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Personal Response to The Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice is a play about both love and hate. On the side of love, you see Bassanio and Portia falling in love in marriage, and on the other side you see the hatred shown from Christians towards Jews, and a strong hatred between the Christian Antonio and Shylock the Jew showed in court after Antonio failed to pay off a bond owed to Shylock. On both sides, you have an overall happy ending. Yet coming to that conclusion there were signs of mercy shown from Shylock and shown by Bassanio. But what is Mercy?

Mercy in the true definition is “showing compassion/forgiveness toward someone within the power to punish or harm.” Mercy is also kindness and a sign of selflessness. Yet mercy can be in many ways. In the play during the court scene, it was first offered to Shylock towards Antonio from Portia and the Duke but refused. Then Shylock showed that mercy by not taking a pound of flesh from Antonio, even though they both showed no mercy to each other, Shylock was forced to show mercy, unless he were to die, then agreed to terms so he would be spared (Act IV, scene I, pp. 81-82, lines: 376-395). Then further on in the play, it was shown. Again by Bassanio asking for mercy from Portia after he took off his ring, he’d promise he wouldn’t take off (Act V, scene I, pp. 96, lines: 240-244).

The act and asking for mercy is significant in this play and is throughout the story. It was first shown by Lancelot asking for forgiveness from his father after toying with him when he is blind (Act II, scene II, pp. 21-25). But one significant subject that came up with mercy is Portia’s “Quality of Mercy” speech during the court session (Act V, scene I, pp. 73, lines: 183-204). In her speech, Portia is trying to convince Shylock to be merciful like God is towards us. She also makes the connection of mercy with the Christian idea of salvation.

The idea of mercy is brought up in this play and many of Shakespeare’s plays. It was also heavily used back in the day. We tend to ignore how important it is in a play as it can bring a play together and makes it so that the story stays interesting and dramatic.

Letter to Langston Hughes

Dear Mr. Hughes,

I have now read many of your poems and I enjoyed reading them. They are great poems with a strong message behind racism, and black history in the United States. I also liked how some poems were also composed as the “language” of jazz/blues bars which really expresses its diversity.

The main message your poems express is black people in America with slavery and dealing with the racism in modern society. One of my favourite poems that you made was I, Too. It talks about being a slave for a white family. In the poem you wrote:

“I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When the company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well
And grow strong.

I’ll eat at the table
When the company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“eat in the kitchen,”
Then.” (I, Too II. 2-14)

It talks about being a slave and the owners having company over and how they won’t let him be in the kitchen and really see how ‘beautiful’ he is. Reading this poem really hit me differently. It really expressed what life was like back then with a slave and what they went through.

Another poem I would like to bring up is Life is Fine. I also did enjoy this poem a lot but was also quite confused reading it. One big question this brings up for me is ‘is it realistic?’ I ask this because he goes from a hard break up and wanting to kill himself, then immediately turns around to be fine. I never understood this because a breakup most likely takes a long time and rarely turns around that quickly. It quotes here:

“I stood there and I hollered!
Stood there and I cried!
If it hadn’t a-been so high
I might’ve jumped and died.

But it was
High up there!
It was high!

So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve dies for love-
But for livin’ I was born.” (Life is fine, II. 16-26)

In this quotation, it talks about him about to jump off a building, but since it was to high up, he turns out fine and isn’t hurting anymore.

All of your poems that I have read have carried out a strong message and should be viewed by everyone to see what black people in the early 20th century went through and see the pain they went through, and show value and appreciation towards the black community and also show sympathy for what white people did to them.

Reflection of Questions about Sophocles Antigone

My question is 2. Who is the protagonist (main character) of the play? The main character of the play is Creon. He is the main character because he is the catalyst in many ways, just like Antigone. When he is the catalyst the things he did includes: leaving Eteocles body unburied which turned into Antigone burying it and getting in trouble which turned to being exiled into a cave, once her soon to be husband found out, he went over to the cave, which then he realized that she had killed herself then once Haemon (soon to be husband) saw this he killed himself as well which turned into deep sorrow and loss for Creon, then once Creon’s wife heard about her son’s death, she killed herself too, which then caused more pain for Creon, in turn banishing himself. So in reality Creon is the catalyst, and it is solely him that brought it upon himself.