Trading: The Mechant Of Venice And Dr Faustus

2564 words - 10 pages

Both Shakespeare in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and Marlowe in ‘Dr Faustus’ use the numerous outcomes from the events of trade in their plays to metaphorically depict a variety of different circumstances. The very concept of trade is used in all its forms to stretch the controversial and political themes and morals of each play as far out as possible. From this, we learn that trade isn't just a physical form of business, but a symbolic form of both human and spiritual communication, too.

The plays are set and executed around the time and traditions of the 16th – 17th century; a period of global and national reform and change. It saw the birth of the renaissance in the arts, science and philosophy and the flourish of mercantilist capitalism over feudalism. England broke away from Roman Catholicism and turned Protestant under the Elizabethan Settlement. The protagonists in both plays are examples of the significance of trade in this time period socially, in the age of western classicism, racially, in the discovery, butchery and slavery of the indigenous Americas and the Jewish domination of usury in Christendom Europe and culturally, in the commerce along Silk Road between the dynasties and empires across the plains of Europe, Anatolia, Persia and Asia. Nationally, trade was largely exerted by means of the theatre; messages and morals thought up by two of the world’s greatest Renaissance men- key words in these contextual masterpieces: “venture”, “baiting” and “promising” to contrast that of “credit”, “paying” and “breaking.” The lighter meanings of these words reflect the attitudes of Shakespeare’s play; the darker meanings, Marlowe’s.

‘The Merchant of Venice’ focuses on trade itself and its effects on society and religion. Antonio and his close friend Bassanio are Christian merchant traders of Venice and known to have galleys of ‘portly sail.’ The opening lines of the exposition in Act I, scene i establish Antonio’s solemn mood; “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me.” Salarino comfort his friend’s complexity, “Your mind is tossing on the ocean, there, where your argosies with portly said, like signor’s and rich burghers on the flood.” This shows the basic features of the trade of friendship, however the way Shakespeare opened the play with the concept of anxiety from physical merchant trading insinuates that trading can be an untameable force. ‘Dr Faustus’ focuses more on religion and its effects on trade. Dr John Faustus is a scholarly academic who was born “base of stock” yet brought up chiefly by his kinsmen. The Chorus opens the play with a prologue which sets the scene for the audience; a trade of clarity from Marlowe to his audience so they know what attitude they should watch the play with. In return, the audience will leave the performance fully understanding its morals, thus Marlowe successfully achieving his writing aims; “The form of Faustus’ fortunes good or bad. To patient judgements we appeal our plaud.” This tells...

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