The Merchant of Venice

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The Merchant of Venice

"Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is still relevant today because it deals with issues which still affect us. Show how two of those issues are discussed in the play."

Throughout the play a distinction is made between how things appear on the outside and how they are in reality, or on the inside. The issue of appearance versus reality is demonstrated in varied ways, mainly by the use of real-life situations. The first representation of this is Shylock's generosity with his money and eagerness to make friends with Antonio when he says, "I say, to buy his favour, I extend this friendship," when all he wants is to take a pound of Antonio's flesh and end his life, "If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him." Shylock pretends to want to be friends with Antonio, but only wants revenge against the Jew-hater.

The choosing of the three caskets is used as the main explanation of appearance versus reality. The suitor of Portia must choose either a gold, silver or lead casket, where the right choice will allow the suitor to marry her. The Prince of Morocco, on choosing the beautiful gold casket with the inscription, "Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire," sees the message, "All that glisters is not gold," and is thus turned away by Portia. The Prince of Arragon, on choosing the silver casket with, "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves," receives a fool's head, and is told that that is what he deserves. Bassanio however, on correctly choosing the lead casket with the inscription, "Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath," says, "The world is still (constantly) deceived with ornament." He chooses the lead casket so as not to be fooled by the dull appearance, and receives the beautiful Portia and all her wealth who, in reality, contrasts with the ugly lead. The two princes, however, were deceived by the ornament of the gold and silver caskets....
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