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merchant of venice
Transcript of merchant of venice
Power or Position
Reading and interpretation
prejudice and intolerance
One distinct scene where reading and interpretation becomes evident is when Prince Morocco, Arragon, and Bassanio have to read and interpret each casket correctly to win Portia.
Gold- “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.”
Silver- “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.”
Lead- “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.”
An early scene in which Antonio and Shylock are arguing about their differences proves that reading and interpretation is very important because they only hate each other because of the way they interpret shared biblical scripture.
The scene at the court was all effected by reading and interpreting. Reading and interpreting has a profound effect because, Portia disguised in the court room saves Antonio's life by reading and interpreting the law in a way that saves his life and turns the penalty towards Shylock. By interpreting the law this way Antonio is free and Shylock does not receive anything back but also is forced to change his religion.
Throughout the play reading and interpretation must be done correctly because, if not then people's lives can dramatically change and also be lost.
Reading and interpretation can be seen in:
" pray you, think you question with the Jew?
You may as well go stand upon the beach
And bid the main flood bate his usual height.
You may as well use question with the wolf
Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb."
Yes, his chest! That’s what the contract says, doesn’t it, judge? “Nearest his heart.”—Those are the very words.
Yes. Is there a scale here to weigh the flesh?
But wait a moment. There’s something else. This contract doesn’t give you any blood at all. The words expressly specify “a pound of flesh.” So take your penalty of a pound of flesh, but if you shed one drop of Christian blood when you cut it, the state of Venice will confiscate your land and property under Venetian law.
Throughout the Merchant of Venice there are different faces to greed (ranging from satisfying practical needs, to becoming an obsession driven by the need for revenge).
Shylock loses his land because he forces the judge to follow the law completely, by doing this the judge (Portia) can read and interpret the law in favor of Antonio. The judge will follow every rule to the fullest which in turn hurts Shylock because there are many underlying rules besides the most common ones.
The Merchant of Venice
by William Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare is a play that incorporates many themes such as love and friendship, reading and interpretation, prejudice and intolerance along with the law.
Love & Friendship
In the play "The Merchant of Venice", William Shakespeare develops the theme of love and friendship through the plot as well as characterization and throughout conflicts between the characters. Love is regulated,
sacrificed, betrayed, and generally
built on rocky foundations in the play.
Greed can present as practicality
In Belmont is a lady richly left,
And she is fair and fairer than that word— Act One, Scene 1, 163-4
Jessica stole the money from her father (her dowry) so that she could marry.
I will make fast the doors and gild myself
With some more ducats, and be with you straight. - Act 2, Scene 6, 59-60
The first scene in which love and friendship
is shown throughout the play is between two
characters - Antonio and Bassanio.
Bassanio mentions to his dear friend Antonio that
he is monstrously in debt and needs his help in
which to pay his debts that he owes. In the act of
love, Antonio agrees to help Bassanio although
Bassanio wishes that Antonio would look at this
as an investment. Since they have a close bond,
Antonio insists that he shall lend him his money
solely out of love.
'Tis not unknown to you, Antonio,
How much I have disabled mine estate,
By something showing a more swelling port
Than my faint means would grant continuance.
Nor do I now make moan to be abridged
From such a noble rate. But my chief care
Is to come fairly off from the great debts
Wherein my time something too prodigal
Hath left me gaged. To you, Antonio,
I owe the most money and in love,
And from your love I have a warranty
To unburden all my plots and purposes
How to clear of all the debts I owe.
Act 1, Scene 1, 124-136
You know me well, and herein spend but time
To wind about my love with circumstance.
And out of doubt you do me now more wrong
In making question of my uttermost
Than if you had made waste of all I have.
Then do but say to me what I should do
That in your knowledge may by me be done.
Act 1, Scene 1, 155-161
Although Bassanio is in debt, he is also
searching for love. He is aware of a woman
named Portia who in which is also
searching for love.
Although Bassanio is interested
in Portia's looks and her offer of love,
he is also interested in her money.
We can make the connection here that
Bassanio is definitely in want of her
fortunes as she is from a rich family and
he is monstrously in debt. We also have to take into consideration that this was a common situation in this period of time and it was an act of love.
In Belmont, is a lady richly left,
And she is fair and-fairer than that word-
Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes
I did receive fair speechless messages.
Her name is Portia, nothing undervalued
To Cato's daughter, Butus' Portia.
Now is the wide world ignorant of her worth,
For the four winds blow in from every coast
Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks
Hang on her temples like a golden fleece,
Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strand,
And many Jasons come in quest of her.
