The Themes Of The Merchant Of Venice

1125 words - 5 pages

The play Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare has two major themes running through its story. Even though it was written in the late 1500s these themes still have significance today.The main characters of this play are Shylock, the Jew, who is a money lender charging interest to make living. Antonio is another character of this play and he is a fairly rich merchant. Antonio has a very good friend Bassanio, who wants to marry Portia, a wealthy woman who is Shakespeare's heroine.PrejudiceAt first, this play may seem to be anti-Semitic, but prejudice can be found on both sides. This theme mainly involves two characters of the play, Antonio and Shylock.The character of Shylock seems to be the villain because he wants the pound of flesh of Antonio's, who seems to be a good Christian. But the story behind is much deeper and Shakespeare gives evidence that all is not as it seems.At the beginning, Antonio expresses his hatred for Shylock but he doesn't give any reasons for this. Later, it can be seen that Shylock hasn't really done anything to harm Antonio and therefore Antonio's hatred is completely unfounded. Furthermore, Antonio knowingly drives down the interest rates by lending money without interest. This makes hard for Shylock to make living since he, as a Jew, cannot do anything else except lend money and charging interest. Also, Antonio spits on Shylock and kicks him, whenever he sees him. It is clear that Antonio's actions spring from pure prejudice and nothing else.As for Shylock, it is obvious that Shylock has many reasons to hate Antonio. It is understandable then that Shylock seeks revenge when he wants the pound of Antonio's flesh, even though the revenge is fairly cruel.It is interesting to me, that Antonio, even though he hates Shylock so much, comes for help to Shylock. Because Bassanio, Antonio's good friend, needs money to be able to marry Portia, Antonio goes to Shylock for help because right now he doesn't have the cash to lend Bassanio.In addition, the Christian characters exhibit same behaviors that they persecute Shylock for. This is a very hypocritical attitude from the Christian side and it can be demonstrated by many examples.Shylock is accused of being greedy but he is not alone. For example, Bassanio wants to marry Portia because she is wealthy. Bassanio himself says to Antonio that "his chiefly care is to come fairly off from the great debts" (I. i. 126 -127) and that "in Belmont is a lady richly left." (I. i. 160) Then he goes on how if he married her, he would "questionless be fortunate." (I. i. 175) This is a very interesting part and it shows the mastery of Shakespeare. Notice how he uses the word fortunate; fortunate means to be happy but also it means to be lucky and the word fortune, from which fortunate is derived, means wealth.Furthermore, Shylock is blamed for being merciless when he demands his pound of flesh at the court. That is true but if we look at Antonio at the court, we arrive at the same judgment as...

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