Category Archives: Merchant of Venice

Personal response to The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice is an enthralling Shakespearean play with a cast of compelling characters. Shylock, it must be noted, has the audience’s concentration from beginning to finish. The reality that Shylock is a Jew living in a Christian-run city is the most important aspect of his personality. These Christians despise everything Shylock adores and cherishes. They despise the fact that he is a money lender, and his religion holds him in low regard. When Shylock is defending himself, he delivers the play’s most prominent monologue. Any Christian character in the play has a negative attitude toward him. A “misbeliever, [a] cut-throat dog and spit on[his] Jewish gabardine,” they call him (1.3.106-107). Shakespeare, on the other hand, does not portray Shylock as just a survivor. In reality, Shylock’s defense of his predicament is one of the most stirring and thought-provoking speeches in literature. “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is?” (3.1.52-57).

Nevertheless, he can be a profoundly nasty character with all his admirable humanism. His own daughter resents him, takes advantage of others’ economic hardships, and mistreated his servant, Lancelot. He is concerned about the missing money as his daughter runs away, takes money and jewels with her, hoping that she was “dead at [his] foot and the jewels in her ear,” (3.2.79-80). What makes Shylock so interesting is that learning how to respond to him is very challenging. As one closely studies the play, one learns that Shylock has several important motivations to act as he does. While he treats Antonio despicably, without reason, he is not as we have seen. The latter has “spat on” him, “spurned” him, and “called [him] dog.” by his own admission. In comparison, Antonio is completely dismissive of the complaints made by Shylock. “In fact, he even goes as far as promising to do the same again, “I am as like to call thee so again, to spit on thee again, to spurn thee too” (1.3125-126). The idea that he accepts an all-consuming hate fueled by a need to gain revenge at any cost is what makes Shylock’s character so interesting, “If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him” (1.3.41-42).

As a result, in order to beat Antonio, he devises a heinous scheme. Since Shylock’s plots are exposed, Shakespeare disturbs the reader once again, and he is brought to justice. The play spends a lot of time discussing the philosophy of justice and the quality of grace. When Shylock, on the other hand, puts himself at the hands of the judge, Christian justice is revealed for what it is. “Be assur’d, thou shalt have justice more than thou desirest” (4.1.313-314). In the heartbreaking courtroom scene, we see a serious abuse of judicial power. Shylock is forced to abandon his faith and give Antonio half of his wealth, with the other half going to the daughter who betrayed him. Despite his crimes, the sight of a broken and almost destitute Shylock remains difficult to bear. Shylock is an interesting character for me because he evokes so many contradictory emotions in me. I was disgusted by his botched assassination of Antonio, as well as outrage and pity at the scene of the crime. Despite the fact that the play is titled The Merchant of Venice, it is mostly about Shylock, the Jewish moneylender.

English: PR to MoV

In The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, revenge is in some ways justified but in other cases is not. The difference between right and wrong when it comes to revenge is similar to the difference between Christians and Jews. This difference is what makes Shylock’s desire for revenge justified.

The act of revenge due to abuse is justified when it comes to Shylocks life but not the Christians’ lives. Shylock wanted revenge for how Antonio treated him. “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, / And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine, / And all for use of that which is mine own” (Act 1, Scene 3, ll. 106-108). Words are harmful but they can be ignored, but when Antonio continuously bad-mouthed Shylock to the point where Shylock’s religion was being treated like trash is what resulted in Shylock revolting. What pushed Shylock over the edge was him losing his daughter and his money to a Christian. His actions towards revenge at first seemed unjust but in the end, when Shylock’s religion was thrown away we felt empathy for him… Now the Jews were in the right while the Christians were in the wrong, but Shylock being by himself against many Christians the chances of him succeeding in his revenge was almost impossible.

Revenge cannot be justified as right when there is a chance that someone will suffer. Shylocks revenge was fueled by rage and hatred towards Antonio. He decided that making a loan and acting kindly towards Antonio will aid him later on with his true desire…

“O father Abram, what these Christians are, / Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect / The thoughts of others! Pray you tell me this: / If he should break his day what should I gain / By the exaction of the forfeiture? / A pound of man’s flesh, taken from a man, / Is not so estimable, profitable neither, / As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats. I say / To buy his favour, I extend this friendship. / If he will take it, so; if not adieu, / And for my love, I pray you wrong me not” (Act 1, Scene 3, ll. 156-166).

