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The Merchant of Venice.
Transcript of The Merchant of Venice.
The title character is the merchant Antonio, not the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who is the play's most prominent and most famous character. This is made explicit by the title page of the first quarto: The most excellent History of the Merchant of Venice. With the extreme cruelty of Shylock the Jew towards the Merchant....
"All that glisters is not gold."
Ranucci Maria Chiara
"I hold the world but as the world: a stage where every man must play a part."
Although critics tend to agree that Shylock is The Merchant of Venice’s most noteworthy figure, no consensus has been reached on whether to read him as a bloodthirsty bogeyman, a clownish Jewish stereotype, or a tragic figure whose sense of decency has been fractured by the persecution he endures. Certainly, Shylock is the play’s antagonist, and he is menacing enough to seriously imperil the happiness of Venice’s businessmen and young lovers alike. Shylock is also, however, a creation of circumstance; even in his single-minded pursuit of a pound of flesh, his frequent mentions of the cruelty he has endured at Christian hands make it hard for us to label him a natural born monster.
Why the Merchant of Venice is a tragicomedy.
Although the story of Bassanio and Portia is comic in structure, the subplot about Antonio and Shylock ends tragically.
The conflict of the play is between Shylock and the Christian society of Venice.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal”
The plot of the play seems to be very similar to a fourteenth century "novella" called Il Giannetto, a story from the collection Il Pecorone. Shakespeare got to know it in William Painter's traslation.
In particular, from Il Giannetto are preserved, almost intact, the characters corresponding to Bassanio, Shylock and Portia, as well as the story of the penalty of a pound of meat.
It's organised on two levels:
the main plot is the dispute on money matters between the Venetian Antonio and the Jewish moneylender Shylock;
the subplot regards the choice of a husband by the rich lady Portia.
In Star Trek VI, while attacking the USS Enterprise in a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey, General Chang says:
which is a part of Shylock's speech.
Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List depicts SS Lieutenant Amon Göth quoting Shylock's "Hath a Jew no eyes?" speech when deciding whether or not to rape his Jewish maid.
In The Pianist, Henryk Szpilman quotes a passage from Shylock's "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech to his brother Władysław Szpilman in a Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, Poland, during the Nazi occupation in World War II.
The title of the film Seven Pounds with Will Smith, is a reference to the "pound of flesh" from the play.
David Henry Wilson's play Shylock's Revenge can be seen as a full-length sequel to Shakespeare's drama.
The play at first humanizes Shylock by giving him a daughter, who deserts him; a beloved wife who is dead; a friend he trusts; a "sacred nation" and a "tribe" he belongs to; a society that despises him. At the end of the trial scene, in stripping him of his identification as a Jew, a character that the play has invested with humanity, the Venetians complete their process of persecution. Shylock's enforced coversion finalizes his exclusion, isolating him from his community, the "tribe" that has represented his cultural and social location.
As a result, he is silenced; a Christian Shylock has no place to speak from, he has lost the eloquence that once enabled him to denounce the injustice of his treatment.
Apparently, the main difference between the Christian characters and Shylock is that the Christian characters regard human relationships as more valuable than business ones, whereas Shylock's greed seem to be stronger than his love for his daughter. However, his insistance that he should have a pound of flesh rather than any amount of money shows that his resentment is much stronger than his greed.
The Christian characters also present an ambiguougs picture. Bassanio seeks Portia's hand first of all because he is in debt. Shylock argues that Jews are human being just as Christians are, but CHristians such as Antonio hate Jews simply because they are Jews. So while the Christian characters may talk more about mercy, love, and charity, they do not always
show these qualities in their
The question of whether or not Shakespeare supports the anti-Semitism of the Christian characters in the play has been much debated. Jews in Shakespeare's England were a marginalized group, and Shakespeare's contemporaries were familiar with portrayals of Jews as villains and objects of mockery. Shakespeare certainly drew on anti-Semitic prejudice in potraying Shylock, exploiting Jewish stereotypes for comic effect. But at the same time the play includes elements that radically unsettle the prejudice it reproduces. Shylock is showed as a more human character by showing that his hatred is born of the mistreatment he has suffered in a Christian society that considers him an outsider, not a citizen.
Jews versus Christian.
Quick-witted, wealthy, and beautiful, Portia embodies the virtues that are typical of Shakespeare’s heroines—it is no surprise that she emerges as the antidote to Shylock’s malice. At the beginning of the play, however, we do not see Portia’s potential for initiative and resourcefulness, as she is a near prisoner, feeling herself absolutely bound to follow her father’s dying wishes. This opening appearance, however, proves to be a revealing introduction to Portia, who emerges as that rarest of combinations—a free spirit who abides rigidly by rules. Rather than ignoring the stipulations of her father’s will, she watches a stream of suitors pass her by, happy to see these particular suitors go, but sad that she has no choice in the matter. When Bassanio arrives, however, Portia proves herself to be highly resourceful, begging the man she loves to stay a while before picking a chest, and finding loopholes in the will’s provision that we never thought possible.
Although the play’s title refers to him, Antonio is a rather lackluster character. He emerges in Act I, scene i as a hopeless depressive, someone who cannot name the source of his melancholy and who, throughout the course of the play, devolves into a self-pitying lump, unable to muster the energy required to defend himself against execution. Antonio never names the cause of his melancholy, but the evidence seems to point to his being in love, despite his denial of this idea in Act I, scene I. The most likely object of his affection is Bassanio, who takes full advantage of the merchant’s boundless feelings for him. Antonio has risked the entirety of his fortune on overseas trading ventures, yet he agrees to guarantee the potentially lethal loan Bassanio secures from Shylock.
