Exploring Themes of Equality in William Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, is often labeled anti-Semitic as the work places unfavorable light on the Jewish character, Shylock. However, the term only comes from a surface reading of the play. Through careful dialogue, Shakespeare makes the statement that Christians and Jews are equal as both Shylock and the Christian characters have … Read more

Hero or Villain? Explore Antonio and Shylock in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice

In Shakespeare’s Play “The Merchant of Venice,” written in 1596, during Shakespeare play he portrays that Antonio is considered as the main hero of the play because of his willingly kinded character, while Shylock is identified as the villain of the play more so because of his culture. Stated in the Merriam Webster Dictionary a … Read more

Merchant of Venice & Midnight at the Dragon Cafe – social inequality

Have you ever felt mistreated due to the differences in people everyday living in society? In the play, The Merchant of Venice, written by William Shakespeare and the novel, Midnight at the Dragon Cafe, written by Judy Fong Bates, the theme of social inequality is prevalent. To begin, the experiences of Lancelot vs Antonio show … Read more

Mercy in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

In the play The Merchant of Venice, written by William Shakespeare, there are two characters who are both merchants. These two characters are Shylock, the Jewish character, and Antonio, the Christian. The two display great hostility towards one another at the beginning of the play and by the end Antonio displays a more merciful behavior … Read more

Was Shakespeare critical of sexism & anti-Semitism? (Merchant of Venice/Romeo & Juliet)

William Shakespeare as one of the greatest writers in English Language addresses many different problems which have only been exposed as major societal problems since the emergence of sociology. Sociological problems such as sexism and anti-Semitism are evident, common topics through Shakespeare’s plays. With specific reference to ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’, … Read more

Harry Jaffa – Shakespeare (Tempest, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure)

Harry Jaffa begins his article by saying that Shakespeare is the only known poet who has written both tragic and comedy plays. He says there is no direct evidence that shows if Shakespeare was influenced by Socrates or not because his work has intelligibility to it. He quotes Leo Strauss when drawing a connection between … Read more

Portrayal of Jewish characters throughout literary history

Jewish folktales- Europe Within Jewish humour, the stock of the characters of the Wise Men of Chelm are foolish. These characters are the subjects of jokes through their illogical reasoning. Their foolish logic places them in opposition to the Talmudic scholars who are highly regarded in the culture. These characters were seen in traditional Jewish … Read more

Religion and gender in The Great Gatsby and The Merchant of Venice

Through texts, we are enriched by a multiplicity of human experiences instigating our own consciousness, and those of others. As composers and scholars of literature, we are able to understand the way texts are created and the way in which the creation of literary worlds are able to reflect and represent our own, allowing composers … Read more

The Ambiguity Law, Literature, and Religion in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

While legal approaches to texts look very closely at systems of order and rules by which we should conduct our behavior, literature teaches moral frameworks to justice by dealing with human life at its best and worst. The intersection of these two fields began to emerge in the late 16th century and, as such, allowed … Read more

Human Experience in The Merchant of Venice

The human experience in literature are themes about life and society that are relatable to readers. They can include a range of characters, themes, and motifs that play a role in helping illustrate the ideas of human experience in novels and plays, within particular Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merchant of Venice’. Within Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merchant … Read more

Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice

Using the chosen texts, Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice, this essay will consider whether or not the dramatic effects of deception and disguise are significant in Shakespeare’s works. Deception and disguise show difference between appearance and reality in Shakespearian drama and often go hand in hand within Shakespeare’s plays. There are, for example, … Read more

Heroes – Beowulf, Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, and Merchant of Venice

According to Joseph Campbell (1949), a hero can be defined as a man/woman who has been able to battle past his/her personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid normal human (pg. 20). Though they were written years apart the renowned Beowulf, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, and William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice … Read more

Persecution of Jews / Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice’

Since the beginning of time, it can be said Jews have placed many persecutions, more knowingly in the Middle Ages, when the Roman Empire often subdued Jews, firstly by taking over their lands and evicting them from their home during the Pagan period and after attempted to classify them s second class citizens during the … Read more

