Themes Merchant of Venice

Prejudice exclusion of these “others” seems to be a fundamental part of the social bonds that cement the Venetian Christians together
Mislike me not for my complexion,The shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun.- morrocan price his dark “complexion,” the physical aspect tied to racial and social categorization. He has clearly faced prejudice and dehumanization before, and so immediately apologizes for himself in the face of society’s disapproval. But although the prince begins with this entreaty, he will adopt a more defensive and affirmative stance by the end of his speech: “I would not change this hue, / Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen.” Here, the prince echoes Skylock’s conflicting confidence and concerns over discrimination, suggesting that this process of adapting to stereotyping extends through the play’s different forms of categorization and separation.
Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew? This suggests that Jews are so defined by their religious and ethnic identities that their Jewishness obfuscates their professional roles; thus, we see the play’s prejudices. More broadly, though, this moment captures the importance of societal functions in constructing an individual’s identity. A person’s identity is always somewhat questionable and ambiguous because it only exists in relation to other phenomena and systems of exchange larger than any one person. Arguably, Shylock is only the dehumanized “Jew” because society has forced him to play that role, while Antonio has been able to inhabit the more socially-approved role of “merchant.
Shakespeare view on Jews Possible to say that Shakespeare has similar intolertant views, like Jews are naturally malicious and inferior to Christians because of Shylock’s ultimate refusal to show any mercy at all and, as a result, his pitiful end.Other side: Shylock’s fury comes not from some malicious “Jewishness” but as a result of years of abuse. For example, though he is criticized by Antonio for practicing usury (charging interest on borrowed money) Jews were actually barred from most other professions. In other words, the Christians basically forced Shylock to work in a profession that the Christians then condemned as immoral. Shylock insists that he “learned” his hatred from the Christians, and it is Shylock alone who argues that all of the characters are the same, in terms of biology and under the law.
Animal to Human In insulting and abusing Shylock, the Venetians frequently denigrate him as an animal or devil. Shylock, in turn, seeks to reduce his debtor Antonio to the status of an animal whose body can be bought or sold. In the courtroom scene, he justifies his purchasing of a pound of Antonio’s flesh as being fundamentally similar to the way in which other Venetians might buy slaves or livestock.The play’s Christian characters clearly believe that being Christian is a primary requirement for being human, as both the insults aimed at Shylock and the Prince of Morocco suggest.
Law, Mercy and Revenge Law VS Revenge – While law and revenge are technically opposed to each other, since revenge is illegal, they also overlap. Shylock, pursuing Antonio’s “pound of flesh,” exposes the intimate connection between law and revenge. He seeks vengeance against Antonio precisely by sticking to the letter of the law within the Venetian justice system.Mercy – Shylock explicitly refuses to show mercy, while the Christians, in sparing Shylock’s life in the end, claim that they have. Yet, when they do, Shylock himself asks to be killed. He says that, having had all of his possessions confiscated and his religious identity revoked (which would also make it impossible for him to work as a money-lender, since Christians were not allowed to practice usury), he has nothing left to live for. The question of who is or is not merciful, therefore remains open.
Generosity VS Greed Antonio claims to hate Shylock, as he benefits off other peoples desperation. Antonio shows generosity by lending money to his friends free of charge. It frequently begs the question of whether friends aren’t using friends, or lovers their lovers, for materialistic reasons. For instance, why is the perpetually indebted Bassanio so intent on wooing the rich Portia? And as Portia’s and Nerissa’s anger over the rings that their husbands give away in the final scene reflects, even the freest gift-giving comes with strings attached, like the rules governing Shylock’s more frankly capitalistic contracts.
I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you. Here, as Shylock describes the rules he follows as he interacts with society, he also expresses the categorical isolation he feels as a member of the Jewish community, who is largely excluded from social aspects within the Christian Venice. He can participate in the public space of the marketplace and engage in commerce (and “buy,” “sell,” and “walk” with others), but he cannot (or willnot)enter the more intimate spaces (to engage in worship or participate in meals).
Relgion Shylock and Antonio bicker over the meaning of Biblical scripture shows that the all-important distinction between Jews and Christians basically boils down to interpretive differences—different ways of reading and understanding a shared heritage of texts.Interpreting text – shows how the practice of reading (and not just reading literature) is woven into the structures of prejudice and intolerance, love, law, and justice—how it is central to everyday life.
Love and friendship Given the generosity that they motivate between characters, love and friendship might seem to offer alternatives to the ugly emotions of prejudice, greed, and revenge on display However, beginning with Bassanio’s borrowing money from his friend Antonio in order to wooPortia, the play also demonstrates that the apparent purity of love and friendship can be tainted by selfish economic concerns. In addition, love and friendship are also at the mercy of the law, as seen in Portia’s being subject to the terms of her father’s riddle of the caskets

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