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The Merchant of Venice- William Shakespeare.

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Introduction

The Merchant of Venice - William Shakespeare This play incorporates themes of racial hatred and prejudice. Examine the attitudes of Portia, Antonio and Shylock. Explain in detail how Shakespeare used these attitudes to create different dramatic effects. Attitudes and social conventions have changed since Shakespeare's time. In what ways has this altered our perception of these three characters and our reactions to them? Throughout the play various themes of racial hatred and prejudice are incorporated. The attitudes of Portia, Antonio, Shylock and others amplify this. These attitudes are used by Shakespeare to create different dramatic effects. Our perception of these three characters has changed since Shakespeare's time, this due to the change in attitudes and social conventions. Throughout the play Portia shows a range of examples of racial discrimination and hatred. She does this while she also being prejudiced against, she is prejudiced against because of her female gender. Portia showed racial discrimination and hatred toward her potential international marriage partners. Portia passes comments on a Moroccan Prince, where she states that she would simple refuse to marry the man because of skin colour and race. "If he have the condition of a saint, and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me." I believe this disregard and racial hatred is caused, because in the 16th century the marriage, socialisation and accepting of international people was different from how it is today. ...read more.

Middle

This subversion is very successful, as not only does the whole court believe she is a man, she also wins the case. Throughout the play Antonio shows typical racial discrimination toward Shylock the Jew. Antonio and Shylock hate each other, however all the hatred is not due to a racial difference. As a Christian Antonio borrows money and demands no interest on his loan. As Shylock was Jewish he could not work in Venice in a respected profession such as that of a doctor or a lawyer. Therefore to earn a living he would loan money to people and profit of the interest. During the play, Bassanio needs some money in order to capture his love interest, Portia. At that specific point, all of Antonio's money is tied up at sea in various ships, so Antonio needs to borrow the money. Consequently Antonio and Shylock come to an agreement in which Shylock loans three thousand ducats to Antonio and demands no interest upon the re-payment of the money. However the stipulation is if Antonio is one day late with his payment then Shylock can lawfully cut one pound of flesh from Antonio. The Christian agrees to this bond, as he believes his ships will come in dwelling three times the amount to be paid a month before the bond is due. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the court when the tables have been turned upon Shylock, the Christians spare the Jew's life and in doing so show mercy. In The Merchant of Venice we see Shylock, as a character who can be viewed in many different ways, this is due to the audience of the time. Up until the late 1700s he was played as a comic character but the 1700s onwards saw him played as more of a villainous character. In 1814 Shylock's role was depicted as a character to be pitied, and in 1879 he was first portrayed as a tragic character; this giving The Merchant of Venice its title of "tragicomedy". Since then he has been depicted in many different ways and has reaped sympathy from the audience ever since the unjustness towards Jews in the Second World War. Shakespeare showcased each character bringing out their racial views and prejudices and showing how prejudice had its impact on them in their turn, in order to persuade the audience to think through the different ideas. He creates different dramatic effects by involving the audience. He forces the crowd to relate to the characters, so they are not just sitting passive. He manipulates the audience therefore the play is enjoyed more and becomes more successful. The Merchant of Venice was almost certainly performed between 1596 and 1598 and was performed in front of an Elizabethan audience who were not particularly well educated or literate but they understood the complexities of the issues being raised in the play. Chris Scrimgour ...read more.

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