William Shakespeare, the ace of the dramatics of the English literature, has included some unusual topics in his famous play Merchant of Venice. The play is, until today, frequently read, showed, and explored everywhere throughout the world in different languages. Also, the characters of Portia, Antonio, and even Shylock the Jew are generally applauded. This play is considered by some researchers a contradictory example of anti-Semitism in literature.
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The focal topic of the play
The Merchant of Venice is a play, the focal topic of which can be distinguished as the contention between magnanimity and personal circumstance. This principle topic drives the plot and pushes the play ahead, affecting the activity of the focal characters. Different topics incorporate covetousness, the cyclic development of scorn, kindness, partiality, and the contraries playing versus recognition. This essay analyzes The Merchant of Venice; topics that predominate in this play have been studied and clarified.
Shylock is one of the prominent characters of the play
The primary topic of The Merchant of Venice is the opposition between selfishness and love. Superficially, the significant distinction between Shylock, the Jew, and the Christian characters of the play is their empathy. On the one hand, Christians confirm the significance of human connections over their business connections. In contrast to them, Shylock is vigorous in getting wealth.
Shylock is obsessed about his loss of ducats, purportedly wandering along the streets and bemoaning the fact. He even reaches the extent when he calls the ducats his dear daughter, which reveals that he loves money as much as his own child. Subsequently, in Shylock’s situation, greed is stronger than sympathy. But when we review intently, this contrast between the two characters deteriorates.
Shylock’s disappointment in Act III, Scene I, isn’t because of the money-related loss of the ring; it is more because of how his daughter sold the present of affection from his dead spouse. Thus, we see that human connections appear to hold more significance in Shylock’s life than his money. We additionally observe that Shylock makes an abnormal demand from Antonio-a pound of his flesh for money. Subsequently, we can infer that Shylock’s resentment has deeper reasons than his money related avidity.
Similarly entangled is the situation of the Christian characters of The Merchant of Venice. One of the significant Merchant of Venice subjects is affection versus money; we notice some materialistic opinions in the seemingly ‘great’ characters. Although Bassanio and Portia develop the love for one another, it was not the situation of unconditional love from the beginning.
Antonio and Bassiano as typical Christian characters
Bassanio’s fundamental inspiration in asking her to marry him was because of his debt and that he needed Portia to pay it out. When Antonio has lent him money, Bassanio demands that it was a venture on Antonio’s part. Although the last prefers to lend money only out of an ethical obligation, Bassanio appears to be eager to see their correspondence as a business. In addition, Shylock’s argument is one of the prominent highlights of The Merchant of Venice topics.
He persuasively states that Jews, the same as Christians, are human. Antonio’s despise for Shylock, the latter contends, is because of his strict religion. Although Christians talk about leniency, the most they are showing bias towards Shylock. That is why there is a conflict between love and egotism. Thus, this is the focal topic of The Merchant of Venice.
The comprehension of mercy in the play
Mercy is one more driving topic of the play. The contention between the Christians and Shylock gets overheated, over mercy. Although the law is to support Shylock, which the Christian characters apparently recognize, they, despite everything, expect him to show benevolence even though it implies the infringement of the agreement.
We could say that Shylock is right as he wishes to adhere to the agreement. During the last trial, Shylock asks Portia what might probably make him be merciful and kind. Portia underlines that the nature of mercy is rarely strained, explaining what is at stake. As God Almighty is forgiving and merciful, and it is a trait of the omnipotent Himself, people also ought to display mercy and benevolence. The power of God is greater than any natural force, magnificence, or law.
We can consider this comprehension of mercy, as described by Portia, as the distinction between the Old and New Testament, as it was comprehended by the Christians of the Elizabethan period. ‘Old Testament God’ is the strict embodiment of rigid adherence to guidelines and divine laws, giving a cruel penalty to the ones who disobey. Despite what might be expected, God’s characteristics in the New Testament are proclaimed human-like, for example, mercy. Besides that, the New Testament, the focus has shifted to the spiritual side.
The spirit prevails over the law’s letter. In the New Testament, God is forgiving. Instead of an outright penalty, God offers salvation to the individuals who are looking for forgiveness. There were obviously solid pro- Christian views hidden in Portia’s words against sticking to the law strictly.