O my Antonio, had I but means
To hold a rival place with one of them,
I have a mind presages me such thrift
That I should questionless be fortunate!
Act 1, Scene 1, 163-178
Between two family members, Shylock and
Jessica, love has been sacrificed as well as
betrayed. Shakespeare has demonstrated
this exceptionally well when Jessica was
paying off Launcelot in which would keep
quiet of her plan to leave her father, Shylock,
to marry her love, Lorenzo (who in which is
a Christian.) In this case, Jessica has
sacrificed the love between her
and her father.
Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be ashamed to be my father's child!
But though I am a daughter of his blood,
I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo,
If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife,
Become a Christian and thy loving wife.
Act 2, Scene 3, 16-21
Love has been betrayed in this situation
as Shylock has been betrayed by his own
daughter who wishes to marry and become
a Christian in which is a disgrace to her father.
Although Shylock will always love his daughter
he thinks of her to be dead to him.
...I would my daughter were dead at my foot and
the jewels in her ear! Would she were hearsed at my
foot and the ducats in her coffin!
Act 3, Scene 1, 75-77
William Shakespeare has expertly examined
themes of romantic love, friendship love,
family love, and the love of money, thus taking
a more in depth look at what lies beneath the
heart of man.
Although Portia is in want of love
it is not her choice in who she falls
in love with.
Portia's love is based on the wishes
of her dead father. He has left three
caskets in which a man will then
come and choose. If this man chooses
the correct casket, he will then have
acquired Portia's love.
If in which the man chooses the wrong casket,
they will have to swear that they will not love
another woman within his lifetime nor ask a
woman's hand in marriage within his lifetime.
This results in every man who wishes to
accompany Portia they risk sacrificing their
life of love in her name.
... O me, the word
"choose!" I may neither choose whom I would nor
refuse whom I dislike-so is the will of a living daughter
curbed by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard,
Nerissa, that I cannot choose or refuse none?
Act 1, Scene 2, 20-24
Shakespeare has revealed a situation
in which shows an example of love that
has been forced upon a person. This has
Portia confused and makes her feel that
she may not love this man but has to
love him anyways as she follows her
Greed can present as power or position.
By agreeing to lend the money, but refusing the normal interest, Shylock has the power in his and Antonio's relationship. (e.g. Shylock being invited to a dinner party at Antonio’s)
The three caskets in which Shakespeare has
incorporated into his play reveals a symbolism
I am bid forth to supper, Jessica.
There are my keys. -But wherefore should i go?
I am not bid for love. They flatter me.
But yet I’ll go in hate to feed upon the prodigal Christian. - Act 2, Scene 5, 11-15
Bassanio has also gained a position of power because he married Portia; what was once Portia's money is now his. The money makes him powerful (offers to double the money for the bond which will help Antonio).
Once again, Bassanio and Antonio reveal their
love as friends through the court scene. In this
scene Antonio is strapped into a chair in which
will then give Shylock his pound of flesh.
As from her lord, her governor, her king.
Myself and what is mine to you and yours now converted. But now 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, my lord’s. I give them with this ring. - Act 3, Scene 2, 170-6
Bassanio is right by Antonio's side who
also holds his hand to comfort him as he
is about to go through pain. They also
exchange hugs as well as being close
to one another such as holding each other's
face. This shows a strong friendship as love.
In the Merchant of Venice the law presents itself to only to assist the Christian community. This is assumed because the most basic laws, such as where Jews are allowed to live, are set to discriminate the Jewish community from the Christians. Many would argue that the law acts in the Christian favor but even though it is subtle, the law actually is firm by itself and does not follow or bend because of ones religion.
Antonio, I am married to a wife
Which is as dear to me as life itself.
But life itself, my wife, and all the world
Are not with me esteemed above thy life.
I would lose all—ay, sacrifice them all
Here to this devil—to deliver you.
Act 4, Scene 1, 273-278
With the money that has been lent over
to Bassanio, he has arrived in Belmont
and has also acquired Portia's love in
choosing the correct casket.
The law is shown to sway towards the Christian community in the very begging. The first scene shows the viewers that the Jews are forced by law to live in the old walled foundry or ‘Geto’ area of town and after sundown the gate is locked and guarded by Christians. The law also forces any Jew that left the ‘Geto’ to wear a red had which would mark them as non-Christian. By having these laws it not only shows that the Christians have more freedom but also that the law is respected and followed.
