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It is suggested that Shakespeare wrote 'The Merchant of Venice' sometime between 1596 and 1598.

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Introduction

It is suggested that Shakespeare wrote 'The Merchant of Venice' sometime between 1596 and 1598. It is classified as an early Shakespearean comedy, a work in which good triumphs over evil, but serious themes are examined and some issues remain unresolved. The play is about a Christian Merchant who borrows money from a wealthy Jew in return for interest in order to try for the hand in marriage of a beautiful rich heiress. It spins around the polarity between the surface attractiveness of gold and the Christian qualities of mercy and compassion that lie beneath the flesh. To discuss this play successfully it is important to refer to its historical background, such as the persecution of Jewish people, expulsion and forced conversation. The Spanish Inquisition is known for the terror that it caused the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain is a nation-state that was born out of religious struggle between numerous different beliefs, including Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Judaism. Following the Crusades and the Reconquest of Spain by the Christian Spaniards the leaders of Spain needed a way to unify the country into a strong nation so they began by driving out Jews, Protestants and other non-believers. Jewish people are often associated with wealth and with being a plague to the society to which they belong. Fourteenth-century Spain was no different. In the city of Seville, a man named Martinez tried to incite the people to purge themselves of the "dirty" Jewish citizens. . On Ash Wednesday (March 15,1391), the crowd moved towards the Jewish quarter (Juderia). Some of the participants were captured by the police and flogged or beaten, but that was not enough to stop the mob. Although they did not succeed that day to destroy the Jews, the feelings that Martinez had evoked lay simmering until June 6th when the mob sacked the Juderia of Seville. The victims numbered in the hundreds, even thousands. ...read more.

Middle

I shall end this strife, become a Christian'. When Jessica leaves it is justified. It proves her true hatred of her father and that Shylock treated her in such a way that led her to an almost unthinkable act of rebellion, not only against Shylock, but of her own religion. She is no thief in the sense that she takes what is rightly hers. It may not have been labelled as her own possessions, yet it is her right to take what she was not given, to own what she should have owned if it weren't for her spiteful father. Shylock's treatment of Jessica springs to a great extent from the requirements of his religion. Jewish girls were expected to be modest and withdrawn, whereas Jessica takes a great interest in Christian revelry, which would certainly not be expected, in the Jewish religion. Shylock is unreasonably harsh as a father, which can be conclusively drawn due to Jessica's lack of freedom. In Scene 2 : Act 5, Shylock's bad treatment of Jessica is stated when he threatens to lock Jessica in her room and once again, he foretells his hatred of Christians, 'the prodigal Christian'... 'Christian fools'. During Act 3 : Scene 1, Shylock defines the differences between Christians and Jews and why Christian's should not consider revenge. His attitude towards this gets to grips with the real conflicts. "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." Shylock announces his disrespect for Jessica when he claims to care more for his money and jewels than he does for her, 'I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear'. Act 4 : Scene 1, this trial scene is the climax of the play. The presiding Duke first extends his sympathy towards the defendant Antonio and then tries to persuade Shylock to drop his claim to a pound of flesh. ...read more.

Conclusion

In Act 4 : Scene 1, Portia and Nerissa disguise themselves as lawyers and succeed in fooling every person in the court. This misconception of not only the fellow characters of the play but also of the audience would cause the audience to reflect on who can be trusted. This use of dramatic irony could be Shakespeare's way of teaching the moral that not all things turn out as they would have appeared to, as in Shylock's case. Unlike Shylock, the other characters in the play have 'risked all for love', which contrasts sharply with Shylock's relentless reasoning. He is a man who has no warmth or love in him, even for his own daughter. Great bitterness and anger fuel his desire for revenge. The only moments he displays human feeling is when he talks with passion about his treatment as a Jew. This dedication for his religion is his 'love'. Though he does not show love for others, he shows much love for his religion and like the other characters 'risked all for love', so did Shylock; his love for his religion. I think Shakespeare wrote this play in order for his audience to achieve something; the understanding of Jews and any other people of different religions. Shakespeare wanted to prove, as best as he could, that all people are the same whatever their religion. As Shylock says, "If you prick us do we not bleed" In this quote Shylock explains that he is the same as any person of any religion. Prejudice in Elizabethan Times was a huge issue and Jews were often seen as alien's and treated very differently from Christians. Shakespeare wanted to try to change this and by writing and performing this play he hoped a message was sent to each person in his audience so that they questioned themselves as to who is in the right; Jews or Christians? Or if in fact, both religions could be right...because religion does not make a difference, does it? ...read more.

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