Themes Merchant of Venice

1 January 2017

The themes of Shakespeare’s plays are just as relevant to today’s society as they were in his day. Discuss making close reference to The Merchant of Venice. In The Merchant of Venice hate, loyalty, pride and prejudice, love and friendship are just some of the themes investigated with in the play. These themes, although were evident in the time of Shakespeare, are just as significant and universal today. Shylock, the Jew, explores most of these negative themes as in the play he is depicted as being driven by hate. On the other hand though characters such as Bassanio and Antonio are portrayed with the themes of positivity.

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Shylock and Antonio’s relationship is greatly complex, in that it has many issues that contribute to their affiliation of hate. They were business rivals. However, Antonio’s main business is that of a merchant, buying and selling goods and shipping them to other ports, whereas Shylock is a moneylender who makes money by charging interest on loans. This is not Shylock’s job by choice–there were a limited number of jobs, which Jews were allowed to do, and this was one of them. However, Antonio has been lending money to people without interest, which cuts into Shylock’s business.

It’s rather like having a business competitor move in and start giving away the goods you are trying to sell. He’s going to put you out of business. Antonio has other resources, which enable him to lend money gratis Shylock has not. On top of that, Antonio is rude and condescending to Shylock just because he is Jewish. This is stated by Shylock by asking Antonio’s friends “What is his reason? I am a Jew. ” He may not be the rudest and most condescending person in Venice toward Jews, but the fact that he is lumps him in with the worst offenders in Shylock’s mind.

Shylock is the pure icon of hatred in the play. As we have previously found out Antonio hates him because he is a Jew. Shylock tells us of his discrimination by saying; “You spit on me Wednesday last, you spurn’d me such a day another time you called me dog…” In his aside he tells us again of his hate by testifying; “I hate him for he is a Christian…” Shylock continuously tells us of his hate and prejudice towards Christians, in particular Antonio. In general most of the hate in the play is the cause of racism and discrimination.

The loyalty between Bassanio and Antonio becomes evident in the first act of the play when Antonio loans Bassanio a large sum of money and takes him on his word that he will repay it. From Bassanio’s words, we realize that this has taken place before, “I owe you much, and like a willful youth that which I owe is lost, but if you please to shoot another arrow that self way which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt as I will watch the aim, or to find both or bring your latter hazard back again and thankfully rest debtor for the first.

From this quote, it seems Bassanio has borrowed money to Antonio before and hasn’t repaid the debts, and yet Antonio still loans to him again out of sheer loyalty to friends. Bassanio towards the end of the play returns ? this loyalty to Antonio when Bassanio races home from his Belmont to save Antonio from his debt to Shylock. Bassanio actually puts a quantitative value on his loyalty, “But life itself, my wife, and all the world are not with me esteem’d above thy life. I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all Here to this devil, to deliver you.

Bassanio actually offers to give over his own life and all of his loved possessions to save Antonio-his loyalty are greater than the repayment of the financial debt he owes to Antonio. As well as loyalty, Antonio and Bassanio have a very strong friendship on the verge of a bromance. Bassanio’s love life is the first thing Antonio brings up with Bassanio when they’re alone together in the play in saying; “Well; tell me now what lady is the same? to whom you swore a secret pilgrimage, ? that you to-day promis’d to tell me of? ” Maybe he’s just one of those guys who likes to gossip, or maybe Bassanio has been on his mind.

Bassanio’s new courtship seems likely to be the source of Antonio’s sadness, as it’s at the forefront of his mind. Antonio clearly cares deeply about Bassanio as a friend, and he’s facing the fact that he might lose him to this woman. Bassanio says he’s sharing with Antonio because they’re friend by saying; “To you, Antonio, I owe the most, in money and in love; and from your love I have a warranty to unburden all my plots and purposes how to get clear of all the debts I owe. ” He makes explicit that he owes Antonio the most in “money and love. It turns out that Antonio has been very generous with Bassanio, who has a hard time keeping his finances in order.

This is our first hint that friendship might mean a different thing for Bassanio than it does for Antonio. Bassanio might just be working on Antonio’s affection in order to keep his purse strings open. Bassanio’s love life is the first thing Antonio brings up with Bassanio when they’re alone together in the play. Maybe he’s just one of those guys who likes to gossip, or maybe Bassanio has been on his mind. Bassanio’s new courtship seems likely to be the source of Antonio’s sadness, as it’s at the forefront of his mind.

Antonio clearly cares deeply about Bassanio as a friend, and he’s facing the fact that he might lose him to this woman. As you can see the themes in The Merchant of Venice are as applicable to today’s society as they were back in Shakespeare’s time. Hate, pride, prejudice, friendship and loyalty are all very universal themes in both time and space. We learn about these themes mainly through Antonio, Bassanio and Shylock each representing their respective personalities. To conclude the themes that William Shakespeare uses in The Merchant of Venice are both evident in both our societies.

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