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Show how Shakespeare employs tensions and oppositions to present conflicting principals and prejudices of the time.

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Introduction

Show how Shakespeare employs tensions and oppositions to present conflicting principals and prejudices of the time 'The Merchant of Venice' can be seen as a series of tense oppositions. Shakespeare writes about many conflicting issues that were controversial at the time, but does not enforce any opinion on the audience, inviting them to form their own conclusions. The contrasts in 'The Merchant of Venice' are important because they incite the audience to consider moral issues such as prejudice, discrimination and bigotry. Shakespeare creates the characters with the intention of relating them to the common person; the sins and discrepancies in their lives are typical of the everyday goings on in Venice at the time. I will consider love and hate, comedy and tragedy, justice and mercy, expectations versus reality and finally men against women. All of the oppositions are linked to the concerns of Shakespeare's audience. This means that Judaism, for example, was a concern and also hatred to Shakespeare's audience. The play was consequently very eye-catching and appealing to the people of Shakespeare's time. 'The Merchant of Venice' is a story of love and hate, and both emotions are expressed powerfully in the play. On the one hand the play appears to be full of love and friendship: Portia and Bassanio; Jessica and Lorenzo; Gratiano and Nerissa. ...read more.

Middle

This device was essential to the women characters since it was forbidden for them to act on stage in the Renaissance period. Their parts had to be consequently acted by young boys. This was common in Shakespeare's time. Another debatable comedy moment is when Lancelot greets his blind, long lost father and gives him confusing directions and tells him that his beloved son Lancelot is dead. Lancelot says aside "I will try confusions with him" (II.ii.25) the moment they meet. Since Lancelot is portrayed as a comical, clownish figure that is especially skilled at making jokes, this scene transmits a humorous tone. But deep down this moment could be considered harsh and unjust. It should be considered a joke but at someone else's expense. The play seems to end on a happy note, with the resolution of the test of the rings and the celebration of marriage. But many tragedies also occur in the play, some of which contrast greatly to the happiness. For example the joyful wedding of Portia and Bassanio in act 3 scene 2 is suddenly followed by a change of mood as Bassanio reads Antonio's bad news. The atmosphere of joy and triumph gives way to one of tension and concern. ...read more.

Conclusion

Venice and Belmont are both ruled by patriarchy. This means that men have complete control whereas women have no role at all in trade, politics, or law. It is also evident that they cannot even own property because Portia says, "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). Portia has an interest in the law, but has to resort to dressing up as a man before she can exercise her ability. Portia's speech dramatically changes to suit her role as a man in the trial scene. However she continues with this attitude even after the trial is over and says, "You were to blame, I must be plain with you," (V.i.166). This emphasises the predominant influence of men over women. Throughout 'The Merchant of Venice' there are many strong feelings displayed through the oppositions and conflicts. These contrasts are relevant because they portray the individual characteristics of each person. Most of the issues raised in the play are directed towards the prejudice of both women and Jews. The topics of love and hate, comedy and tragedy, justice and mercy, expectations versus reality and finally men against women were all important matters to Shakespeare's audience. I have discussed each subject individually and conclude to state that they are all important and relevant to the characters of the play. English Essay 08/05/2007 Jack Layden 1/4 ...read more.

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