(opening the lead casket)
What find I here?...
“You that choose not by the view,
Chance as fair and choose as true.
Since this fortune falls to you,
Be content and seek no new.
If you be well pleased with this
And hold your fortune for your bliss,
Turn you where your lady is
And claim her with a loving kiss.”
Act 3, Scene 2, 117-142
Shakespeare presents this as
Bassanio achieving love in which
he as been searching for along
with the help of Antonio.
Portia told Bassanio after he picked the lead case that he now owned everything that was once hers. Thus giving Antonio power and position.
Another scene where the law is presented to sway towards that of the Christian community is when the Duke of Venice calls Shylock an enemy, an inhuman wretch incapable of pity.
The money was rightfully Jessica's. However, she knew her father would not approve of her marrying a Christian and also converting to Christianity from the Jewish religion. Jessica decided to elope and take half of her father's money knowing she would never get her dowry if she asked her father.
I am sorry for thee. Thou art come to answer
A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
Uncapable of pity, void and empty
From any dram of mercy.
Act 4, Scene 1
Even though the Duke of Venice expressed visible and open discrimination towards Shylock he could not act upon these feelings. Again the law stands firmly on its own; the hatred between the Christians and the Jews do not give the ability or power to bend the law.
I have heard
Your grace hath ta'en great pains to qualify
His rigorous course. But since he stands obdurate
And that no lawful means can carry me
Out of his envy’s reach, I do oppose
My patience to his fury, and am armed
To suffer with a quietness of spirit
The very tyranny and rage of his.
Act 4, Scene 1
And I beseech you,
Wrest once the law to your authority.
To do a great right, do a little wrong,
And curb this cruel devil of his will.
Act 4, Scene 1
It must not be. There is no power in Venice
Can alter a decree establishèd.
'Twill be recorded for a precedent,
And many an error by the same example
Will rush into the state. It cannot be.
Act 4, Scene 1
Bassanio continues to begs the Duke to bend the law and alter the agreement, while many of the Christians continue try to comfort Antonio and tell Shylock he is a fool because there is no way in hell the Duke would allow such a foolish contract to stand. Portia however disguised as the Judge states that there is no power in Venice that could alter the bond, the law is the law.
For thy three thousand ducats here is six.
- Act 4, Scene 1, 85
Bassanio was once a very wealthy man. However, he wasted his money and had fallen into debt. He heard of Portia, a very rich and beautiful woman who was ready to be married. Was Bassanio truly in love with Portia, or was he attracked to her power and wealth.
Portia tries to convince Shylock to allow for surgeon to stand by and tend to Antonio's wounds. Shylock scoffs and says it is not in the contract, therefore there will be no surgeon.
Greed as an obsession that controls
Shylock becomes so obsessed by need to revenge himself on Antonio that he won’t even accept the money for the bond, or double the amount.
Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,
To stop his wounds lest he do bleed to death.
Is it so nominated in the bond?
It is not so expressed, but what of that?
'Twere good you do so much for charity.
I cannot find it. 'Tis not in the bond.
Act 4, Scene 1
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.
- Act 4, Scene 1, 86-89
Shylock demands the pound of flesh according to the letter of the bond. He becomes obsessed with getting revenge on Antonio and also the Christians.
The pound of flesh which I demand of him
Is dearly bought. 'Tis mine and I will have it.
Act 4, Scene 1, 100-1
The court eventually awards the pound of flesh to Shylock but Portia notices one little gap in the bond. Just like Shylock when he stated the bond did not call for a surgeon, the bond did not call for any blood as well. Shylock wanted the law, so the law he was going to get.
Antonio agrees with Portia because Venice is a wealthy trading city with a great reputation for upholding the law. If the duke breaks that law, Venice’s economy will suffer. Determined to have his bond, Shylock tells the Duke that if he does not receive the pound of flesh then Venice’s very laws and freedoms will become forfeit.
Tarry a little. There is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood.
The words expressly are “a pound of flesh.”
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh,
But in the cutting it if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are by the laws of Venice confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.
Act 4, Scene 1
Bassanio is saying that he is attracted to a very wealthy woman, who is also very beautiful and a good person.
Is that the law?
Thyself shalt see the act.
For as thou urgest justice, be assured
Thou shalt have justice more than thou desirest.
