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Is the Merchant of Venice more than just a play about money lending? Discuss.

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Is the Merchant of Venice more than just a play about money lending? Discuss. 'The Merchant of Venice' is much more than just a play about money lending. The most evident theme of money lending binds together the many other themes that run strongly throughout this play by William Shakespeare. Whichever is the main theme is open to the audience's interpretations. In the Elizabethan period people were very anti-Semitic. The audience back then would not have been shocked at the brutal, disgusting and unjust way in which that Shylock was treated continuously throughout the play. For instance Shylock was not given his own identity, in the play he was mostly referred to just as"The Jew". In our diverse world today there would be no tolerance for such anti-Semitic treatment. Shakespeare had modern thoughts and an advanced understanding for his time. He showed this in 'The Merchant of Venice' by breaking the literary tradition and giving the Jew a main role on stage. Not only that but Shakespeare created pathos for him and gives the Jew dignity and humanity. He also gives Shylock a sense of universality, an example of this is the line "If you prick us, do we not bleed?". ...read more.


The play is lifted up to that new level due to the structure of the play where the nature of good and evil are challenged; there are no characters that are all bad or all good. For example the flawed heroine, Portia, due to her deceit and tricking, and the cold yet sympathetic 'villain' Shylock. Furthermore 'The Merchant of Venice' features the strong theme of revenge which is most evidently displayed by Shylock. He wants to "The villainy you teach me I will execute" As the play goes on Shylocks hunger for revenge escalates due to how poorly he has been treated because of his religion. "If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge!" This sentence shows that he feels it is right to get revenge and that Christians are hypocritical about their mercy and that they would want revenge if it was the other way around. One by one Shylock loses everything, starting with his own anti-Semitic servant Lancelot. Soliloquy is used effectively by the servant to show his thoughts and feelings; "...for I am a Jew if I serve the Jew any longer". ...read more.


Having pleaded with Shylock to show mercy, she then seems less merciful than him. In conclusion there is much more to 'The Merchant of Venice' than money lending. There are several different themes that add their own characteristic to the play and they are deeply entwined with each other to construct this play. For example, religion plays an important role throughout the play as if each of the characters had stayed true to their respective religion, like Jessica (although this was made difficult for Shylock) there would have been not as much or no conflict to tell of. The play also uses contrasting themes of revenge and love, which also link into the main theme of religion to create a very mixed view of each religion and in particular the loyalty, or lack of, shown to it. Dramatic irony is also effectively used in the play to create humour, with the audience linking the gender of the actors to quotes such as "Ay, if a woman live to be a man.". Overall the play is made up of a variety of themes that all complement each other. Contrasting themes of love and revenge and religion and conflict all help to get Shakespeare's' messages across - money lending just seems to be the storyline to bring them all together. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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