He wanted to kill Antonio by using a loan they both signed. His desire to kill Antonio because of hatred was unjust because although Antonio might have harmed Shylock mentally he did not physically harm Shylock. Antonio deserved to apologize at least to Shylock but this was never going to be enough because with his daughter gone, Shylock had barely any money and no one on his side, all he had was himself and his religion.

The difference between what is right and what is wrong is like the difference between Christians and Jews, they can never accept each other. “Certainly the Jew is the very devil incarnation, / and, in my conscience, my conscience is but a kind of / hard conscience to offer to counsel me to stay with the / Jew” (Act 2, Scene 1, ll. 24-27). Neither religion is right or wrong in a sense. They act based on how they have been raised. If calling the other a devil lives up to the normal standard of life then they do not deserve to be called people.  While Christians prominently overrule Jews both want mercy for different reasons… Jews meaning Shylock alone wants mercy for his religion, he wants to be respected for who he is, he is tired of being shunned by the Christians. The Christians want Shylock to show mercy to Antonio, they want mercy but we can see that when they made Shylock beg for his life they did not show him any mercy whatsoever. It seems as if their actions are lies for the truth, wanting mercy vs actually showing mercy, the Christians truly are terrible people towards Jews. Christians and Jews within this story seem as if they will never respect one another, if Antonio was to have never provoked Shylock maybe Shylock would have been able to save his identity. Without his identity, without any sign of mercy from anyone around him Shylock was no longer a Jew, he was no longer himself.

The effect that inflicting revenge can have on a person or group of people will never result in anything good. Revenge is fueled by hatred, by a change in your life that you can’t accept and this is exactly what we saw in Shylock’s case. He lost everything in the end because of revenge. What good did it bring him to try and force change upon the Christians? Nothing good came out of his actions… All that came was more pain and more loss for his already broken character.

 

The Merchant Of Venice, Does Money Corrupt Us?

Does money automatically corrupt us, is there a way to be wealthy/rich without changing for the money. Why does money tempt us to do things that we wouldn’t if it was not involved? How much control do we have over our own decisions with money implanted within our lives 24/7? Is it possible to stay the same person with a clear open mindset or do our minds become diluted with numbers and status? The Merchant of Venice’ has examples of this question throughout the book.

It is a well-known fact that people naturally change their behavior when put in certain situations, these situations could be from stress, popularity and of course what I will be talking about, MONEY. We see the theme of money and love being put together throughout this book and I found it interesting to see how much money meant, and what people would do for it. Bassanio gives an example of it almost immediately after getting engaged to Portia the wealthy beautiful princess. He says “When I told you My state was nothing, I should have told you that I was worse than nothing; for indeed I have Engaged myself to a dear friend, Engaged my friend to his mere enemy, To feed my means.”   (Act 3, Scene 2, L 256) Bassanio reveals that he is indeed in debt and needs help from Portia’s wealth. Portia’s wealth is the driving factor for Bassanio to make the trip to her in order to marry her so that he could use her wealth to solve his issues he has seemed to help stir up involving his dear friend Antonio. Bassanio changes for the money and in the long run, it almost ends up costing his friend’s life. This to me is Someone acting for someone they do not care much for in order to inhabit their riches which is changing for the money. In the merchant of Venice this act does not Completely corrupt Bassanio, but it seems to me as though he was spared.

Some people are not able to stay mentally sane with vast amounts of money. With money comes people and people bring issues, it seems harsh but, everyone has an opinion that they want to have heard. It’s a lot of work to try not to mess up anything and only do good things for people or whatever it is. Portia In this Play does seem to be able to handle her wealth mindfully and does not seem to do anything wrong, she seems like the perfect woman to marry for a man back then. But does Portia use her wealth for good or bad? When she goes to the trial to help Bassanio save his friend Antonio, she does end up proving Shylock’s wrong, who wants Antonio dead. But she does not only prove him wrong she destroys him by tearing away have of what he owns. Is this good or bad is a question I still ask. Should she have given shylock some mercy?

Money influences us inevitably it seems. Sometimes worse than others. The money will not always corrupt you but will raise new problems that will be needed to be solved. If the problems are not solved money can corrupt you. The difference between good and bad have a very fine line. It seems impossible to keep someone happy without keeping others angry just like shylock and Bassanio after the Trial.

 

 

 

Personal Response to The Merchant Of Venice

Love is such a broad word, but we use it to describe so many things. The Merchant of Venice portrays the complexity of love, as it often associates love with the desire for wealth, power, and beauty.