Interpretations of The Merchant of Venice before and after World War II

William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice has been translated into a variety of languages throughout the world, and with these different translations different interpretations of the play are bound to occur.  Variation of the play can clearly be seen in German translations and German interpretations of The Merchant of Venice and these variations occur … Read more

Racial and religious stereotypes (Merchant of Venice/Notes on Nationalism)

Generalisation of people in society is the key to understanding struggle with adversity and its effect on the human experience. This idea is displayed through the struggle of racial and religious stereotypes and their negative effects on the actions of individuals. These themes are evident throughout both William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (Circa 1596) … Read more

Contribution to the development of the English language by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare tremendously contributed to the development of the English language through his work. He wrote poems, plays and acted in some of the plays. His works include King Lear, the Merchant of Venice among others. Through his work and life, a debate has been around on whether Shakespeare’s religion was Catholic. Therefore, this essay … Read more

William Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice

In William Shakespeare’s play ‘The Merchant of Venice’, his protagonist Portia conforms to the 16th century’s patriarchal society while conveying that women are mistreated and have no power within traditional Venation society. William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. His works consists of … Read more

Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice

A very important and recurring theme in Shakespeare’s plays, The Merchant of Venice, is loyalty. Loyalty is a warm quality that includes devotion, faithfulness, and unswerving allegiance. Shakespeare’s work is still relevant today because we can compare ourselves to the characters and talking about the plays can possibly build friendships. Loyalty is important in today’s … Read more

Deception & Disguise in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night & The Merchant of Venice

 “Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice”; Using the chosen texts, Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice, this essay will consider whether or not the dramatic effects of deception and disguise are significant in Shakespearean works. Deception and disguise show the difference between appearance and reality and often go hand in hand within … Read more

Exploring Temptation & Human Desire Across Texts: Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice & Hamlet

 We humans face many spiritual, emotional and psychological struggles which can sometimes strengthen us and most of the time, have great consequence, ruining us and our key morals depending on the extent the struggle takes us. But these internal struggles are a part of being human and sometimes leave a footprint on the external … Read more

Marjorie Garber’s Scholarly Analysis of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

 ebruary 2017 “The play-any play, but especially a strong one-is the sum of all its meanings, all its intentions, conscious and unconscious, including some that the author could have never intended”-Marjorie Garber (Garber 285); Response to Marjorie Garber’s Scholarly Analysis of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice Marjorie Garber’s book Shakespeare After All is a … Read more

German Translations & Interps of “The Merchant of Venice” Before & After the Holocaust

 William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice has been translated into a variety of languages throughout the world, and with these different translations different interpretations of the play are bound to occur.  Variation of the play can clearly be seen in German translations and German interpretations of The Merchant of Venice and these variations … Read more

Destruction of Social Boundaries through Commensality in Much Ado and Merchant of Venice

 “I will not eat with you”: destructive commensality in The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado about Nothing The antagonistic outcasts Don John and Shylock both initially avoid joining the communal dinner table in the first acts of Much Ado about Nothing and The Merchant of Venice, voicing critiques of the group’s unregulated appetite. … Read more

About The Merchant Of Venice

The Merchant of Venice is a play and novel written in the late 1500’s by the famous playwright, William Shakespeare. The play shows the themes of Power and Loyalty through several individuals throughout the play. The most important character in the play is Portia, who is an heiress whose loyalty test given to her by her father. Her father left the casket test as part of his dying will, the prince who chose the right casket would be worthy of his daughter. The test for loyalty was significant and was demonstrated when Portia dressed as the lawyer and tested Bassanio whether he truly kept his word and kept the ring portia granted him. Portia demonstrated her intelligence and power when she saved Antonio from losing a pound of flesh by dissuading Shylock from proceeding with the punishment.

