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Who contributes more to The Merchant of Venice Shylock or Portia?

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

Who contributes more to "The Merchant of Venice" - Shylock or Portia? "The Merchant of Venice" is a play written by William Shakespeare, between the years 1596 and 1598. It is of the tragic comedy genre that Shakespeare is so familiar with; the play's plot illustrates how friendship and love triumph over greed. "The Merchant of Venice" consists of many intriguing characters, although there are two individuals that contribute to the play massively and can be appreciated from different perspectives. These characters are Shylock and Portia. Shylock is definitely the most complicated character within The Merchant of Venice, due to the fact that he possesses the two major roles of being both a villain and a victim. At first Shylock is portrayed as a monstrosity, who lusts for Antonio's life. Although when a deeper understanding of Shylock is attained, it appears that he is a righteous member of the community who has endured both physical and verbal abuse for his religion. He is first encountered in Act 1, Scene 3 were Antonio and Bassanio wish to receive 3000 ducats from Shylock's money lending business. Shylock is shocked that Antonio has came to him for a favour, "He hath disgraced me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies and what's his reason? I am a Jew" This listing technique emphasises Shylock's fury and distress.

Middle

were in six parts, and every part a ducat, I would not draw them; I would have my bond" Shylock keeps to his bond for too long, which ends up with Portia outwitting him and resulting in the losses of his daughter, his money and his religion. The message Shakespeare exposed through this theme is that greed will never accomplish the holder anything but despair. Portia is the counterpart of the villainous Shylock. She appears to be the heroine of the play, which is justified by her exceptional and impressive character shown at the trial scene. The first impression the audience receives of Portia, is that she is a rich heiress recognised by her outstanding beauty. She believes that Bassanio (a man without riches or power) would be her perfect man and could solve the mystery of the caskets to marry her. This clearly shows that Portia gives more value to love and romance than wealth and power. This mindset displayed by Portia, makes her an inspiring character for the audience and shows how vastly different she is from the greedy, malevolent character of Shylock. It introduces the softer theme of romance to the plot, which is later shown in the trial to triumph over avarice. Portia's wittiness and intelligence isn't recognised until later in the play, when she deceives the Duke by disguising herself as a young lawyer, named Balthazar.

Conclusion

For example, Shylock's warped mind allows him to compare basic this such as eyes and organs with the desire to seek revenge. On the other hand Portia's mercy speech is far more logical. As an example she allies mercy with Gods and Kings, this corresponds with the renaissance ideology at the time, therefore being accepted by the law at court. In my opinion, Shakespeare decided to highlight the intellect of Portia, as women were not considered at that time to have the same mental capabilities as men. I believe he attempted to illustrate the fact that women are equally intelligent beings; this is portrayed by Portia's dominance, particularly throughout the trial scene. In conclusion, even though Portia outwits Shylock in the trial scene, and is undoubtedly the better individual, I believe that Shylock still has more impact upon "The Merchant of Venice". Firstly, Shylock is greatly focused on throughout the entire play, whilst Portia does not have a major role until the trial scene, where her qualities are truly recognised. This suggests that Shakespeare may have not intended for Portia to be portrayed as the most important character, if so she would have been introduced earlier. Shylock also introduces a number of themes into the play, including the major one of prejudice. Finally the character of Shylock is also more complex than that of Portia, because he is constantly portrayed as both a villain and a victim. He evokes mixed emotions within the audience; they are drawn in by his diverse characteristics. ?? ?? ?? ??

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