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Discuss the Ways in Which the Themes of Love and Hate are Explored and Presented in Act One in The Merchant of Venice

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Discuss the Ways in Which the Themes of Love and Hate are Explored and Presented in Act One in The Merchant of Venice In a perfect world, hatred would not exist and love would be totally innocent. Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, this is never the case. In Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" love and hate are presented as main themes immediately from the beginning of act one. Love takes many forms in the play. There is love between close friends, romantic love that flourishes between characters and unconditional love within families. These are all explored in different ways in the first act. In the first act we are introduced to a number of characters including Bassanio and Antonio. The whole opening act is based around the fact that Bassanio needs a loan to seduce Portia, a beautiful heiress. Even though Bassanio is already in debt to Antonio he still agrees to help him. Antonio says that Bassanio can apply for a loan using Antonio's good name. This is an extremely selfless act, which shows that their friendship is strong and that they trust each other completely. Later on in act three when the terms of the loan are being discussed with Shylock, Antonio even agrees to the extreme terms of the loan agreement just so Bassanio can obtain his loan of 3000 ducats. ...read more.


In scene two, Portia describes all the suitors that have come before her and explains how none of them have been satisfactory. For example, she describes the , the Palatine count as being too serious and subdued - "He doth nothing but frown, as who should say...he hears merry tales and smiles not." However, when it comes to discussing Bassanio, Portia hints that she does still remember him and mentions that he was "worthy of praise". This suggests to the audience that there may have been a certain amount of chemistry between them and that Portia is attracted to Bassanio. Even though this does not suggest love in a strong sense, it is apparent to the audience that something may develop between the two characters. Often in Shakespeare's plots, two characters that are very unlikely to be together fall in love after overcoming hardships in their relationships. What adds to the romance between Portia and Bassanio is how Belmont is described separately from Venice which almost makes it seem like a different far away land. There are many fairytales that have been around for centuaries telling of rich princesses stranded alone in a castle in a land far, far away. The imagery of this only enhances the audience's imagination of the relationship building and makes it seem much more romantic. ...read more.


The Merchant of Venice is thought to have been written between 1596 and 1598. At the time in England, there wasn't a great amount of anti-Semitism. However, there were other evil Jewish characters being written about into plays and books such as "The Unfortunate Traveler" by Thomas Nashe (1594). The hostility between Jews and Christians is presented through Antonio and Shylock's relationship in the first act. Their hatred for each other has not come from a particular action or event but a build up of tensions. Antonio despises Shylock because he is Jewish and Antonio hates the Jewish religion. He also thinks that lending money to be repaid with interest is an unfair and greedy method of making money. He believes money should be lent between friends and repaid back in trust. Shylock dislikes Antonio for a reason which is seemingly linked; Antonio lends money out gratis (free) to the public in Venice which means Shylock loses business because borrowers would obviously rather repay a loan without interest. Shylock also hates Antonio because of the way Antonio treats Jews, especially himself. Some examples of this behavior that Shylock gives are being spat on and being treated like a dog. "For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe, You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, And spit upon my Jewish gabardine" There are also more subtle hints of racism in the act that aren't so clearly portrayed. For example, when Portia is meeting her possible suitors she meets Morocco, a coloured prince. ...read more.

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