William Shakespeare is one of the most famous writers of our time. He has written plays that are known all around the world and are studied as part of our education. What he wrote in the 16th Century is still as relevant today as it was then, which is why many people throughout the world admire and perform his work. The plays he has written have varied from romances (Romeo & Juliet), to tragedies (MacBeth), and comedies (As you like it). The Merchant of Venice is a about a merchant, Antonio, who is asked for a loan by his dearest friend, Bassiano.
Bassiano needs the money for a voyage to Belmont, where he hopes to win over the wealthy Portia. Antonio has to borrow money from Shylock. They agree on a bond that there will be no interest, but if it is not paid within three months Shylock is entitled to a pound of Antonio’s flesh. The way that the whole plot evolved around money is very clever. It began with Bassiano wanting to borrow money from Antonio because he wanted to use the money to win the hand of Portia. Antonio’s friendship for Bassiano leads him into debt with a moneylender.
When Jessica eloped with Lorenzo she took Shylocks money and jewels. Shylock is angrier at her stealing his jewels than her running away. “I would my daughter dead at my foot and the jewels in her ear! Would she were hearsed at my foot, and the jewels in her coffin! ” Antonio is a Christian, he puts friendship above all and doesn’t think twice about the conditions of the loan. Bassiano assures him that he will pay him back; “In my schooldays I lost my shaft, I shot his fellow of the selfsame flight. The selfsame way with more advised watch to find the other forth”.
What he is saying here is if he loses one arrow, it is wise to fire another and see the flight path that it took; by this he’ll be able to retrieve both arrows. By saying this he is referring to his money. Even though Antonio was not paid in time to settle the loan that meant that shylock could have his pound of flesh, Antonio did not condemn Bassiano. Portia has to choose a man by presenting them with 3 caskets, gold, silver, and lead. Her father left the three caskets. The gold casket declares, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.
The silver casket, which declares “who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves. ” The lead casket declares, “He who chooseth me must hazard all he hath” The lead casket had the picture of Portia in it, indicating that the person that chooses it is the right one for her. Shylock is a Jew, he is a moneylender. He has no respect for Christians because of the anti-Semitic attitudes that were wide spread at that time. Shakespeare uses religious prejudice as background to decides who is the `goodie` and the `baddy` in the play.
When Shylock comes onto the stage he is usually greeted by `boo’s`, this adds to the atmosphere at the theatre and keeps the audience more involved in the play. In the script Shakespeare made Shylocks character appear selfish. When Antonio couldn’t pay the debt, any other merchant probably would have extended the deadline but not Shylock. He resented Antonio because he lent money to his friends with no interest. This also reduced Shylocks income and for this reason he wanted revenge against Antonio There are strong themes of racism in the play.
Because of this some think that it is inappropriate to be taught in schools. In the play Shylock stands out more than any other character, he is the villain of the piece. Racism against Jews was very strong in those days, which influenced the way the play was written. Unfortunately racism is as alive today as it was in the Elizabethan times, although nowadays it is not acceptable and there are laws to protect people who are of ethnic origins. Although Christians despised Jews Shylock also hated the Christians as shown in his first speech against Antonio “I hate him for he is a Christian”
This shows the lack of tolerance that wouldn’t be accepted nowadays. Shylocks daughter Jessica elopes with Lorenzo who is a Christian. Shylock is furious and very sad at this because marrying out of the faith was a dreadful thing to do. Although Jessica was unhappy at home their relationship in the play is emphasised by them singing a Jewish song together before she elopes. Despite the strong ties of religion and duty to a father Jessica elopes with Lorenzo and converts to Christianity.
This is a big step for her, and must have taken some thought from her to do this. Nowadays certain strict religions e. . Muslim, orthodox Jews still forbid marrying out of their faith. Jessica would probably suffer the same fate today as she did then which was never to see her family again. The end of the play was interesting, because after seeing theatre and videotapes of performance I prefer the theatre production in which Jessica was left humming in the spot light the Jewish song she sang with her father, this meant that she did still have some feelings for him. The Merchant of Venice was set as a comedy but when reading it I didn’t find it funny, I think this is because I didn’t understand the humour.
When we read through the play at school I found it long and tedious, but watching the play at the theatre helped me to understand the subtleties of the humour. When I watched the play I found the actors/actresses enthusiasm brought the script to life and I understood and laughed more at the humour, which made it more interesting and enjoyable. When reading the play, I didn’t think it was one of Shakespeare’s finest plays but when I went to the theatre it was a full house. I think that by adding comedy to the play makes it livelier.
The merchant of Venice shows a modern audience that the themes in the play are as relative today as it was then. How love can or cannot be mistaken, how greed motivates peoples actions, how true friendship is worth more than money and how racism affects society. Although it was set about 400 years ago, it shows how little the differences in society and religion have changed. I think that the Merchant of Venice portrays the problems generated by greed, racism and revenge. I also think that because of the amount of racism in it, it could influence the younger audience.