Act 4, Scene 1
Once Shylock realizes he cannot obtain the pound of flesh without spilling any blood, he agrees to take the 6,000 ducats. However Portia reminds him that he denied the ducats previously and wanted the law. The law stated he must take his penalty. Even further Portia tells Shylock that if any foreign resident attempts to kill any citizen of Venice, 1/2 of his goods will be given to the state and the other 1/2 to the victim, as well as his life shall depend on the mercy of the Duke.
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 seek 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 offender’s life lies in the mercy
Of the Duke only 'gainst all other voice.
In which predicament I say thou stand’st,
For it appears by manifest proceeding
That indirectly—and directly too—
Thou hast contrived against the very life
Of the defendant, and thou hast incurred
The danger formerly by me rehearsed.
Down, therefore, and beg mercy of the Duke
Act 4, Scene 1
(cc) photo by medhead on Flickr
Jews charged money for interest
Christians isolated Jews by making them wear red hats when they went out so they could be identified
They had to live in the ghetto
Forbid to own property
Jew were barred from other professions basically forcing Jews into the profession of lending money for interest.
prejudice and intolerance
A difference in belief can cause an unfair treatment of others.In Shakespeare’s time discrimination against Jews was still prevalent because of the different views they held.Still in our time it’s relevant, throughout history it has been their. Hitler discriminated and blamed the Jews for the problems of the country.
Selfishness are one of the reasons people discriminated against Jews like shylock, he cares to much about money.
“My daughter! O my ducats!” Which is more important your own flesh and blood or material objects like gold?
Jews value wealth which leads to corruption and greed. However this is one of the only ways for Jews to make a living.
“Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats!”
These quotes show that he cares more about his ducats than his own flesh and blood.
“She is damned for it.” he make this seem like the worst possible thing his daughter could have done to him.
Since she is a Christian now, she is dead to him. Shylock hates Christians whole heartedly because of the way they had treated him and other Jews. This itself brings the worst out of others.
“To a most dangerous sea, the beauteous scarf veiling an Indian beauty”
Bassaino says this when he is choosing the treasure chests. This give us the impression that racial mixing was not tolerated or fitting in this society.
Portia shows racism when she meets the prince of Morocco when she says:
“Let all of his complexion choose me so.”
“If he’s as good as a saint but is black like a devil, I’d rather he hear my confession than marry me.”
Portia could not see past the color of his skin which she saw as evil and different.
Devil = Jew
As Solanio says to his friend “Let me say “Amen” betimes, lest the devil cross my prayer, for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew.” People are influenced by actions of friends towards others. Individuals Don't discriminate for no reason, there is always a reason for discrimination weather it be actions, appearances or beliefs.
Antonio may have influenced his friend Solanio into being cruel to the Jews. However this resentment towards Jews is widespread through their society.
“A third cannot be matched unless the devil himself turn Jew.”
This was about shylock and his friend Tubal, Solanio implying that Jews are possibly the root of all evil.
Solanio consistently makes parallels between the devil and shylock the Jew.
“O, be thou damned, inexecrable dog”
There is usually a fine line between right and wrong , depending on the beliefs of each society.
Jews believed was it okay to lend money for interest.
“This was a way to thrive, and he was blessed. And thrift is blessing, if men steal it not.”
While Christians like Antonio think it is a sin, “Mark you this, Bassanio, The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”
However the treatment of Jews in this play was unwarranted, “You call me misbeliever, cutthroat dog, And spet upon my Jewish gaberdine.”
The actions of Antonio make us pity and sympathize for shylock who is miss treated for his view on making interest.
In today's society most people don’t lend money without interest unless lending to family or friends.
“The Hebrew will turn Christian. He grows kind” Bassanio is mocking shylock kindness, implying that Christians are the only ones that can show the purest form of kindness.
“Now, by my hood, a gentle and no Jew”. Gratiano says Jessica cannot be a Jew because she is to nice, again Jews are not seen as kind hearted people. While the Christians constantly judge the Jews as a group but not as individuals.
“And say there is much kindness in the Jew” Antonio only says this after shylock tells him he will not charge him interest.
“Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?”
Both Christians and Jews are human, they have the same senses and feelings but Jews are treated differently.
“and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.”
Discrimination comes from society not just from individuals who act alone. some go to extremes like Antonio , spitting on shylock and calling him a dog in front of his people.
The final moments of the court scene the Duke spares Shylock's life and Antonio demands that he become a Christian as well as half his estate go to his daughter and son-in-law. Therefore the law does benefit Antonio the Christian instead of Shylock the Jew but nor Portia or the Duke of Venice steer from the law. Fairness as well as justice has been served.