Throughout the play, Shakespeare demonstrates the moral of loyalty through Bassanio and Portia’s relationship. Portia gives Bassanio the ring along with her inheritance and her vows On the day of their marriage. This part of the play is very important as Bassanio is is great debt to Antonio, a merchant of trade and a very wealthy man. Bassanio would definitely be in financial struggle indefinitely without the wealth he will acquire from the marriage. Fortunately for Bassanio, they both truly love each other and in not just a financial asset or business contract of any kind. Portia clearly explains that she gives all of her money to her new husband and the symbol of the ring itself in this next quote.. ‘I give them with this ring, which when you part from, lose or give away, let it presage the ruin of your love, and be my vantage to exclaim you” (Scene 3, Act 2 Line 175-178). However when Bassanio gave away the ring to thank the lawyer in the courtroom for Shylocks case, without realising, the lawyer that was given the ring was Portia dressed up, testing Bassanio’s loyalty, trust and whether he would of kept his word, no matter the circumstance. This also could suggest that Bassanio’s love for his good friend is stronger than his love for his wife so repaying the lawyer was the best he could do in that situation for saving his friend.

Shylock is a very wealthy tradesman and money lender. He was one of the more complicated characters in this play as Shakespeare portrayed him as the victim but also said to be the villain, described as greedy, jealous and very vengeful. He was hated for his religion, culture and occupation, betrayed by his daughter and was in the city he lives in. One thing Shylock did have that many other individuals did not at that time was lots of money (ducats) due to his expertise in trade allowing him to live a wealthy life. Bassanio seeks a load of 3000 ducats with Antonio. When Antonio fails to deliver, Shylocks complex character and role in the plot starts to emerge. Antonio guarantees and reassures Shylock that he will pay off the loan within three months however Shylock is doubtful of his word as majority of Antonio’s wealth is invested in unstable business’s. Shylock eventually decides to accept the offer due to the exception on behalf of his good friend, Bassanio. A quote that describes this conversation: “Go with me to a notary, seal me there Your single bond and, in a merry sport, If you repay me not on such a day, In such a place, such sum or sums as are Express’d in the condition, let the forfeit Be nominated for an equal pound Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken In what part of your body pleaseth me”. (Scene 1 Act 3 Lines 156-163). This relates to the theme of Power as Shylock’s wealth allowed him to make loans with other but also declare punishments if his belongings aren’t returned on his command.

Portia, the main character of the play was a very wealthy heiress and along with those traits, came power. In a courtroom, the judge has power over the court case. In this case, Portia dressed up as a lawyer to save Antonio from losing a pound of flesh from shylock after failing to keep his word and returns the loan of 3000 ducats over 3 months. She had heard from Bassanio, who at that point had won her hand by choosing the correct casket, that his friend, Antonio was in dire straits and feared for his life at the hands of the moneylender, Shylock. Portia is an intelligent woman and realises the power that she possesses at her current position in this trial. She decides to capitalise and take advantage of her situation by dissuading Shylock from killing Antonio by manipulating the law. “Tarry a little; there is something else. This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood. The words expressly are “a pound of flesh.” Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh, But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods Are by the laws of Venice confiscate Unto the state of Venice”. (Act 4, Scene 1, Line 318-325). This quote showed how well Portia persuaded Shylock to call off the trial and refuse shedding a pound of flesh.

Shakespeare has demonstrated the two morals of power and loyalty through multiple characters throughout this play. The complexity of the characters Portia and Shylock intrigue the audience and critics. Through these acts, Shakespeare depicts how each of these values can impact an individual and the people surrounding them or those who close to them whether that be a close friendship or relationship.


Writing an essay on ‘The Merchant of Venice’: key themes to explore

  1. Themes of justice and mercy: explore how the themes of justice and mercy are explored in the play and their effects on the characters.
  2. Prejudice and discrimination: examine how prejudice and discrimination are presented in the play and how they shape the story.
  3. The role of money: analyze how money affects the characters in the play and how it leads to conflict.
  4. Complex relationships: explore the complex relationships between the characters in the play and how they are affected by the events of the play.
  5. Love: consider how love is portrayed in the play and how it impacts the characters.
  6. Portia’s role: investigate the importance of Portia’s role in the play and her impact on the other characters.
  7. Language and imagery: examine the use of language and imagery in the play and how it contributes to the themes of the play.
  8. Character development: analyze how the characters develop throughout the play and how their development is affected by the themes of the play.