• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Merchant of Venice

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Question 5: Write about the theme of prejudice, showing how it is presented through different characters and how they speak and behave. Merchant of Venice is a play with many connected themes and plots. One of the major themes of the play is prejudice. Prejudice takes place in all forms in The Merchant of Venice: against race, gender, religion and foreigners. For Shakespeare to write and identify all these prejudices at a time where it was not fully understood and it was like a part of life, shows that he is a master of writing plays. There were wars being fought and laws being passed for most of the prejudices listed above. Most of the audience and people in that time, 1590s-1600s, would have been racist against at least one of the themes tackled by the play, and yet for Shakespeare to write a play about prejudice and changing the roles of certain characters, at the time would have been thought to be impossible. To fully understand the prejudice and the play one must understand the time in which it was written. The first act that shows prejudice is act 1 scene 2. Here we meet Portia and Nerrisa. Portia is complaining to Nerrisa about the way her suitors get picked. Portia is the mistress of Belmont's immense wealth. But ironically Portia's freedom is limited. She has no control or choice of whom she gets to marry. Her future lies in the hands of the casket system put into place by her dead father. The casket system shows the unjust male power and control that men have over women in the patriarchal society.. Portia complains to Nerrisa and says ' O me, the word 'choose! I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike, so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father.' ...read more.

Middle

The final lines of act 2 scene 7, show Portia's severe hatred of outsiders. In the penultimate line she says, 'A gentle riddance draw the curtains go'. She is barely able to contain her contempt. The fact that she says ' a gentle riddance', shows that she is glad that he is leaving. In her final line her racism comes to light in all its strength. 'Let all of his complexion choose me so'. If we compare the Prince of Morocco's departure with the departure of The Prince of Arragon, we see that Portia does not treat the Princes the same. She is racist against Morocco and really hates him. But she only ridicules Arragon, and has a joke with Nerrisa about him, calling him an insect. 'Thus hath the candle singed the moth'. The previous scene closed with one loser, Morocco. Now Scene 8 opens with the report of another loser Shylock. Solanio and Salarino, tell the audience of how Shylock responded to the loss of all his possessions. Once again, Shylock is not named. He is described as 'the villain Jew' and 'the dog Jew'. Solanio and Salarino are depicting his losses unsympathetically. Solanio starts imitating Shylock and mocks the way that he complains about his stolen riches just as much as his eloped daughter. This hints to the audience that Shylock is more concerned for his riches and angry at his daughter for stealing them. 'My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter!/Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats!' Some of his anger may have been due to him knowing that his riches are in the possession of a Christian. Once Jessica marries Lorenzo, her money will become Lorenzo's property. Again this shows the iniquitous male dominance in a patriarchal society. Salarino adds on extra details about Shylocks misery. He tells Solanio that even the young children delight in his losses. ...read more.

Conclusion

'This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood'. Gratiano seizes the opportunity to mockingly imitate all of Shylock's previous praise of Portia. His racism is very evident: 'O Jew, an upright judge, a learned judge!' Shylock has all his wealth confiscated, half going to Antonio and half going to the state. The Duke pardons him and Antonio allows him to retain a half but the half must eventually go to Lorenzo and Jessica. But Antonio has one more condition. Shylock must turn Christian. This would have been deeply offensive to Shylock but he is forced to agree. Shylock is left to leave he stage humiliated. Shylock has become a victim of an extreme form of racism. He has lost all of his wealth and is forced to turn Christian. The whole courtroom was against him because of his race. Gratiano's mockery shows all too clearly the anti-Semitism that plagued the trial and the whole play. Through out the play we encounter different prejudices. Merchant of Venice is known to be a comedy. But beneath the comedy lies the murky world of racism, sexism e.t.c. Shakespeare has done extremely well with the Merchant Of Venice. We know that Shakespeare was influenced by the society of his time. Therefore, the issues tackled by Shakespeare give us an insight into what it was like to be a woman or a Jew or a foreigner in the Elizabethan era. Some people have complained bout teaching the book for GCSE, but if we do not learn about racism and see the effects it has on the particular race then how are we meant to know how racism affects people. Shakespeare changed the mood of the audience throughout the play. For example with Shylock, we first liked him, then hated him, then liked him and then hated him. I believe that Shakespeare wrote this play to make people stop being racist towards jews at the time. Tamer Ben-nagi 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE The Merchant of Venice section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE The Merchant of Venice essays

  1. Background to the "Merchant of Venice."

    Nowadays if we were to throw anything at the stage, shout or cheer we would probably be thrown out or banned from that particular theatre. In review of the crowds reaction and enthusiasm the 16th Century audience would have been more enjoyable to be amongst.

  2. How does Shakespeare create tension in the trial scene of The Merchant of Venice?

    Mark, Jew. O learn�d judge!' This will make the audience feel a slight sympathy towards Shylock as he is in great pain and the Christians are laughing at his punishment. The audience will either laugh along with this sadistic mockery or feel that it is a mean unnecessary action.

  1. Portia's Three Suitors.

    Showing himself to be an impatient and tortured lover or perhaps anxious to lay claim to Portia's fortune. His long speeches before choosing the casket are too intense. He does however make some good points and he centres on the saying, 'don't judge a book by its cover'.

  2. The play "The Merchant of Venice" is described as Romantic Comedy. One aspect of ...

    The emotional power of the Shylocks story overshadows the love of Portia and Bassanio. Therefore for the modern theatregoers overall effect is tragic rather than comic, because through T.V, cinema and video modern day audience take comic as funny and tending to laughter rather than social resolution typically ending in marriage.

  1. Shakespeare’s three women characters – Portia, Nerissa and Jessica – are portrayed as typical ...

    For instance Portia sticks to her fathers will and marries the person who chooses the right casket but has it in her mind to try and influence her suitors. Jessica is not so typical because she rejects everything, which is expected of her and runs away with a man of a different religion and steals her father's money and jewels.

  2. Discuss the Ways in Which the Themes of Love and Hate are Explored and ...

    Other examples in more recent history such as the Holocaust have also strengthened the divide. Even though the play was written over three hundred and forty years before the Holocaust and the attempted genocide of the Jewish race, the play can sometimes be looked at from a different perspective and can be seen as disrespectful towards Jews.

  1. With close reference to the text, explore how Shakespeare presents the character Shylock in ...

    If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?" "If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrongs a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge" These quotes show Shylocks argument for equal rights.

  2. In the Elizabethan period it was a literary traditionthat Jews were portrayed in a ...

    Previous to Shylock sharpening his knife on the sole of his foot, Nerissa enter the court dressed like a lawyers clerk, and following the action Portia entered as a 'doctor of law'. After hearing the facts of the case she decide that the law states that he can have the pound of flesh he is entitled to.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work