no music in himself, not is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; the motions of his spirit are dull as night and his affections dark as Erebus: let no such man be trusted (V.1) He is an alien to the generous world of music, nightingales and moonlit lovers. Even Antonio, who is a Venitian seems rather silent and not at ease in the magical world of Belmont. In this play, Venice is portrayed to be the real world. Its where bad events take place. Shylock looses all his properties in Venice you take my life when you do take the means whereby I live (IV.1), Antonio almost gets killed he seeks my life (III.3), Jessica and Lorenzo ran away from Venice In such a night did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew and with an unthrift love did run from Venice as far as Belmont (V.1) In Venice Bassanio has to decide whether keeping his wifes ring and his promise not to ever take it off or giving it away as a reward to the Doctor of Laws for saving his friends life is the most important thing. Good sir, this ring was given me by my wife; and when she put it on, she made me vow that I should neither sell nor give nor lose it. (IV.1) Bassanio may have wooed Portia without pain in the magic world of Belmont; but marriage and commitment are different matters and must be tested in the real world of Venice. Above all, Venice is the city of gloom and pain and it has much to learn from the love that governs Belmont. When one recalls what happened in Belmont, it seems, at times, like a fairy-tale come true. A poor young nobleman comes to the city of Belmont, in hope of marrying a fair and wealthy maiden. He has to choose between three caskets set by the beautiful maidens dead father, to win her hand in marriage. This is the world of the fairy-tale, in which everything happens in groups of three. Throughout the world in fairy-tales, lovers are subjected to triple tests and the third attempt is always

lucky. Also, in the traditional fairy-tale, those who foolishly identify themselves with wealth or riches are taught a bitter lesson. So, the Prince of Arragon and Morocco who chose the costly metals of gold and silver leave the scene as presumptuous fools. The unaffected but handsome Bassanio, who risks all on the lead casket who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath (II.7,II.9), receives the fitting reward for his wisdom and humility. Also the young lovers Lorenzo and Jessica! run away from Venice and come to Belmont to start a new and happy life together In such a night did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew and with an unthrift love did run from Venice as far as Belmont (V.1) The play ends happily in Belmont. So at the end, those who deserve happiness finds it in this magical fairtale city of Belmont. The Merchant of Venice: The Role of Shylock

Perhaps The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, is neither pro-Jewish, nor pro-Christian, since the illustrations which show neither the Jew nor the Christian to be perfect are countless. After having suffered through The Merchant of Venice, and seeing how unjustly poor Shylock was treated by his Christian contemporaries, I can't help but wonder if Shakespeare was actually trying to show the world how hypocritical members of any religion could be, be it Jewish, Christian, or anything else. For, although these buggers disliked each other based mainly on differences of religious doctrine, they had more in common than bleeding when pricked, laughing when tickled, or dying when poisoned.

As stated in the book of Timothy (vi, 10), "The love of money is the root of all evil." It's not money that is the root of all evil but the love of it that is pure evil and causes so many problems. The principal characters do love their money, don't they? From Portia to Bassanio, Antonio to Shylock, Martin to Lewis.

Shylock, in particular, keeps babbling on and on about those precious ducats of his, as if they could actually be more important than his own flesh and blood (and, considering his daughter's deviation, they probably were). As for that bozo Antonio, he was one who loved money, but, in a different way than Shylock, for he seemed to get more of a buzz out of loaning/giving it to others than out of hoarding it, but, nevertheless, he certainly felt an incessant need to have it, as demonstrated by his appeal to deal with the cunning Shylock.

Unfortunately, Shylock's cunning didn't match up to his greed, as he was bested by a woman, of all things. Yes, folks, that pesky Portia, who was hot for Bassanio's bod (lust, after all, is a type of greed, is it not?), used her wily ways to help destroy the Jew's empire. Bummer. Of course, Shylock really didn't lose it all, since Antonio allowed him to keep the half he was to have been allotted, provided Shylock give it to his unworthy daughter upon his passing from this plane. What a sweetheart.

Why the greed, anyway? Could it be that Antonio convinced himself he couldn't possibly do any good in this lifetime if he didn't have cash on hand? Could it be that Shylock believed he wouldn't have any degree of respect/power unless he had money?

Whatever the reasons for the varying degrees of greed present throughout the text, when all is said and done, one can not help but ponder the inevitable: Would Atonio have loaned the money to Shylock, had the situation been reversed?

Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice

Though many view Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice as anti-Semitic, careful examination shows that the playwright actually develops the opposing point of view. These views can be easily established through a careful reading of the plays dialogue, character comparisons, and more subtly through indirect thematic developments by the playwright showing that on both simple and complex levels, Shakespeare attacks the anti-Semitic attitude that has been prevalent in society for centuries. The words of the play actually challenge anti-Semitism. In one of his most eloquent moments Shylock addresses this prejudice when he verbalizes the equality of all men in Act III, Scene 1. He [Antonio] hath disgrac'd men, and hinder'd me half a million; laughed at my losses, mock'd at my gains, scorn'd my nation, thwarted my bargains, cool'd my friends, heated my enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

The revenge motif in the play stems from the undeserved ill treatment first of Shylock by Antonio and then Antonio by Shylock. On simple levels Shakespeare shows bigotry and prejudice in all its ugliness through the use of anti-Semitic attitudes. Shakespeare dispels the premises of anti-Semitism by establishing marked similarities between Shylock and his antagonists in the play. Antonio and Shylock are both business men intent on making money who have allowed this pursuit to become their entire focus. In the cited speech, Shylock indicates his hatred is born of the hatred shown towards him by others (particularly Antonio). Since there is no sound justification for Antonio's attitudes, he serves as a vehicle for establishing the hollowness of prejudice formed without basis. This is reasonably obvious even to the casual reader. In a more subtle manner Shakespeare, through the use of the caskets, presents a truism with regard to the contrasts between outward appearances and inner reality leading to the prevailing idea that one must look beyond the surface. Using the three caskets and their individual representations, the thought presents itself that appearances can be false and misleading. In hazarding all one has (the lead casket), the individual must give up all preconceived ideas in the pursuit of an inner truth. Since anti-Semitism stems from judging an individual or group of individuals based on external appearance and labelling, Shakespeare clearly suggests the failing of this rash form of judgment. Thus, through the example of the pointlessness of the prejudices we see in Antonio and the deeper complexities developed by the casket scene, we find that whether viewing the play on simple

or complex levels, The Merchant of Venice is not anti-Semitic in intent or teaching. Works Cited: Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Ed. Hardin Craig and David Bevington. Glenview: Scott, 1973.

Barnet Sylvan. "Introduction." The Merchant of Venice Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New Jersey : Prentice-Hall Inc., 1970. 1-10.

Granville-Barker, Harley. "The Merchant of Venice. " Shakespeare Ed. Leonard F. Dean. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1947. 37-71.