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Act 4 Scene 1 - Merchant of Venice - Mercy and Justice

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Introduction

For my English coursework concerning the works of William Shakespeare I am required to chose an aspect of the play "The Merchant of Venice"; and compare how this aspect has been presented in the written text and with how it was presented in a production of the play. I have read the text before I watched a video of the play produced by the National Theatre Production Company. I have chosen to base my coursework on Act four Scene 1. This scene is probably the main climax to the play. It is set in the court of Justice in Venice. This scene is mainly about Justice v Mercy and is of great importance. It also brings all the characters together for the first time. The whole play centres on two characters, Antonio, a wealthy merchant and Shylock, a very wealthy Jew. Shylock lends sums of money to others, charging lots of interest. However, Antonio also lends money, but minus the interest. This is one of the reasons why Shylock hates Antonio but he also hates him for their differences in lifestyle and religion- "I hate him for he is a Christian." In the video this hatred is displayed more often than the text and there are more anti-Semitic comments towards Shylock e.g. Shylock's name is hardly used by characters; he is known as "The Jew." ...read more.

Middle

The video expressed this double-sided character of Shylock more than in the text. This hunger for money by Shylock is often repeated throughout both the text and the video. He kept repeating how much Antonio owed him- three thousand ducats and his wish of his daughter's death over money, potrayed him as a mean, old miser. This character shines through in Shylock and leaves the audience wishing for him to lose his trial at the court of justice. I felt in the video more emphasis was put on Shylock's character than Antonio's but in the text a more wide spread emphasis was placed on both of the characters. The other characters present in the scene at this point included Bassanio, Gratiano and the Duke. These men seemed to be all against "the Jew" and more caring towards Antonio. Bassanio asks Shylock- "Why dost thou whet they knife so earnestly" And he answers- "To cut the forfeiture from that bankrupt there" Shylocks strong language shows in the text that he is not intimidated by the hate against him. I found that the video potrayed this aspect more than the text and Antonio seemed to be the underdog throughout the scene. Shylock is also potrayed to be a more strong, forward character but there is also a sense of humanity about him throughout the play. ...read more.

Conclusion

The relationship between Antonio and Bassanio creates a bit of conflict between Antonio and Portia, a conflict she is willing to test by demanding that Bassanio gives her his ring. The fact that Bassanio eventually gives away his ring, as does Gratiano, implies that Bassanio chooses Antonio over Portia. Portia gets mad with Bassanio in the next scene for loving a man more than her. The video shows the characters feelings and expressions more than the text. It shows how sad Shylock was at this point and also how happy Antonio, Bassanio and Gratiano are. I felt satisfied when watching the video to see that Shylock was brought to justice because he would not show mercy. It was a happy ending to the scene, which I enjoyed. The video and text have many differences throughout Act 4 Scene 1 and also in many other points of the play. I myself preferred the video version of the play because you can visually see the expressions and feelings of the characters more than just reading the text. I would also like to go and see a live Theatre production of the play to see what other differences and perspectives there are. I enjoyed doing my coursework on "The Merchant of Venice" and looking over the themes including justice, mercy, love, anti-Semitism and hate. The text is worth reading as well as watching a video of it and also it would be worth while watching a theatre production of it. Liam Brogan. S1F. ...read more.

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