Love and Hate Depicted in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is a play both about love and hate. Shakespeare illustrates the theme of hate most prominently through the prejudices of both Christians and Jews and their behaviour towards one another. The theme of love is shown amongst the Christians, in the love of friendship and marital love. The themes are emphasised in the settings of the play, Belmont symbolising love and Venice symbolising hate. As well as this the immorality of various characters can be seen in their motives for love and hate.
The entire play is centred around racial prejudices between Christians and Jews and their hate for one another. In The Merchant of Venice Shylock, the Jew, is characterised as the scapegoat, just as the Jewish have been throughout history. Shylock's prejudice and dislike for the Christians is largely based on their mistreatment of him:
"Signior Antonio, many a time and oft in the Rialto you have rated me about my moneys and my usences: still have I borne it with a patient shrug, for sufferance is the badge of all our tribe. You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog. And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine, and all for use of that which is mine own."
Shylock feels the wrath of an unequal society and is frustrated by it:
"Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is?" (Shylock- 3,1,54-60)
Shylock's hatred for the Christians is what causes him to pursue his revenge on Antonio. This action is very significant as Shylock's business is usance and in his pursuit for revenge he turns down six-times the amount of money owed to him. Antonio's prejudice and loathing for Shylock is equally as strong. He shows no remorse or regret for any past wrongs he has done to Shylock or any other Jew:
"I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on the again, to spurn thee too."
Antonio is the symbol of racism in society and he openly exhibits it. He is not phased in the least after Shylock's downfall. Shakespeare displays the repugnant effects of hatefulness in The Merchant of Venice.
Shakespeare demonstrates love in The Merchant of Venice amongst the Christians. He also distinguishes between the love of friendship and marital love. In Act 4, Shakespeare implies that Bassanio and Gratiano's love for their friend Antonio is greater than that for their wives. Both men broke vows that they had with their wives because of Antonio:
"Antonio, I am married to a wife which is as dear to me as life itself; but life itself, my wife, and all the world, are not with me esteem'd above thy life: I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all, here to this devil, to deliver you."
True love seems to be demonstrated in Jessica and Lorenzo's relationship....