“Pure Love” is different from marriage. When Portia makes her first appearance in the play, she complains, “But this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose me a husband.” (Act 1, Scene 2, ll. 20,21) We see that she desires to marry someone she has affection for, but she has no choice; her marriage is determined by “chance”. As Bassanio opens the casket and marries Portia, we temporarily forget that marriage doesn’t necessary require love. Portia has long hinted to us, “In terms of choice I am not solely led/ By nice direction of a maiden’s eyes.” (Act 2, Scene 1, ll. 13, 14) Thus, there isn’t “pure love” in marriage.

The relationship between Jessica and Lorenzo is another example of how we must not confuse marriage with love. There is no doubt that Lorenzo and Jessica adore each other, but there are many hints in the play where Lorenzo associates his affection for Jessica with the amount of fortune Jessica takes from her father. “She hath directed / How I shall take her from her father’s house, / What gold and jewels she is furnish’d with, What page’s suit she hath in readiness.” (Act 2, Scene 5, ll. 29-32) Jessica has “hath prov’d herself” by bringing her dowry and converting to a Christian, thus she is “wise, fair, and true,” and only then can she be “placed” in Lorenzo’s “constant soul.” (Act 2, Scene 6, ll. 53-58)

Jessica’s love towards Lorenzo is not pure love either. As she talks about the “tediousness” of her father and her house, she immediately feels guilty, but quickly diminishes this guilt by thinking about Lorenzo. “Alack, what heinous sin is it in me / To be asham’d to be my father’s child! / But though I am a daughter to his Blood / I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo, / If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife, / Become a Christian and thy loving wife.” (Act 2, Scene 3, ll. 15-20) If she doesn’t take her own dowry and marry Lorenzo, she will likely marry someone Shylock choses. Then again, we see how marriage doesn’t necessarily require love, and especially “pure and true love.”

In The Merchant of Venice, marriage is portrayed as the exchange of power. And love cannot survive without it. Portia willingly gives Bassanio her “powers”; “yet for you / I would be trebled twenty times myself, / A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times / More rich, that only to stand high in your account / I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends, / Exceed account.” (Act 3, Scene 2, ll. 152-157) This is only possible because Bassanio had chosen the right casket, but Portia’s affection for him is a prominent reason; before Bassanio chooses the caskets, she already admits that “One half of me is yours, the other half yours— / Mine one, I would say: but if mine then yours, / And so all yours.” (Act 3 Scene 2, ll.16-18) If her husband is chosen by “fortune,” she might as well marry someone she likes. But if she was never a noble birth, Bassanio and the other suitors will never pursue her.

The love between Antonio and Bassanio is more ambiguous as it doesn’t perfectly fall into the category of either romantic love or friendship. What Antonio has done for Bassanio is incredible considering that they are known just as “kinsmen,” or friends; but Antonio’s affection for Bassanio is adulterated with a confusion about his sexual orientation, and anti-Semitism, as he prevents Bassanio from committing usury. We can interpret Antonio’s willingness to borrow Bassanio such a large sum of money as his affection towards Bassanio. But we can also see it as Antonio’s only way of expressing a type of love that is not commonly accepted at the time, for a Christian. Other than lending Bassanio large sums of money, there are limited options towards how he can express his affection. From Shylock’s famous speech, we know that Antonio has “hindered” him “half a million” (Act 3, Scene 1, ll. 48, 49) by preventing his friends from committing usury, “and it is very likely that he wants to keep Bassanio out of it too.

Love will always be impure and untrue. Pure love, if it exists, cannot possibly survive on this world without money or power. But is “contaminated love” not love? Shakespeare depicts these complex feelings through the characters in the play. And I think it is very accurate to how humans actually behave. But it also means I can never really find answers to these questions about The Merchant of Venice. It must take a lifetime to completely understand it.

 

 

Personal Response to The Merchant of Venice

Throughout this play, we see so much un-reasoned hate towards Shylock and his people, the people that hate shylock and his people are prejudiced towards him. People that are prejudice are usually prejudice because of generalized hate for something and do not have actual hate towards it or they actually have some prejudice against someone. With the first part about that about generalized prejudice, is that people hate others because of what others are doing which isn’t a good mindset, but I do think this actually happens and is something very real. An example of this is when Shylock enters the courtroom in the movie we watched that he gets spat on, called names, and looked at as if he is an alien. The generalized hate / generalized prejudice is from the people doing the weird stare and not saying anything, and then the people that are spitting on him and calling him names have actual prejudice against him.