A gentleman of Venice, and a kinsman and dear friend to Antonio. Bassanio’s love for the wealthy Portia leads him to borrow money from Shylock with Antonio as his guarantor. An ineffectual businessman, Bassanio proves himself a worthy suitor, correctly identifying the casket that contains Portia’s portrait.
In the context of his unrequited and presumably unconsummated relationship with Bassanio, Antonio’s willingness to offer up a pound of his own flesh seems particularly important, signifying a union that grotesquely alludes to the rites of marriage, where two partners become “one flesh.”
In one of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues, for example, Shylock argues that Jews are humans and calls his quest for vengeance the product of lessons taught to him by the cruelty of Venetian citizens. On the other hand, Shylock’s coldly calculated attempt to revenge the wrongs done to him by murdering his persecutor, Antonio, prevents us from viewing him in a primarily positive light. Shakespeare gives us unmistakably human moments, but he often steers us against Shylock as well, painting him as a miserly, cruel, and prosaic figure.
Shylock's most famous monologue:
Also, in her defeat of Shylock Portia prevails by applying a more rigid standard than Shylock himself, agreeing that his contract very much entitles him to his pound of flesh, but adding that it does not allow for any loss of blood. Anybody can break the rules, but Portia’s effectiveness comes from her ability to make the law work for her.
· The Comical History of the Merchant of Venice, or Otherwise Called the Jew of Venice
· William Shakespeare
TYPE OF WORK
TIME AND PLACE
· 1598; London, England
· Comic, romantic, tragic
· Sixteenth century; Venice and Belmont, Italy
· There is no clear protagonist. Antonio is the merchant of the play’s title, but he plays a relatively passive role. The major struggles of the play are Bassanio’s quest to marry Portia and his attempt to free Antonio from Shylock, so Bassanio is the likeliest candidate.
· Antonio defaults on a loan he borrowed from Shylock, wherein he promises to sacrifice a pound of flesh.
· Antonio’s ships, the only means by which he can pay off his debt to Shylock, are reported lost at sea.
· Portia, disguised as a man of law, intervenes on Antonio’s behalf.
· Shylock is ordered to convert to Christianity and bequeath his possessions to Lorenzo and Jessica; Portia and Nerissa persuade their husbands to give up their rings
· Self-interest versus love; the divine quality of mercy; hatred as a cyclical phenomenon
· The pound of flesh; the three caskets
· In the play’s opening scene, Shakespeare foreshadows Antonio’s grim future by suggesting both his indebtedness to a creditor and the loss of his valuable ships.
The Divine Quality of Mercy
Even as she follows the standard procedure of asking Shylock for mercy, Portia reveals her skills by appealing to his methodical mind. Her argument draws on a careful process of reasoning rather than emotion. She states first that the gift of forgiving the bond would benefit Shylock, and second, that it would elevate Shylock to a godlike status. Lastly, Portia warns Shylock that his quest for justice without mercy may result in his own damnation. Although well-measured and well-reasoned, Portia’s speech nonetheless casts mercy as a polarizing issue between Judaism and Christianity. Her frequent references to the divine are appeals to a clearly Christian God, and mercy emerges as a marker of Christianity.
There are general resemblances between The Merchant of Venice and popular tales. In tha popular narrative tradition things come in threes. In the play Antonio borrows three thousand ducats; he expects his ships to bring in "thrice times' its value"; Portia has three suitors that have to choose between three caskets. In accordance with the convetions of popular narrative, the test of the three caskets is in the form of a riddle. The tradition of winning a bride by solving a riddle was well established in the Middle Ages. However, the contest for Portia's hand also reflects the culture and legal system of Venice: it presents tha same opportunities and the same rules to men of various nations, ethnicities, and religions. The correct casket is lead, and warns that the person who chooses it must give and risk everything he has. Several Christian teachings are here combined: the idea that desire is an unreliable guide and should be resisted; that appearence is often deceiving; and that people should not trust the evidence provided by the senses.
The pound of flesh highlights two of the play's closest relationships: the fact that Bassanio's debt is to be paid with Antonio's flesh shows their close friendship; on the other hand, Shylock's determination is strengthened by Jessica's elopement, as if he was trying to compensate for the loss of his own flesh and blood by taking it from the enemy. Lastly, the pound of flesh is a constant reminder of the rigidity of Shylock's world, where numerical calculations are used to evaluate even the most serious of situations.
The pound of flesh highlights two of the play's closet relationships: the fact that Bassanio's debt is to be paid with Antonio's flesh shows their close relationship; on the other hand, Shylock's determination is strengthened by Jessica's elopement, as if he were trying to compensate for the loss of his own flesh and blood by taking it from his enemy. Lastly, the pound of flesh is a constant reminder of the rigidity of Shylock's world, where numerical calculations are used to evaluate even the most serious of situations.
Portia's father has a marriage plan for her: the suitors have to pick between three caskets. The one who will pick the right casket will marry Portia.
Bassanio asks money to Shylock, who agrees to give him 3000 ducats for three months.
Prince of Morocco chooses the golden casket; Prince of Aragon selects the silver one.
Bassanio comes on his quest for Portia's hand.
Bassanio selects the leaden chest.
Portia have to marry him.
Antonio can't repay Shylock.
Court of Duke of Venice.
Portia offers to Shylock money.
He refuses and she threatens him.
Shylock is saved by the Duke.
The play ends.
The positive characters comment upon some of the themes.