Merchant Of Venice Essay: The Importance Of The Law

1756 words - 7 pages

The Importance of the Law in The Merchant of Venice

 
     The link between Shakespeare and the law is not new; scholars have long realized that the legal discourse can lead to a better understanding of Shakespeare's works.  Yet, that the converse is also true: the study of Shakespeare can lead to a deeper understanding of the fundamental nature of law.  A play like The Merchant of Venice has a great deal to offer in the course of such a reading.  The action of the play is concerned with contract law, but issues of standing, moiety, precedent, and conveyance are also raised.  At the most fundamental level, though, the trial scene in Act IV illustrates the conflict between equity and the strict construction of the law.

 

Equity, in the legal sense, is "justice according to principles of fairness and not strictly according to formulated law" (Gilbert 103).  This definition, while easily understandable, presents us with a problematic - even dangerous - structure of opposition.  Law and fairness are set at extreme ends of some continuum of justice, and are exclusive.  The definition implies that one can have justice according to "fairness," or justice according to "formulated law."  Yet if law is not inherently fair, if there is need for a concept of equity, how can the law be said to be fulfilling its purpose?  And if "fairness" is not to be found within the confines of "formulated law," from whence does it come?  This is not a new argument, of course; the conflict between law and equity was recognized even in medieval England.

 

From earliest childhood, we are indoctrinated with a sense of justice, of fairness, of right and wrong.  Every schoolyard echoes with cries of "No fair cheating!"  We seem to know instinctively that some things are fair, some things are not, and our moral outrage is awakened when injustice is perpetrated.

 

It is this indignation, this sense that principles of fairness have been violated, that arouse many to question the theories and practices upon which our system of law and justice have been built.  Some would claim, for example, that rape is a crime no less egregious than that of murder, and thus call for the execution of convicted rapists.  Yet no state allows such execution solely for conviction of rape.  It has become a fundamental tenet of American law that the state may not take the life of a felon unless the crime involved the taking of a life; rape alone, while devastating the life of the victim, does not result in death without some intervening act.  The search for equity - for fairness - within codified law has led to some bizarre and arcane practices in Western courts; when drunk drivers spend more time in prison than some murderers, this fact becomes painfully apparent.

 

Equity, in fact, has become so intertwined with law in the justice system that it is difficult to see the lines of demarcation.  We must remember, however, that such was not always the case.  When...

Find Another Essay On Merchant of Venice Essay: The Importance of the Law

The Merchant of Venice Essay

1139 words - 5 pages The Merchant of Venice is a play written by William Shakespeare in 1596 and finished writing it in 1598. The play starts off with Bassanio wanting to marry Portia. He confronts Antonio to ask him for a loan so he can have enough money to marry his soon to be wife. Antonio finds he doesn’t have enough money to give Bassanio the loan so he agrees to be the person to guarantee the loan. The two of them find Shylock to give him the loan. Portia then

The Merchant of Venice Essay

1524 words - 7 pages In the city of Venice, tension arises between a moneylender and a merchant. William Shakespeare conveys this tension through his play The Merchant of Venice. The play is about a merchant, Antonio, who wants to help his friend, Bassanio, regarding his financial problems. However, Antonio’s money is at sea, so Antonio is forced to borrow money from Shylock who is a Jewish moneylender in Venice. Antonio and Shylock despise each other. Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice

2425 words - 10 pages The Merchant of Venice The Merchant of Venice was written in 1598 by William Shakespeare. The story is set in Elizabethan times, which was the sixteenth century. People back then were quite prejudiced towards any race that was not Christian. They would have hated Jews. When Shylock would come onto the stage, the audience would have just booed him back off. The Christians had their reasons for hating the Jews. The fact that they supposedly

The Merchant Of Venice

756 words - 3 pages Appearances and Decisions ''Don't judge a book by its cover'' is a famous phrase everyone has heard. In the play, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare clearly states that outer appearances aren't important throughout many scenes in the play. The inner qualities such as honesty, charity, and kindness are more important. Portia, a beautiful woman, hopes to find a husband ,but she must fulfill her father's will. He designs a lottery

Merchant of Venice Essay: Refuting the Critics

836 words - 3 pages In The Jew of Venice, Granville takes up and refutes the principal "subversions," in The Merchant of Venice that modern and postmodern critics have imposed upon on the play.  Without its’ alleged contradictions, the play has a tight formalist structural unity, it focuses on an essentialist Platonic idea, and, resolving all conflicts, it ends in closure.          &nbsp