The problem of minorities as depicted by Shakespeare
Renaissance show had its confinements, and minorities like Shylock were usually depicted as reprobate. Subsequently, his character was composed to fit into the topic of virtuous versus malicious. Shylock, by default, is unable to demonstrate kindness to his foes. The theater-goers of the sixteenth century would not expect a character like Shylock to demonstrate any kindness. The Christian characters had to perform things like that. Once Portia effectively turned Shylock’s most impressive weaponry (the law), against him, it allowed her to practice benevolence that she protects so successfully. However, she corners Shylock and strips him of his money, property, and pride.
She is the person who makes him get down on his knees and ask. It is still a question whether it was correct to return Shylock just half of his merchandise, depriving him of what might be important to him -his religion and profession. Shylock is forced to change and to forget about his moneylending profession.
As indicated by Shylock, this explained Antonio’s conduct, for example, insulting and spitting on him in front of people. Henceforth, we see that it is selfishness that gives way to this demonstration of kindness, not his anxiety for a human being. Opposed to how Portia presents, the play Merchant of Venice doesn’t represent mercy and leniency as a sweet and benevolent topic.
The topics of anger and justice
Strengthening of anger is one more fundamental topic of the play. Shylock asserts all the time that he is just using the experience he has gained and lessons he has learned from his Christian neighbors. These statements turn into a fundamental piece of his argument at the trial, just as his character. During his first appearance, Shylock’s crucial goal is comprehended as exclusively harmful to Antonio. But this hatred of him is roused by the wounds and affronts that he got from Antonio.
Perhaps Antonio clearly understands his guilt right now; he was about to be executed. After the end of the trial, Antonio is still unfair to Shylock, requesting him to convert to their faith. Other than that, he delivers upon him no other penalty. Gratiano, one more Christian, intimidate Shylock; in any case, Antonio is never again observed spitting on Shylock. We can say that the Duke, just as Antonio, stops this contention by stopping the shameful acts that fuelled it.
Prejudices and negative stereotypes
A significant topic we are going to analyze in this essay on Merchant of Venice is partiality. Both sides have deep and strong prejudices. The Christian side despises Shylock passionately because of his Jewish convictions. Then again, Shylock despises them consequently. However, the audience can understand the reasons for Shylock’s conduct and views.
In Shylock, the author depicts various negative stereotypes that were associated with the Jewish people. Still, this character differs greatly from other Jewish characters that were portrayed on the stage of England of that time. Shakespeare humanizes Shylock. We understand Shylock’s motivation for revenge and anger, and he says the most eloquent words that make us think and wake up from our prejudice. Shylock is the only character that doesn’t lie and considers his faith more valuable than his money.
The Christians in the play oppose his moneylending profession, and that might be humiliating to his self-respect. The Merchant of Venice additionally uncovers how Shylock lives under a double standard and the remorseless scorn to Jews. Shylock is expected to show benevolence, but he doesn’t see any from the ruling class of Christians in the play.
Money and materialism in The Merchant of Venice
Among the topics analyzed in The Merchant of Venice, the two most important are the topic of money and the topic of materialism. The significance of money for Christians has been demonstrated here. To the vast majority of the Christian characters, money is certainly of the most significance, although Antonio appears a merciful trader. What is more, we can notice in the play that love and compassion may be seen as a contract agreement.
The Merchant of Venice contains bright metaphors and different aspects of perception. In the play, it is indicated that appearances can be misleading, and there can be a discrepancy between the outside (the appearance) and the inside (the character).
This concept doesn’t seem contradictory if we analyze perception and prejudice among the characters of the play. Shylock, in his well-known words, pleads us to ask ourselves whether a Jew has eyes, whether the minorities feel torment? He asks us to dig further into his inspirations and his character instead of shunning him as Jewish and as a scoundrel.
Despite all the dramatic questions touched upon in the play, it’s still a romantic comedy raising such problems as mercy, justice, love, greed, etc. The play has a happy ending and ends with three weddings. Despite its sometimes-controversial aspects, the play The Merchant of Venice produces a long-lasting impression and is memorable for its outstanding unique characters.