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The Issues Raised by “The Merchant of Venice”

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Introduction

Hussain Jawad The Issues Raised by "The Merchant of Venice" The plot of "The Merchant of Venice," by William Shakespeare, is a series of intertwining parts. The entire play centres around the bond made between Bassanio and Shylock of 3,000 ducats for three months, secured on one pound of Antonio's flesh. Naturally, this idea leads to a very interesting situation. Antonio, a merchant in Venice, agreed to this strange bond because he was confident of his ships arriving in time for him to repay the money to Shylock. Another reason for his agreement was his willingness to assist his dear friend, Bassanio. Bassanio needed the money to pursue his love interest, Portia, as he did not have enough money to compete on a level playing field with the other suitors. Predictably, Antonio's ships all fail to return on time. This leads to a rather troublesome dilemma. There are several themes that run through the play. One of the themes is choice. In the second scene of Act One, Portia rhetorically asks, 'is the will of a living daughter curb'd by the will of a dead father.' She goes on to say 'I cannot choose one, nor refuse one.' Portia is referring to her choice of a suitor. ...read more.

Middle

Another example, which is not so apparent, is the idea of the Jew being a stingy man who is good with money. Shylock is always viewed as caring more about his money than anything else. When his daughter runs away, it is even suggested by Solanio (Act Two, Scene Eight) that Shylock cared more about the loss of money taken by her than her actual departure. Today, the stereotype of the Jew is still very much the same. As the play was written for an audience of Christians, the Jews are seen as the enemy. Shylock characterizes the myths about Jews. Shakespeare also presents up the issue of family. In Act Two, Scene Two, there is an amusing conversation between a father and son. Launcelot, a clown and servant to Shylock, is met by his father. His father, Old Gobbo, has poor eyesight and does not recognize Launcelot. Launcelot decides to 'try confusions' with him. He pretends not to be Old Gobbo's son and even suggests that Launcelot has died and 'gone to heaven.' It was a cruel trick to play on his father. After revealing his identity, he says that 'it is a wise Father that knows his own child.' ...read more.

Conclusion

In the first scene of Act Four, Portia talking about mercy declares ''Tis mightiest in the mighty, it becomes the throned Monarch better than his crown. Shylock declined to show Antonio any sort of mercy. Antonio's life was in his hands, yet he would not forgive him for his racist comments. When the tide turns to Antonio's favour, it is in his hands to decide Shylock's fate. Antonio, by contrast is merciful and shows a great deal of magnanimity when he decides to 'quit the fine for one half of his goods,' Antonio shows mercy. In doing so, he proved himself to be a noble man. The moral here is clear. Shylock refused to show any mercy and lost everything. Antonio showed mercy and was rewarded by the return of three of his ships. Another occasion where the issue of mercy is raised occurs in the final scene of the play. Portia forgives Bassanio for foolishly parting with the ring she gave him. He swore that the ring would never leave his finger, yet he broke his oath. However, Portia decides to pardon his error, as in fairy tales, they live happily ever after. Once again, mercy played an important role in ensuring that all ended happily. Natural justice prevails at the end of the play. It is what contributed to the happy endings. The good men receive their rewards, while the villain receives his "comeuppance". ...read more.

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