Merchant of Venice Essay

1806 words - 8 pages Defeating the enemy, light-heartedness, and a happy ending for the lovers are all elements in a comedic play. William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice shows that love conquers all and that you can always defeat the enemy. Even if a pound of flesh is the difference between life and death, or if one wrong person chooses the casket that decides your fate. For example, The Merchant of Venice, Antonio, not only survives the fate of having a

Classifying the merchant of venice

1285 words - 6 pages Classifying William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” is a drama that most scholars find difficult classifying. The play loosely focuses upon Antonio who becomes the subject of a loan that almost costs him his life due to his belittling and poor treatment of Shylock, who as a Jew has received many forms of prejudice from Christians. Despite this fact Antonio is relieved from the loan

'Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

967 words - 4 pages racial discrimination are surely two issues which are still relevant today. They are discussed mainly through the characters' interactions with one another throughout the play. Appearance versus reality is explored when Shylock pretends to be Antonio's friend, with the choosing of the caskets, and when Portia and Nerissa go to court in disguise to help out Antonio and Bassanio. Racial discrimination is shown in depth with the confrontations of Antonio and Shylock. Overall 'The Merchant Of Venice' explores both appearance versus reality and racial prejudice, which are two issues that still hold importance in present-day society.

The Merchant Of Venice - Portia

556 words - 2 pages to accept the fact that my father had the right intentions for my life, and I can secretly thank him for bringing me the most amazing man that has mentally impacted my life in so many different ways.Bibliography - The Merchant of Venice Play by Shakespeare

Merchant of Venice Essay: The Character of Portia

1977 words - 8 pages The Character of Portia in Merchant of Venice     In his Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wants the reader to admire Portia, arguably the most powerful character in the play. However, it is easy to mistake the word ‘admiration’ to mean simply a liking of someone’s positive virtues. Rather, we should like Portia because of those things that make her a multi-faceted character. Though she can appear to be an “unlessoned girl,” she is also

Merchant of Venice Essay: The True Nature of Venetian Society

882 words - 4 pages The idea of mercy is important in The Merchant of Venice because it provides a focus for the contrast between Venetian Christian society and the alien invader, represented by Shylock. Mercy occupies a "central" position in the trial scene (IV.i.), where the power struggle between aristocratic Venetian society and the threatening force Shylock comes to a climax. My thesis is that the contrast between (and equation of) mercy and revenge in the

Similar Essays

The Merchant Of Venice Essay

1209 words - 5 pages Comparison and Contrast of Shylock and Claudius Introduction This essay looks into the lives of Shylock and Antonio. These are two of Shakespearean antagonists of all time. They are alike in more ways than one. Shylock in Merchant of Venice is a Jewish moneylender based in Venice. He has been tormented and repressed mainly by the Christian population. One finds it easy to sympathize with him mainly because he has his own reasons to be loathing

The Merchant Of Venice Essay 2976 Words

2976 words - 12 pages The Merchant of Venice is shows the dynamics of love and to what extent humans will go to show love, they will use their wealth and even be prepared to give up their life for the people they love. Both Antonio and Portia love Bassanio differently. Portia perceives Antonio’s phileo in competition with her eros, (both forms of love will be defined later) and throughout the play she is seen trying to defeat Antonio’s phileo and she does this by

"The Merchant Of Venice" Essay

1844 words - 7 pages English Coursework: The Merchant of VeniceThe "merchant of Venice" is a multifarious play with many levels of interpretation. Telling the story of a Jewish merchant living in the predominately Christian capital of Venice, it can be seen as a play about persecution, justice and of social cruelty. The "merchant of Venice" is representatively driven by the same set arguments of racial and religious prejudice that existed in Shakespearean society.In

The Merchant Of Venice Essay 521 Words

521 words - 2 pages The Merchant Of VeniceAct 1In the fist act, Antonio is introduced as the Merchant of Venice. A friend of him, Bassanio, desperately needs money because all of his money is on his ships and he wants to go to Belmont to visit the woman of his dreams, Portia. Therefore he goes to Antonio to ask if he is willing to go to Shylock and ask him if he can have 3000 ducats. Antonio agrees and goes to Shylock and explains that he has to pay it back within