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

What are the main themes in "The Merchant of Venice"?

Extracts from this document...


The Merchant of Venice ?To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge?? is one of many key lines from ?The Merchant of Venice? by William Shakespeare. It is one of the memorable lines as it is the first line from Shylock?s pivotal speech based on revenge. I will be going into depth in this critical response about what are the main themes which will include the conflict between justice and mercy and the contrast of love and hate. Collectively, they help us to understand in detail about the characters, Also, I will be describing many other features from the play such as the key speeches by Portia and Shylock, setting and characterisation. ?The Merchant of Venice? is a play which focuses on two main plots. First of all there is Shylock?s plot, were he is on a quest for a pound of flesh from Antonio. However, Portia comes and saves the day. Also there is another plot surrounding Portia which involves three caskets and her marriage. In Shakespeare?s ?The Merchant of Venice? he explores many themes but the main one in my opinion is the conflict between justice and mercy. As in Shylock?s key speech where he is putting a lot of emphasis on revenge by using rhetorical questions aimed at him being a Jew. Shylock expresses his hatred and resentment of Antonio in his speech as all of his feelings which he had to suppress over the years now have burst to the surface. ...read more.


Shylock is a money-lending Jew, and for these two reasons he is very much disliked and hated by most in the plot. Throughout the plot Shylock is often associated with devil or animal imagery. ?An inhuman wretch, incapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy.? This is when the Duke is describing Shylock as being un-human and will only show a small measure of mercy. Also, in Shylock?s key speech - the Duke is correct ? as he shows no mercy what so ever to Antonio as he thinks that revenge is more important than being merciful. However, at the end of the plot Shylock neither gets his pound of flesh or his three thousand ducats back. As a matter of fact he has to sign all of which he owns over to Jessica and Lorenzo, and he also must promise to become a Christian. By this point Shylock has lost everything and is totally defeated. Then there is Portia who is another important character in ?The Merchant of Venice.? Portia is a very intelligent and beautiful woman who falls in love with Bassanio, However, her father has planned a test with three caskets and whoever chooses the correct casket is allowed to marry Portia. Later she dresses up as a lawyer in the courtroom scene and saves Antonio?s life. At the end of the play Portia is happy as she and Bassanio ?live happily ever after.? One of the central themes in ?The Merchant of Venice? is the contrast between love and hate. ...read more.


Also on the gold casket the inscription says, ?Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.? This would suggest that Portia?s father has an opinion that men do not deserve the love of Portia. However, he puts the picture of Portia in the least expected casket; this would be the lead casket. The inscription on this casket reads, ?who chooseth me must give and hazard all the hath.? He is saying here that if you choose this casket you must go through and put up with what might ever come your way with Portia, this might put some men off picking it as it sounds negative and so does the fact it is in the lead casket. So overall, Portia?s father does not go for the obvious he went for the least obvious which is what superficiality is all about. In my opinion to conclude the question in which I chose the main theme is the conflict between justice and mercy for many reasons I will briefly state. First of all Portia who is one of the main characters, her key speech was based around mercy. Then if you compare that to Shylock?s, another main character, his speech was based around revenge. So these two most famous speeches are based around the main theme. Also at the end of the play, in my opinion Shylock deserved what he got so justice was served. Justice and mercy is also relevant in today?s society as the quality of mercy is not dead. It is not dead as people still believe that showing mercy to others is still worthy of praise and should be respected. KerrGibson. ...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. What is your assessment of the presentation of the character and role of Shylock ...

    Shylock's anger is against all who he has perceived to have wronged him, or aided in his daughter's flight, but it is focused on Antonio. When questioned about Antonio's bond Shylock describes it as a "bad match" but Shylock is so incensed about the recent events he makes it totally

  2. Friendship in The Merchant Of Venice

    There seems to be conflict between these characters. Throughout this scene we do not sense any theme of friendship between these characters. However in this scene we also sense theme of strong friendship between Antonio and Bassanio. Antonio agrees to Shylocks bond and risks his life for his friend.

  1. Background to the "Merchant of Venice."

    We now hear Antonio properly for the first time and he's armed with quietness and spirit. He answers the duke gracefully and seems to accept what he's up against. Antonio comes over noble and dignified, by his actions he is setting a good Christian example for that is how Christ

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

    law, we learn from Shylocks aside that Antonio is racist, "He hates our sacred nation" Antonio's judgement of Shylock is blinded by the intense desire to help his friend Bassanio, regardless of any cost. Bassanio can see the danger in borrowing money from Shylock unlike Antonio, "I like not fair terms and A Villains mind".

  1. Does Bassanio deserve Portia

    Shylock then leaves, when Shylock disappears out of view Jessica shouts at him: "Farewell, and if my fortune be not cross'd I have a father, you a daughter lost." When Shylock appears in Act 3 Scene 1 Solanio announces Shylock's entrance by saying: "Let me say 'amen' betimes, lest the

  2. The Merchant of Venice - Critical Evaluation.

    Friendship lays the foundations for the main scene/plot in the play: the trial. Antonio, the Merchant of Venice, was due to have an even pound of his flesh removed from him after his "merry bond" with Shylock had gone forfeit and he found himself in substantial debts to him, after he had borrowed three thousand ducats for Bassanio.

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

    One of these is in the first act within the conversation between Antonio and his friends Solanio and Salerio. Antonio announces that he is upset and denies the suggestion that it is due to the perils at sea that his ships carrying precious cargo may be facing.

  2. The Merchant of Venice

    Why, revenge.' Shylock's intentions become clear in this monologue as he 'will execute' the revenge he has been taught by the Christians in Venice but he 'will better the instruction'. On the other hand, Shylock's explanation for the use of Antonio's flesh 'To bait fish withal' makes it seem as if Antonio's

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