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"It is far from clear in The Merchant of Venice where our sympathies ought to lie" Discuss.

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Introduction

"It is far from clear in The Merchant of Venice where our sympathies ought to lie" Discuss Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, written in 1596 deals with themes such as anti-semitism, love, hatred, Christianity, Judaism, mercy and justice all of which were very relevant to an Elizabethan audience. These themes were juxtaposed throughout the play to create contrast and controversy and also to convey this polarity to the viewing audience. The acts and scenes in the Merchant of Venice were also juxtaposed carefully to highlight the individual characters strengths and weaknesses, flaws and virtues to allow the audience to analyse them and decide where our sympathies ought to lie. Throughout the play however, we witnessed a kaleidoscope of different sides to each character through their interaction with other characters. As the play progressed and the characters revealed their true colours, we as the audience reassessed our feelings towards them and subsequently, our sympathies were always changing. The characters themselves were also juxtaposed to allow the audience to compare them with other characters and their behaviour during previous scenes. Shakespeare's purpose in structuring his play in such a manner was to help the audience to understand the characters better, this also created an air of suspense, which prevented the audience from becoming bored. If the scenes were arranged badly and the characters were all 2-dimensional, the plot and story would unfold all too soon and the audience would quickly lose interest. The constant changing of sympathy from character to character in The Merchant of Venice gave the viewing audience an opportunity to reassess their own moral thermometer or "judging system" and how they decided who they felt sympathetic towards in the play. ...read more.

Middle

He both verbally and physically abuses him on a daily basis "You call me a disbeliever, cut-throat dog and spit upon my Jewish Gabardine, fair sir you spat on me on Wednesday last" (I.iii.108). Upon going to forfeit his bond, he couldn't even muster the energy to plea his innocence or fight for his life, instead he (again) felt sorry for himself and became the pathetic man we had disliked in the beginning "I am the tainted wether of the flock, meetest for death. The weakest kind of fruit drops earliest to the ground: and so let me" (IV.i.114-116) In the end, Antonio's life is saved and they leave the courtroom in a fairytale-like happy way. However, Antonio is still the outsider of the group, he is still without love and is still lonely and insecure. Bassanio's character in The Merchant of Venice again can be interpreted differently according to the desired effect of the director. In the first few pages of the play, the audience sees Bassanio as irresponsible with money as he is clearly spending above his salary and borrowing more than he can lend back leading him into debt " I owe you much, and like a wilful youth, that which i owe is lost" (I.i.146-147). He appears to dependant on Antonio for many things. It could be interpreted that Antonio manipulates and dominates him to make himself feel bigger and father-figure-like but more likely than not Bassanio latched onto Antonio for a sense of both financial and emotional security. ...read more.

Conclusion

Not only did she elope to marry a Christian (she was brought up as a Jew) but she stole money and jewellery from her father also. Some people believe that she was forced to elope as opposed to declare her love openly and sympathise with her for that, many too believe that her oppressed upbringing and possessive father 'forced' her to leave. It is true that after hearing of his daughters departure, Shylock remarked "I would rather my daughter were dead at my foot and the jewels in her ear" but under the circumstances, anyone would be annoyed to here that their own flesh and blood had stolen from them, more so; nearly put them out of business. Jessica also rather spitefully, exchanged her mother's ring for a monkey (no one is sure whether it was an actual monkey that Shakespeare was referring to or an amount of money). This was insensitive of her as i am sure she was aware of how important the ring was to her father "That tortuest me Tubal.....I had it of Leah" (III.i.73-75). Throughout her first few appearances in the play, I am sure that the audience was entirely sympathetic towards her and understood the difficult position she was in but as the play drew on and she became more and more hedonistic in her approach to life in general, some people sympathised more with Shylock. Sympathy is to share another person's feelings and emotions especially emotions like sorrow, pity and mutual understanding. In The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare forced us to reassess the idea of sympathy and how we judge people before carrying out that sympathy. Jean-Kemi Ogunmuyiwa 10 Jupiter English Coursework The Merchant of Venice Page ...read more.

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