Merchant of Venice - Apperance vs Reality

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Jasdeep Bains
Mrs. Valdez
ENG2D1-05
Wednesday May 28, 2008
Appearance Vs Reality in Merchant Of Venice
This theme of Appearance Vs. Reality is used throughout the play to mislead and confuse so things may not always be what they seem. Shakespeare uses deception to enhance the unfolding drama and involve his audience more fully in the play – the audience are party to deceptions which the characters themselves are unaware of. Prejudice was common and the word “Jew” applied to hardhearted unscrupulous moneylenders. An Elizabethan audience would have been happy to see a Jew, Spaniard or a Moor deceived and Shakespeare clearly tried to give his audience what it wanted. In contrast, many, particularly ladies, would have admired the strong and witty Portia and even though she appears arrogant and racist this would have been accepted in Elizabethan England. Any deception carried out by Portia would therefore be admired and applauded by Shakespeare’s audience and it is not surprising therefore she carries out that many deceptions.

A major theme running though the play is that of Christians disliking Jews and Jews returning the feelings. Towards the start of the play Shakespeare introduces deception when Antonio (a Christian) wants a bond from Shylock (a Jew). Shylock agrees to the bond under the condition that Shylock gets a pound of Antonio’s flesh for each pound he cannot return. This bond seems to come out of friendship from Shylock and he describes, “I would be friends with you, and have your love…” The audience, however, knows at this point that Shylock is deceiving Antonio; although Shylock pretends to like Antonio “Antonio is a good man” and wants to be friends he has already expressed to the audience his hatred for Antonio. Shylock also describes the bond as “this merry bond”. A merry bond is a bond which is not serious, a joke, and if the terms of the bond were broken you would not expect to see Shylock wanting to take up the strict terms of it. Again, this is another deception, as later in the play Shylock wants full revenge by taking his pounds of flesh from Antonio. These are two deceptions played on Antonio by Shylock. An Elizabethan audience might expect nothing less of a Jew. By hiding his hatred for Antonio and making light of the pound of flesh, Shylock succeeds in his deception.

The next deception is the elopement of Jessica and Lorenzo; a deception in this instant against Shylock. Lorenzo doesn’t care about the consequences to Shylock as Shylock is a Jew and Lorenzo doesn’t respect him because of this. He describes Shylock as “A faithless Jew”. Jessica doesn’t respect her father either and dislikes being a Jew. Jessica tells the audience how she is “ashamed to be my father’s child” and makes the audience feel sorry for her by describing her unhappy home life “our house is hell…” Jessica is to be disguised as a torchbearer. She also steals some of her father’s valuable possessions and money knowing this will cause him great pain on top of her running away. We hear about Shylock’s reaction to the elopement in Act 2 Scene 8 when Salario and Solanio are making fun of him. “My daughter! Oh my ducats! Fled with a Christian, Oh my Christian ducats stolen by my daughter”. Lorenzo and his friends deceived Shylock out of spite, as they disliked Shylock as a Jew, but also because they know that Shylock would not approve of the marriage and Jessica becoming a Christian. The elopement deception is a major issue because it might have contribute to Shylock’s anger towards and make him want tokeep his bond even more. Jessica also dressed up as a pageboy to disguise her and this is quite similar to Portia who later disguise herself as a lawyer to help Antonio. Portia deceives all of the men that come to choose a casket. To their faces she appears to like them but when they have gone she mocks them and says how she disliked them. She especially deceives the Prince of Morocco. To his face, Portia says she has...
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