How does Shakespeare explore the theme of love against self-interest in the Merchant of Venice?

Topics: The Merchant of Venice, Love, Shylock Pages: 3 (972 words) Published: January 12, 2014
How does Shakespeare explore the theme of love against self-interest in the Merchant of Venice? In the Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare explores the themes of love and self-interest; the characters own self-interests seem to conquer all feelings of affection towards other characters through money, revenge and spite. The play is about a Christian merchant called Antonio who borrows money from a Jewish money lender called Shylock; hence his friend Bassanio can seek the women he claims to love in the fictional place of Belmont. However, Shylock creates a bond which states that if Antonio does not pay back the money lent to him, Shylock shall receive a pound of Antonio’s flesh. In order to understand the characters’ conflicting emotions and incentives, it is important to understand the definitions of love and self-interest. For now, I will define love as an altruistic affection for someone that may provoke sacrificial acts. As for self-interest, I think this can contrastingly be defined as an egotistical focus on one’s own needs and desires, regardless of those around you. Love is demonstrated in the play by acts of devotion. Portia helps save Antonio from a gruesome death by dressing up as a man and a lawyer. This is an act of devotion towards Bassanio because she is trying to help a man she does not know in order to satisfy Bassanio. She says “I have within my mind a thousand raw trick of these bragging jacks, which I will practice”. This illustrates her affection for Bassanio because she immediately forms a biased opinion of the men unknown to her who threaten Antonio’s – Bassanio’s greatest friend’s- safety. Shakespeare uses the word “raw” meaning rude to imply how mean Portia wants to be to these men hurting Antonio. The fact that she is so passionately against these men leads us to believe that Portia cares a great deal for Antonio’s welfare. Portia’s apparent care for Antonio illustrates her affection for Bassanio who regards Antonio highly as a ‘dear friend’....
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