We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Essay Sample

The whole doc is available only for registered users OPEN DOC

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all the help you need with your essay and educational goals.

Get Access

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Essay Sample

The Merchant of Venice is a very famous comedy by that most talented of playwright William Shakespeare. It was written in 1596 or 1597 after the great playwright had penned down his famous plays like Romeo and Juliet and Richard III. The story or the outline of the plot is essentially Italian. However, the noteworthy characters of Portia and Shylock set the play apart from the other comedies of Shakespeare and make it unforgettable. In this paper, we examine certain specific issues related to the play and attempt to study several of its nuances in considerable detail.

 One of the most interesting characters in the play is Shylock. He is shown to us as the villain but in reality, he is a very ambivalent character. He certainly has his human moments and it appears that his cruelty stems from the ill-treatment that he has received due to his Jewish birth. He gives many reasons as to why he makes such an inhuman demand from Antonio. In an aside, Shylock confesses that he hates Antonio.

He cites several reasons for it. He says that Antonio, being a Christian, lends money without interest and makes it difficult for professional usurers to make a living (“He lends out money gratis” Act I, Scene iii). Also, Antonio has always tried to put down Shylock and called him rude names for being a usurer. This incensed Shylock to no end (“Thou call’dst me a dog before….”, Act III, scene iii). To top it all, Antonio belittles Shylock for being a Jew and makes snide remarks about Shylock’s ancestry (“and what’s his reason? I am a Jew”, Act III, scene i). Shylock takes umbrage at this and in an attempt to take revenge, he makes such a cruel contract with Antonio.

 There are two main parallel plots in the play. One pertaining to the rivalry and feud between Shylock and Antonio, and another related to the love story of Bassanio and Portia. These plots are intricately connected and together they form the main story. Bassanio took a loan from Shylock to travel to meet Portia and win her hand in marriage. The loan contract stated that if the loan is not repaid in time, Antonio (Bassanio’s friends) will be indebted to give Shylock a pound of his own flesh. Unfortunately, Antonio’s ships encounter trouble and he is unable to re-pay the loan in time thus causing Shylock to claim his pledged one pound of Antonio’s flesh. Bassanio’s betrothed Portia then comes to their rescue.

Dressed as a man, she defends Antonio and wins the legal battle, paving the way for the consummation of her love story with Bassanio. Thus, the two main plots run together and are woven expertly into each other by the playwright. There is another sub-plot in the play about the love story of Portia’s lady-in-waiting Nerissa and Bassanio’s friends Graziano. This sub-plot complements the love story of Portia and Bassanio. It underlines the beauty of love and it amuses the audience to know in addition to the match they were hoping to happen, they witness another match that enhances the romanticism of the plot.

 Anti-Semitism plays a very central role in the play. It is the pivotal theme which causes all the action to happen. Antonio slights Shylock for being a Jew and for being a money lender professionally. He compares Shylock to a devil who can also quote the Bible proficiently (“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose”, Act I, Scene iii). Even when Antonio is under debt with Shylock, his attitude is of superiority simply because he is a Christian. This causes Shylock to hate Antonio and all Christians and he takes revenge through the evil contract. However, he looses the legal battle, and he has to embrace Christianity.

 Love is a very powerful theme of the play. We witness two kinds of love in the play. One is the romantic love between Portia and Bassanio. Bassanio takes a loan in order to travel to meet Portia and win her hand. She too falls in love with him and even tells him to delay the choosing of the casket so that he makes the right choice. Fortunately, he chooses the correct casket and they declare their love for each other and exchange rings. Another type of love celebrated in the play is that of a friend for another.

Antonio and Bassanio are very close friends. When Bassanio is in need, Antonio becomes ready to pledge one pound of his flesh for a loan Bassanio takes from Shylock. Similarly, Bassanio leaves his love story hanging and returns to his side when Antonio is in trouble related to the contract. Portia also takes it upon herself to help her fiancé’s friend and dressed as a man, she defends him in a legal battle and wins it for him.

 Wealth is an extremely important motif in the play. It does play the role of the final arbiter of morality. We find that Antonio, who is a reasonably wealthy merchant, is socially in a position to slander Shylock, the Jew and treat him like dirt. Antonio slights Shylock at every possible opportunity and keeps his attitude of superiority even when he is taking a loan from Shylock.

Towards the end of the story also we find that Shylock has to give up his religion as a punishment. We also find that Antonio recovers his wealth and this reinstates his position as an arbiter of morality because he is wealthy and socially at an elevated status than Shylock. This prejudice is quite apparent in the play and makes the plot more interesting and believable.

 The Merchant of Venice is intended as a comedy. The amusing details of Portia’s condition for her suitors, the entertaining trial where the entire drama goes awry and against Shylock and the comical sequence of shylock’s daughter dressing up as a page to elope with her lover are all typical of Shakespearean comedies. However, if we wish to examine the play as a tragedy, it will be shylock’s tragedy. Treated as dirt all his life for being a Jew and an usurer, Shylock seeks revenge from Antonio through the contract.

However, his plans fall apart with the intervention of the witty and clever Portia who turns the tables on him. Humiliated and embarrassed, Shylock has to give away one half of his property to Antonio which the latter refuses to take and instead commands shylock to bequeath to Jessica and her suitor. In addition to this, Shylock is asked to embrace Christianity as a salvation for his sins. It is humiliating and tragic for him to have to give up that faith in defense of which he had sought revenge from Antonio.

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

Comedy Plays By Shakespeare

Components in Shakespearean comedies is Happy consummation which as a rule includes marriage between the characters, Separation and re-unification, debate between characters, both inward and outer clashes, and a strain amongst Apollonian and Dionysian esteems. Vendor of Venice appears a tragicomedy it has a comic structure however Shylocks, he resembles a repulsive character who experiences a ton the asking to the finish of the play....

To What Extent is Much Ado About...

This essay will analyse the way in which Shakespeare makes this comedy bitterly satirical, and a comment on not only the pretentious style and swank of Spaniards, namely Don Pedro and his gang, but human stupidity as a whole. Much Ado About Nothing portrays the issues of sex, war, marriage and chivalric courtly love in an ironic and satirical way. On a topical level, the...

How in "Much Ado About Nothing" Does...

"Much Ado About Nothing" is a romantic comedy and conventionally these involve characters whose amorous bliss is disturbed by an unanticipated threat. However this danger is short-lived and their happy fate is fulfilled. Shakespeare sets about adding interest and diversity to what otherwise could have been a monotonous series of events with the creation of dramatic tension and comedy through the use of various dramatic...

GCSE Drama: Responding (Sparkleshark)

Sparkleshark is a modern day stage comedy about Jake, a shy 14 year old boy who secretly writes imaginative magical stories from the roof of an inner-city tower block. As the play progresses, more and more characters arrive on the roof before Jake has to think up his best story yet to prevent taking another beating from Russell the 'love-muscle' bully. We have spent a...

Analysis of Situation Comedies: Father Ted

Father Ted - Father Ted is unlike any other comedy in the way, which it is set. It is set on a remote island of the coast of Ireland. This is to inflict the fact that the three priests are isolated from society sort of like outcasts. The use of folk/western music gives us a sense of Ireland and therefore helps us to establish the...

Get Access To The Full Essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Become a member

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59
Become a Member