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"The Merchant of Venice" was offered to Shakespeare's audience as a comedy. What problems does presenting the play to a modern audience present in portraying the character of Shylock?

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Introduction

English Coursework Gerhard Ruspi 7098 The Merchant of Venice "The Merchant of Venice" was offered to Shakespeare's audience as a comedy. What problems does presenting the play to a modern audience present in portraying the character of Shylock? "The Merchant of Venice" is a story of love and hate, power, control and inequality. It evolves around Shylock, a rich Jew moneylender who lives in Venice and Venetian Christians, which have constantly abused and humiliated Shylock. The moneylender tricks Antonio, one of his abusers, to sign a bond that will entitle him to one pound of his flesh if he doesn't pay back the money he borrowed in three months. Antonio borrowed this money to lend it to his friend Bassanio who needs it to try for the hand of Portia, a rich and beautiful heiress. After Shylocks daughter, Jessica runs away with a Christian and Bassanio wins Portia's hand, news come that Antonio's ships have been destroyed and he isn't able to pay Shylock in time. The spiritually wounded Shylock wants revenge and demands a pound of Antonio's flesh but Portia turns the tables on him during the court hearing. He not only doesn't get a pound of Antonio's flesh but half his wealth is confiscated by the venetian state and he's forced to become a Christian, the very thing that humiliated and reduced him. The reason Shakespeare's work is so popular today is that he wrote about human nature and how people behave. That is why "The Merchant of Venice" is as relevant now as it was four centuries ago. Shakespeare wrote "The Merchant of Venice" to be viewed in front of white people in the 16th century. The Merchant of Venice followed other plays where Jews were involved like the "Jew of Malta". Unlike in these other plays where Jews involved performed all kinds of outrages; Shylock is someone who the Christians pick on. ...read more.

Middle

The sudden change in temper and variety would look bizarre to us. Focusing on Shylock we fail to adapt as good to the romance and jokes of the next few scenes. We would be left shocked by what happens in the courtroom. However Shakespeare gives us time for the tragic feelings evoked in the audience to soften and mellow by adding the ring episode. Act 5 draws us from Shylock's world. It would have also been too abrupt to end the play with Shylock's exist. At the end there is a happy ending for all except Shylock and Jessica, the outsiders. Shakespeare could have given the play another title like 'The Jew of Venice', The Gentleman of Venice' or 'The Lady of Belmont' but he chose to call it 'The Merchant of Venice'. Antonio is the merchant of play. So why did Shakespeare name the play after this character? Antonio is the fountain of the play. He is racist and arrogant that takes pleasure in humiliating outsiders without taking in configuration that the victim would one day hit back. Antonio is one Venice's principal anti-Semites. Antonio is one of the characters that represents how the white Christians would feel towards the outsiders in Elizabethan times and how the whites would treat them. He is the one that triggers everything. He has invested his money and is exposed to Shylock by Bassnio. Being against money lending he borrows 3000 ducats and is tricked into signing the bond. You don't expect favours from someone you have maltreated but Antonio being arrogant easily falls in Shylock's trap. Maybe this explains Shakespeare action. Antonio has called Shylock 'misbeliever, cut-throat dog and spat upon my Jewish gabber dine', simply because 'I am a Jew'. Shylock tells he has 'cooled my friends' and 'heated mine enemies'. Antonio arrogance shows when he's asked by Shylock why he expects money from someone he has abused and humiliated. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the courtroom Portia can either be played as someone intending of humiliating Shylock or someone pushed to extreme measures by Shylock's violent pursuit of revenge. I see Portia as a touch of cruelty. She is very persuasive, determined to win and get her way. She knew all along about the loophole in Shylock's bond but she only stops him when he is close to stick a knife in Antonio's flesh. During the court hearing she carefully plans her actions against Shylock. She firstly pretends to be on Shylock's side and than she reveals the loophole protecting Antonio. Portia is determined to punish Shylock and does so ruthlessly. Portia does not show the mercy that 'droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven' which she recommended Shylock earlier in the scene. I think that Portia took possession of Antonio's letter that has news about the ships on her way to Venice but she decided not to tell anyone because she knew about the loophole and was confident that she would win the case. After the court room Portia persuades Bassanio to give her the ring he swore he would keep until death and never to part with. I see this as Portia's test of Bassanio's promise and love rather than a joke, because she knows the importance of the ring. Portia wants to see how strong Bassanio's resistance will be and whether he will keep his word. Portia is also religious. After managing to take the ring from Bassanio she questions his loyalty and has stopped to pray for her marriage. Portia is also a very strong woman. In her Basanio has found a reliable and loving wife but who will claim superiority and hold control. Although it will be Portia that would have the last say in business matters. I think that their marriage will work. Portia can persuade Bassanio to do almost anything for her. The Duke is the most important citizen in Venice. He has more power but also more obligations to his fellow Venetians. ...read more.

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