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The Merchant of Venice
Transcript of The Merchant of Venice
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England on April 23rd, 1564. He died on April 23rd of 1616.
He wrote a total of 37 plays, 154 sonnets, and several other works in his lifetime.
In his time, he was a rather respected, popular, and successful writer.
Many of his plays have been translated into hundreds of different languages.
In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, and they eventually had three children.
Leading up to the expulsion...
William the Conqueror took over England in 1066. He set a feudal system in place in the country, and made Jews direct subjects of the King. This meant that they had no rights or protection from the wrath of the throne. Kings could levy heavy taxes on the Jews at whim. Many laws and rules were supported by religion, and Judaism permit the Jews to earn interest off of loans made to non-Jews. Because they were his direct subjects, the King could take as much as he wanted from the wealthy money-lending Jews.
While the throne reaped the rewards of the monetary success that many Jews had, the church and the public grew increasingly angrier and angrier.
The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice
Originally composed in the estimated range of 1596-1598.
Jews were typically ostracized in England during Shakespeare's time because Queen Elizabeth's doctor, Rodrigo Lopez, who was a converted Portuguese Jew, was convicted in 1594 for plotting to poison her. He was considered a traitor and promptly executed by a hanging and mutilation. (He was alive for the mutilating,mind you!)
Historically, there were technically supposed to be no Jews in 16th century England because they had been banished in 1290 under the Edict of Expulsion. Less than a few hundred people practiced Judaism in secret.
By William Shakespeare
A more accurate depiction of Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway
The Expulsion of Jews
Various works of Medieval art in the 11th century would compare Jews to Satan by displaying them with “horns and goat-tees,” causing them to look like “the satanic billy-goat.”
“Blood Libel,” a myth that haunted Jews until the 20th century, suggested that Jewish ceremonies used the blood of Christian children.
Rage riots would break out over the Jews. In 1190, over a hundred Jews were massacred in the city of York.
In 1275, the Statute of Jewry banned all lending at interest, which was most Jewish people's main source of revenue.
In the duchy of Gascony in 1287, King Edward I declared all Jews expelled.
The Edict of Expulsion was passed 3 days later. It was heartily supported, hardly resisted at all, and full-filled generally non-violently.
They did not officially re-inhabit England until 1655.
Self-Interest Versus Love
Revenge Versus Mercy
HOORAY for Plot Summary!
The tale begins with Antonio, the merchant depicted in the title of the drama, and his friends discussing possible causes of Antonio’s sadness.
Bassanio approaches Antonio and asks for a loan of 3,000 ducats so that he may have the funds to pursue the lovely and rich Portia.
Bassanio then borrows the money from a Jewish moneylender named Shylock, who makes Antonio promise to give him a pound of his own flesh should the loan not be repaid.
Portia’s suitors, as stipulated in her father’s will, must correctly choose between gold, silver, and lead caskets in order to have her hand in marriage.
Bassanio chooses the correct casket and marries Portia.
Bassanio’s friend Gratiano marries Portia’s maid, Nerissa.
Shylock’s Jewish daughter Jessica disguises herself as a boy and runs away from home to marry Lorenzo, another one of Bassanio’s friends.
Shylock is ANGRY
Antonio's merchant ships are all reported as crashed
Shylock is GLAD
"I am very glad of it. I'll plague him; I'll torture him. I am glad of it."
Bassanio and Gratiano attend the court hearing to try and convince Shylock to show Antonio mercy
Portia and Nerissa sneak along too, and disguise themselves as a doctor and a clerk. Portia ends up winning the case for Antonio because Shylock refuses to show mercy.
Portia and Nerissa both give their husband rings, and make them promise to never take them off, so long as they love them.
Portia, who is still disguised as a man, asks Bassanio for the ring on his finger.
At first he says no, but Antonio persuades him to give the “doctor” his ring, and Gratiano to give his ring to the “clerk.”
The women become furious with the men over this upon their return to Portia’s home, but eventually forgive them.
Antonio's ships turned out to be fine, so all of the characters end up more or less happy and wealthy.
Everyone except for Shylock!
Shylock: Villian or Victim?
“These foolish drops do something drown my manly spirit.”
Quotes of Note
“But though I am a daughter to his blood, I am not to his manners.”
“It is a good divine that follows his own instructions.”
• In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare uses specific characterization, cultural prejudices, and sentient symbolism to illustrate mercy’s prevalence over revenge, proving that mercy “tis’ mightiest in the mightiest.”
• In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare uses specific characterization, intense tone, and stark irony to depict justice as unpredictable, proving that the road to revenge is a hazardous route, and “thou shalt have justice, more than thou desirest.”
• In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare uses specific characterization, precise foreshadowing, and clear symbolism to contrast love and self-interest, proving that true love is priceless, and Bassanio “owed the most, in money and in love.”
Three Internet Sources