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The Merchant of Venice

A Small Study of the effects commerce played in Shakespeare's work "The Merchant of Venice"
by

Winter Johnson

on 3 March 2013

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Transcript of The Merchant of Venice

A Small Study
By Winter Johnson The Merchant of Venice God in the Transaction The Women of Venice Bibliography What a Man Wants (Is Another Man) Throughout the play, Bassanio and Antonio are depicted as very close friends, as close as brothers...or more.
Mercantilism among men was exclusive to men.
The trading of women through marriage was a way to solidify homosocial normality.
Transactions created bonds of both honor and financial responsibility. Oh Noes, Controversy! Often seen as having racist leanings.
Some sense of xenophobia.
SO. MUCH. ANTISEMITISM. (or so it would seem) What is
"The Merchant of Venice"? Often considered among Shakespeare's most controversial works, The Merchant of Venice takes a critical view on the cultural norms associated with business in Elizabethan England. The play covers societal norms in the ways of race and commerce, the institutionalized act of antisemitism, religion's place in business, the role of women in such a society, and the bonds of men in business dealings. The loans gratis that Antonio and men like him give to other men are given only to Christians.
Within the play Christian businessmen are depicted as being generous...with each other.
Interestingly, there is a line which compares a church to a financial hazard:
"Should I go to Church...nothing?" (I.i.29-36) Portia, Daughter of a deceased merchant.
Nerissa, her lady-in-waiting.
Jessica, Daughter of Shylock. "Contract in Merchant of Venice" by Samuel Ajzenstat
http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/philosophy_and_literature/v021/21.2ajzenstat.html

"Genetics and 'Race' in The Merchant of Venice" by Martin Japtok and Winifred Schleiner
http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/literature_and_medicine/v018/18.2japtok.html

"Blood Relations: Christian and Jew in The Merchant of Venice" by Janet Adelman
http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=NDUMwfePuQEC&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=Merchant+of+Venice+religion&ots=X8CLYwDzzC&sig=D3BOia4mojuIPVnWVNuTDU9M1gw#v=onepage&q&f=false
"The Merchant of Venice and the Possibilities of Historical Criticism" by Walter Cohen
http://www.jstor.org/stable/2872897?seq=8
"Portia's Ring: Unruly Women and Structures of Exchange in The Merchant of Venice" by Karen Newman
http://www.jstor.org/stable/2870399?seq=12 About the Racism and Xenophobia... The Moroccan Prince.
"Let all of his complexion choose me so." (Portia II.vii.79)
Less xenophobic than gentle mocking
The Neapolitan (I.ii.35-38)
The Count (I.ii.40-45)
The Frenchman (I.ii.47-54)
The Englishman (I.ii.57-64)
The German (I.ii.72-76) Antisemitism: Among the World's Longest-Lasting Hatreds Jews had been outlawed from living in England since the 13th century.
Hatred and mistrust of the Jewish people was found throughout a good portion of Europe.
Venice was a major exception, though ghettos were still used to house Jewish citizens. Shylock the Jew Portrayed as the antagonist; a tight-purse, and usurer (stereo-typical Jew).
Mocked by Antonio for having above qualities as stated by Shylock:
"...and he rails, Even there where...forgive him." (I.iii.43-47)
Asks for a heavy price should Antonio default on his loan.
He is forced to convert to Christianity by the end of the play. Usury Shylock and other money lenders of Venice are forced to up their interest values due to men like Antonio lending out money gratis.
When he hears about Antonio's misfortune, Shylock does not celebrate.
"To bait...the instruction." (III.i.45-61) The Trial and the Flesh "...the hostility of others has turned Shylock from a person who lives by conditionality into an agent of unconditional hatred in the service of which he has twisted the very idea of contract. After he refuses to accept twice his money back (IV.i.84-87), he is beyond the pale of the contractual and will have to be destroyed. The trial is a prefiguring of the collapse of the system under which Shylock was made a pariah. But that collapse will come too late to help him." (Samuel Ajzenstat) A Man's Descent into Wrath Shylock has had to deal with racism his entire life.
His daughter runs off with a great deal of money.
His deal with Antonio comes with a great loss.
When a man is left with nothing he deems to be of worth, what actions are left but surrender or revenge? Antonio's Dealings Antonio admits that he has harmed Shylock's business before.
"Let him alone...hates me" (III.iii.19-24) The Strangeness of "Religious Business" Giving up material wealth and following Christ is among the most fundamental lessons.
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, ""If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24 NLT 2007)
Though there is generosity among Antonio and Bassanio, it does not extend to everyone.
When it comes to those outside of the Christian faith, money comes before generosity and kindness. Women in Society Traditional roles in trade agreements between men.
Seen as collateral more than people.
Shakespeare comments on this through Portia:
"You see me...unpractised..." (III.ii.149-159)
This is later turned around by Portia giving her ring to Bassanio. That Ring, Though! The importance of the rings cannot be underestimated.
Karen Newman states that Portia gives Bassanio her ring in order to assert her power and position.
"In giving more than can be reciprocated, Portia short circuits the system of exchange..." (Karen Newman) Damsels in Distress? Ahaha...No. Shakespeare does give Portia and Jessica feminine qualities.
Both women remain strong in character.
Jessica sees her father's state of mind as potentially dangerous, and leaves.
Portia has the chance to break her father's will more than once, but refuses.
Portia and Nerissa manage to save the hides of both Antonio and Shylock. Bros of Business Antonio and Bassanio's history of transactions show their trust of each other.
Having fidelity in business was close to fidelity in marriage.
Infidelity in business had harsher punishments. Cutting the Legs Out from Under the System Portia's submission and assertion of power shakes the norms of exchange.
Lancelot's nearly nonchalant defection from Shylock to Bassanio questions the role of the servant. Notions of Race It has been suggested that such hatred stems from a Biblical standpoint. There are several verses in the Old Testament that tell of the "unfaithfulness" of the Jewish people.
"Swearing "by the Jacob's staff" (II.v.36) and with a wife about whom we know little else than that she was also called Leah, Shylock is conceived to recapitulate in some sense the ingenious Jacob/Israel, who, more than for his sheep breeding is famous for the ruse through which he obtained the blessing from his father, who mistakes him for his first-born brother Esau." (Martin Japtok and Winifried Schleiner) Convert or Be Damned A major theme in The Merchant of Venice is the conversion of Shylock. More than demeaning him, this act questions the true motive behind conversion and the reliability such methods.
"The conversos were troubling partly because because they demonstrated the impossibility of knowing what is within. It is clear that at least some of their contemporaries suspected that these ostensible Christians were carrying out Jewish rituals in the privacy of their own houses." (Janet Adelman) Might This Not be a Critique? "As many critics have observed, the fact that Shylock is grand and pititable does not in itself imply any structural flaw in the Merchant of Venice."
"Although the Christian characters in the play are better than Shylock, the Christian characters not in the play are not." (Walter Cohen)
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