Merchant of Venice - Apperance vs Reality

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Jasdeep Bains
Mrs. Valdez
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....
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