With this prejudice against Shylock and his people, I feel as though there shouldn’t be revenge The first being why it isn’t justified, this is because the odds were stacked against Shylock to begin with, this is shown when in the story from line 345 to 361 on Act 4, Scene 1. The summary of what happens here is that Portia says that if you shed any blood from a Christian under venetian law that you will be put to death or in prison. So even if he tried to to take the pound of flesh he would shed blood and this pound would be his revenge for losing his money, and in this it isn’t worth it meaning it’s not justified to do so because he would just die or go to prison. Also with not taking revenge, in my opinion I feel as though its more powerful to give mercy in hope that they are nice to you back especially if they are mean to you, which could decrease prejudice and possibly form a bond (which is kind of unlikely).

The last question being Is it possible to be both rich and good, or does wealth inevitably corrupt us? I feel as though with this you need to define what good means because are you good if you donate to charity? if you volunteer every weekend at a homeless shelter? if you are nice to people? if you have never sinned? the word can have many meanings which makes the question almost impossible to answer, but lets say what makes you a good person if you are kind to others and have a big positive impact on the world (without the direct cause of money ex. planting 100 trees in the forest over a week by yourself or with others.) with this meaning now here I feel as though it is possible for someone who is rich to be good. But with the wealth inevitably corrupting you, it depends how you get your wealth, like if you are an owner of a chain of a loan lending company with lots of interest, then the more money you get the more corrupt you get because you are taking it from the people that need it the most, because they can’t go to a bank, in turn you are taking money from very poor people, and in turn it is immoral to keep running this business. But if you are like Khan Academy which like helps people learn things and is a free service, and gets a lot of donations which in turn increases wealth (after like all taxes and other expenses) then in this case wealth wouldn’t inevitably corrupt you. This relates to The Merchant of Venice, most of the people in the Merchant of Venice are not kind at all to Jewish people which in turn (in that aspect) every rich Christian in that aspect is not good, and wealth in the story is usually only by Christian people (I think) so this means that no one in the story is a good person in any aspect.

Personal Response to The Merchant of Venice

Love, whether it be romantic, platonic, or familial, is portrayed as impure in The Merchant of Venice. In this play, love is rarely mentioned without association to money or status. We’re introduced to these ideas from the beginning, when Solanio and Salarino claim that the only possible sources for Antonio’s sadness are his fortunes or love (Act I, Scene I, pp. 1-3). This establishes the two main priorities in this play, leaving us with the impression that they’re connected. Money is a reason for love, money helps create love, and money increases the meaning of love. If love is pure, why are Bassanio’s first remarks about Portia based on her wealth and beauty (Act I, Scene I, p. 6)? Love shouldn’t be superficial, but it is often represented as such. If love is pure, why does Jessica need a dowry to marry Lorenzo (Act II, Scene VI, pp. 34-26)? In this scenario, marriage is established as transactional and systematic, so why do we use it as the marker of love? If love is pure, why is Shylock’s heartbreak over his daughter’s departure equally painful due to his love for her, and his love for the money she took with her (Act III, Scene I, pp. 47-49)? Oftentimes, love is contaminated with greed, desire, and immorality; but so are most things. Does that diminish the love’s sincerity and value?

Coinciding with the purity of love, this play demonstrates the prevalence of power’s influence on relationships, causing us to question whether that is moral. If power is involved in the formation and preservation of a relationship, is it genuine? For instance, Portia has power stemming from her beauty, wealth, and status. Without these attributes, Portia would barely have a place in the world, let alone the multitude of suitors she has. Her relationship with Bassanio would be nonexistent, because she wouldn’t be in any position of power. In the play, Portia and Bassanio get married, and in doing so Portia relinquishes her power and wealth to him. Bassanio’s newly acquired possession of control would change the dynamic of their relationship. Suddenly, he runs the household, has the power to control Portia, and is seen as the more important figure between them. Should we let power have such a strong influence on us, or would it be better to disregard it, to combat the inequality rather than enforce it? We can also examine the relationship between Antonio and Shylock, as a representation of the relationship between Christians and Jews. Originally, Antonio has more power than Shylock, since he is a Christian. Using his power, Antonio constantly condemns and mistreats him, which defines their adversarial relationship. Later, when Shylock gains power stemming from the bargain, Antonio is at his mercy. The nature of relationships completely changes depending on power, leading to the discrimination we see from Christians to Jews, the patriarchal relationships shown between men and women throughout this play, and other unhealthy imbalances.

