• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
Page
  1. 1
    1
  2. 2
    2
  3. 3
    3
  4. 4
    4
  5. 5
    5
  6. 6
    6
  7. 7
    7
  8. 8
    8
  9. 9
    9
  10. 10
    10
  11. 11
    11
  12. 12
    12
  13. 13
    13

Background to the "Merchant of Venice."

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Background to the "Merchant of Venice." During the 16th Century, William Shakespeare wrote an extraordinary play and called it the "Merchant of Venice." Elizabethans of this time, were extremely anti-Semitic and because of their anti-Semitism the subject matter of the play alone would have grabbed the audiences' attention. Inspirations for the "Merchant of Venice" came from two different places for Shakespeare. Firstly there was a play showing called the "Jew of Malta." In this play, written by Christopher Marlowe the Jews were portrayed as monsters. Again, prior to Shakespeare's play Dr Lopez-who was queen Elizabeth's physician, was accused of attempting to poison the Queen. The events only added to the Elizabethans Semitism and because of these events the Elizabethans were not happy or pleasant towards the Jews. The "Merchant of Venice" seemed to be a perfect opportunity to express their hate for the Jewish nation. "Lopez" is the Spanish word for wolf. A wolf is a type of dog and throughout the book we read of Shakespeare referring to the Jews as dogs. Once again the Elizabethans would not have seen anything wrong with this, for that was how they referred to the Jews themselves. What we need to realise is that there isn't only one audience; in fact there are two- the 16th Century audience and the 21st Century audience. Whereas people of the 16th Century agreed with Shakespeare attitude towards Jews, the attitude of the 21st Century has completely changed. This change in attitude has happened due to the events of World War II, where Adolph Hitler and the Nazis treated the Jews in unimaginable, inhuman and unacceptable ways. Over thirty thousand Jews were sent to concentration camps. Six million Jews were murdered, many were shot, but this method was too slow for the Nazis, so they started to build chambers and in these chambers they would send up to two thousand Jews to be gassed. ...read more.

Middle

The audience may have got excited here for they may have been thinking that the duke has Shylock caught in a headlock. Once again Shylock bites back with an absolutely fantastic answer: What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong? (Line 89) Morally this answer would be wrong but it would not be legally wrong. For Shylock to come back with such a great answer, he must still have been full of confidence. At line 123 we see a pun, which is said by Gratiano. Not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew, Thou mak'st thy knife keen; (Lines 23 &24) Gratiano is trying to tell Shylock that he may be using the leather of his shoe but he should really be using his soul for that is the hardest of the two. Once again Shylock is referred to as Jew. Enter PORTIA, dressed as BALTHAZAR, a doctor of laws. This portion of the play would be extremely funny to the 16th Century audience because as women were not allowed up on stage during Elizabeth's time, Portia would have been played by a boy dressed up as man. Here Portia needs to disguise herself from Bassanio, which is the reason they would find it funny because Portia would be a man dressed as a man dressed as a woman. Now in the 21st Century it would be funny to see a woman dressed as man but not to the extent of the 16th Century. There is also an element of dramatic irony here because the husbands up on stage do not know that Portia and Nerissa are there as their representatives whereas the audience does. Therefore this irony would make the audience feel very superior within them. Which is the merchant here? And which the Jew? (Line 170) Perhaps Portia is trying to pretend to create a sense of justice by not wanting to show any favourites, but indeed she does actually know whom the Jew and merchant are. ...read more.

Conclusion

Antonio shows extreme bigotry- he orders Shylock to become a Christian. After all the wonderful work Portia has put into grant mercy for Antonio it seems he hasn't taken a blind bit of notice, or is it just his pride is too great to overcome. Here I would like Portia to turn away in utter disgust at Antonio's ultimation. She must have mixed feelings running through her mind. Portia may have been happy that she succeeded, but on the other hand disappointed because her extraordinary quality of mercy speech had gone to waste. Antonio has not shown Christian behaviour towards Shylock but what's confusing is that if Antonio wants Shylock to become a Christian; he should be setting a good Christian example. Shylock is not well and is leaving with nothing not even a dram of dignity. Exit SHYLOCK This is where I would have Shylock walk feebly off stage picking his knife up along the way. Once he was out of sight I would like to be a horrific, piercing scream that would indicate the end of Shylock. If I were producer I would end it this way because I feel Shylock had suffered enough and I wouldn't want him to have to go through the ultimations also. It's likely that this would be the feeling of other 21st Century citizens but I can't imagine the 16th Century feeling the same way. The "Merchant of Venice" is written in poetic form and throughout the whole book we witness different forms of poetry. In Act IV scene I there is dramatic poetry such as when we have a serious of one-liners between Bassanio and Shylock. There is emotional poetry in the quality of mercy speech. Without the poetic writing I don't feel this scene or play would be as effective as it is. The 16th Century audience wouldn't think about its language as much because that was the way they spoke themselves. Whereas if it were re-written for the 21st Century in our language there would be huge disappointments all over the land. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Merchant of Venice section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Merchant of Venice essays

  1. Merchant of Venice - Comparing and Contrasting Antonio and Shylock

    Shylock's speech is followed by Tubal's entrance. He brings news, Jessica cannot be found. "I would my daughter were dead at my feet, and the ducats and the jewels in her ear!" Shylock expresses a shocking greed for money. This demonstrates an obsession withy money and power; an obsession that would most would find distasteful.

  2. To what extent does Shakespeare intend the audience to sympathize with Shylock in the ...

    who chooses the correct casket, made of either Gold, Silver or lead. The potential husband must choose the casket containing her portrait. In Belmont, after the Princes of Morocco and Aragon have both chosen the wrong caskets, Bassanio chooses the correct casket, containing her portrait, and Portia gives him a ring, which makes him her husband.

  1. Antonio is the merchant of Venice, he’s waiting for his boats to arrive home, ...

    Shylock: I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you." The main issues of this play are of love against hate, and mercy against justice.

  2. exploring the various forms of love displayed in Shakespeares Merchant of Venice

    There was obviously not a bond between Shylock and Jessica and they grew apart even more as the play continued. Another bond between father and child is that of Old Gobbo and his son Lancelot. In Act 2, Scene 3, we see the main comedy scene of the play.

  1. Merchant of Venice- Scene by Scene summary & analysis

    Some scholars have noted that each of the rhymes of the song rhyme with lead, thus providing a subconscious hint. What is interesting is that Bassanio differs from the other suitors in not reading the inscriptions. Thus he is forced to choose with his eyes alone, saying, "Therefore, thou gaudy

  2. to what extent can the Merchant of Venice be seen as a fairytale

    Shylock tells Antonio that ' you spat on me Wednesday last,/ You spurned me such a say, another time/ You called me dog' and yet you can ask me for money showing Antonio that he should treat Shylock as an equal because you never know when you will need help.

  1. How Does Shakespeare Influence Audience Opinion Of Shylock in 'The Merchant Of Venice'.

    This gives us an immediate first impression that his main concern in life is his money and wealth. He also repeats a lot of his words and phrases which shows he has a materialistic mind and a lack of imagination.

  2. How just is the outcome of the trial scene for Shylock in the Merchant ...

    This frustrates Shylock's greed as he lends out money with a high rate of interest. As well as that, he has been spat on and called a dog by Antonio, hence angering him, almost obsessively for revenge and for his bond.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work