When beginning to read The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare, I was skeptical. That being said, I think most students have complained about Shakespeare at least once in their lifetime. The diction was foreign, the register is very formal (even somehow during dirty jokes) and very different compared to what I am used to. I honestly did not expect to enjoy the play, so as you can imagine I was very surprised when I realized the play was actually interesting.
The very beginning of the book was admittedly slow, but things really started to pick up at the end of Act 1. Antonio goes to Shylock to ask for a loan (even though he is Christian and in this time money lending was mostly frowned upon by Christians), and Shylock agrees on the terms that if the loan is not repaid within three months, he gets to cut a pound of flesh from Antonio. This was a shock to me because of how sudden it seemed. At this point in the play, I didn’t expect it to be this dark. This however made the play more interesting to me because I realized at this point that the play was going to be more interesting than first glance would lead me to believe. As I read through the book, I enjoyed the switch between Portia and Bassanio’s story, and Antonio and Shylock’s story. Alternating between the trial with the chests along with Bassanio and Portia’s love story and Antonio and his friends’ adventures to do with Shylock’s gory contract gave some variety to the play. It was much nicer to get refreshed from one of the stories and switch to the next as to not get bored of one too quickly, and also to leave on sort of a cliff-hanger that keeps the mind thinking about what will happen next and feeds the reader’s thirst to continue. It was also gratifying to see the two stories come together in the end with the court case between Shylock and Antonio. Antonio was absolved from his bond with Shylock, and Portia and Bassanio’s love was questioned; Portia disguises as a lawyer to save Bassanio’s best friend (Antonio) from death, and Bassanio gives away his ring (which he promised only a day ago would only leave his finger when it was pried from his dead body). The merging of the two stories into one led to a good conclusion – which I, however, did not like. I disliked the ending simply because I believed that Shylock didn’t deserve what came to him in the end. Although I wanted Antonio to live, and Shylock threatened that, he had plenty reason to be upset. In his speech on pages 46-47, he explains exactly why he feels the way he does about Antonio, and explains that all the discrimination he has received is simply because “I am a Jew”. Despite this, Shylock experiences even more pain than he already has by losing his daughter, his fortune, his profession and his religion. Because of this, I didn’t enjoy the ending all that much.
The story wasn’t the only thing that struck my attention. The dialogue was particularly impressive to me in certain parts. The most famous and notable example of this is during Shylock’s speech. Shakespeare doesn’t just create a powerful speech, but also makes it poetic. On lines 49-51, Shylock says,
“[Antonio has] hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies, and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.”
This structure of repetition creates a really powerful speech and allows it to be read more smoothly and raise intensity. Over all, I enjoyed this play. Compared to Candide, it was very straightforward and not a lot happened, but it was because of how the play is simple but effective that I enjoyed it.
3 thoughts on “PR: The Merchant Of Venice”
That was a very long response Cameron.
But nice job, it was very well written. It was interesting how you mentioned register and diction. It was good that you incorporated that in your response as I think it was left out of a lot of peoples; including mine. Your response reflected your personal thoughts, however, it also relied heavily on summary, I think you could have simplified this piece of writing by giving your own thoughts and opinions instead. Overall great job, it is very well written.
Also, I would have liked to hear your thoughts about who the Antagonist of the play was.
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