Shakespeare often plays with deceit throughout his literature, in both form and content. On a literal level, we associate deceptive appearances with Portia and Nerissa’s disguises as men; a tactic they used to save Antonio from death. We may also remember when Portia calls herself an “unlesson’d girl, unschool’d, unpractis’d” (Act III, Scene II, p. 54), which we later discover is completely false. She claims that at the beginning of her engagement with Bassanio, when in fact, she is quite brilliant. Digging even deeper, when Portia is acting as Antonio’s lawyer, she delivers a powerful speech about mercy, “The quality of mercy is not strained / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven” (Act IV, Scene I, p. 73). Or, it appeared powerful and heartfelt, until she demonstrated her hypocrisy by not showing mercy to Shylock, merely pages later. This employment of deceit utilized by Shakespeare allows us to question sincerity as a whole; how often are people truly sincere, and how often are they only acting sincere for self-serving purposes? Deception leads to mistrust; a cracked foundation, a flawed reliance on others. The Merchant of Venice allows us to explore questions that may be applicable to ourselves, from a distance. Sometimes, it takes reading about hypocrisy to recognize it in our own lives, and to question how we can avoid the alterable flaws shown in fictional characters.

Trevor Van Dyk English: PR to MoV 14/02/2021

The constituents of what provides us life satisfaction are complexed. In one position is the allocation of love, honesty, and sensation, while opposed to power and possession. What belief is applied variates with the person, who draws their decisions from experience. Experience is the driving factor of our characteristics, and I believe, is both conscious and unconscious. What defines experience is that which defines truth, although based substantially on the unconscious; the intangible, the impossible to conceptualize. The manifestations of this complexion display in our life activities. What drives us to love is unknown, neither to appreciate art. Contrarily, the drive for wealth is evident: it provides the means to exact more influence over one’s environment. Therefore, we inhabit a world where alternate incentives pull at our longing for improvement. These forces require different philosophies and fulfill opposite qualities in our sensation of experience.

Love is infinitely unique and is subject to influence by any other of the human qualities. A theme in The Merchant of Venice, is love versus trust. Lorenzo rescues Jessica from Shylock, so breaking Shylock’s trust for her love. Gratiano gets engaged with Nerissa spontaneously, in about one page worth of dialogue, giving no time for development of trust between the characters. When Bassanio loses Portia’s ring, the symbol of his commitment to her is lost. In each case, trust shows no prevailing purity, undermining what pure love should be like.

Is devotion to a person ever fully authentic, and stabilized? Certainly not. The power dynamic in the marriage between Portia and Bassanio comprehended all Portia’s wealth would go to her husband. “…her gentle spirit commits itself to yours to be directed as from her lord” (III, ii, 163-165). Portia dedicates herself to her husband. Take example how Shylock treated Jessica, how he would constrain and inhibit her liberties. Equality and complete altruism in love is likely impossible and cannot be found. Every romance has faults and discrepancies, limitations that make it not wholly in consensus.

Understanding love is very frequently corrupt, perhaps a balanced outlook on love vs. money would be the human requires both. If one has too much love, they experience the pressure of liquidating said love, or if one possesses too much money, as in Crassus, member of the Roman Triumvirate and richest man of the classical world, felt when he bought two legions and crossed the Euphrates to attempt conquering Parthia. Certain humans pursue the path of culture, art, love, while others pursue that of power, and wealth. Yo-yo Ma had business as a cello player, however found no love in just that.

The largest distinction between art and love, and power and wealth, is that the former investigates the meaning of truth, and the latter of harnessing that which is tangible. One invokes inquisition, the other of mastery. In essence, I would believe both are vital. Art is the realm of both. When one follows art, they employ meaning with resonance, and skill and practice. One can approach it as the mastery of a medium, and as a canvas on which to investigate. It even distributes the allure inquiring on aesthetic has to a wide audience, that they can respect individually and give power and money towards the creator: the celebrity.

In that understanding, art is as corrupt as money is. To try and elevate from the impure lust for prosperity, for the purity of investigation, is to give up on practicing, improving—beautiful exploitation. Perhaps the virtuous person is one who recognizes both concepts, the tangible and the uncharted, and employs them to reach resonance. To obsess on achieving pure love, then switch to having the ultimate wealth, and recycle, is not how to be, yet it is to embrace both simultaneously. Ambiguity is undeniable with where the equity is, how one should choose between power and explanation. Perhaps the reason why so many, if all people spend all their life striving for this goal shows how complexed, complex, and how variable our complexion is. If that is so, then no doubt is the reason why love is so fickle, rare, and unfortunate.