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The Merchant of Venice

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Introduction

.'The Merchant of Venice' is one of the great Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare was born in 1564 into Elizabethan England and would have taken much of his inspiration from his surroundings and these influences can be clearly identified in this play. The Merchant of Venice was first performed in 1596/7 to an altogether different audience than is around now. The Merchant of Venice is a story of love, hate and prejudice and is built up using four separate strands all linked into the general plot with great subtlety. .The bond: Shylock's pound of flesh. .The caskets: The winning of Portia. .The elopement: Jessica and Lorenzo. .The rings: A love test. The story centres on the bitter conflict between Jews and Christians at the time, with Shylock a Jewish usurer (money lender) at the centre of the story. There has always been controversy surrounding Shylock, some view him as miserly moneylender who delights in the prospect of cutting a pound of flesh from a seemingly innocent merchant and who cares more for his ducats than his runaway daughter. Others see him as a victim of the society he was in, constantly trampled down and abused until one day he stands up for himself and his long forgotten rights. .Venice at the time when Shakespeare was writing was very much a city which depended and thrived upon trade and the merchants supporting the essential industry. Venice's economy relied entirely on money and trust to be implemented by the law. At the time as is often the case now much dealing was done on credit alone and was entrusted to be honoured against possessions. The law played a vital role in ensuring that this system of trade ran smoothly and was always obeyed, because if it became known ...read more.

Middle

Antonio for many years has been the bane of Shylock's life not just always around to pay off debts that people have with Shylock and preventing him from collecting a forfeit but also the Christian-Jew conflict where Antonio publicly humiliates Shylock "he hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies". And now it is Shylock's turn to have one up on Antonio he has a chance to take revenge on Antonio and he fully intends to do so. Shylock wants to call in his legal bond against Antonio in an act of revenge and retribution not just for what Antonio has done to him but for what all Christians have done to all Jews. Just before the court hearing Shakespeare uses emotive language to make the audience feel sympathy towards Shylock. Once again he makes out Shylock to be the victim of a cruel society, one of the opening speeches by the duke (judge) to act 4 scene 1 is a prime example of this "a stony adversary, an inhuman wretch, incapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy" is the way the duke speaks of Shylock even before the case begins suggesting a lost cause for Shylock from the beginning. Antonio, Bassanio and Gratiano all continue insulting Shylock throughout the scene using insults such as "thou unfeeling man", "o be thou damned inexecrable dog" suggesting that they are confident enough that the system will favour the Christian Antonio over Jewish Shylock. .The symbol of justice is the scales, which are seen at the very start of the play measuring meat. ...read more.

Conclusion

The second was dislike of anybody who was different, and religion gave the Christians a good reason to persecute the foreigners who lived among them. Although the modern world is not completely free of prejudice it is certainly less narrow-minded than before. Nowadays the racism and anti-Semitism shown in the play would not be considered acceptable. . The overall impression is that Shylock is mean and tight-fisted however his parting scene means that the audience cannot completely hate him nor forget him. He seems utterly broken and there will always be the worry that he has not been treated like an equal or given a fair chance, for example in the court scene it is clear that the duke is biased, he says "Go one, and call the Jew into the court". By calling Shylock Jew he has made it clear that he sees him as an object, 'a Jew', not an actual person. His punishment at the end of the scene seems very harsh and it should be apparent to the audience that the loss of his religion is worth far more to Shylock than a pound of flesh. Shakespeare has created a very complex character that we are at times able to sympathise with because we are shown the reasons for his bitterness. However in my opinion Shakespeare did not write the play with one sole purpose of making an audience feel sympathetic towards Shylock he seemed to write the play with all aspects in mind and although at times we can feel for Shylock and his misfortune often we cannot understand the way Shylock chooses to manage his problems. I think that the main aim of 'The Merchant of Venice play' as I have said was to convince the audience of how mercy is greater than justice. Sam Pedwell. 10J2. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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  1. What is your assessment of the presentation of the character and role of Shylock ...

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