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Major Themes in Merchant of Venice

By kimmiecub Mar 24, 2011 491 Words
A major theme in the Merchant of Venice is mercy. Mercy depicts a large part of this play, mercy is one of themes that ends it. In the courtroom scene of Act 4, scene 1, both the Duke and Portia present mercy as a better alternative to the pursuit of either law or revenge. The other characters accept that the law is on Shylock’s side, but they all expect him to show mercy, which he refuses to do. Portia then tries to persuade him to be merciful with her speech, “the quality of mercy”. She tries to say that mercy is something that is effortless; it should come to you as natural as how the rain falls from heaven. Everyone should show mercy because it is like God himself. Mercy is something that kings and mighty people should have in order to judge his subjects, just like God. Therefore mercy is something that is considered great and mighty so one should always try and possess this great quality. However mercy is contradicted in this play, it is rather ironic. She eventually persuades the court in her favor and they give the worst sentence to Shylock. All his wealth was taken away from as well as his religion. He had to convert to Christianity after being tortured for years by Christians themselves. Portia, who makes this long speech about mercy to make Shylock surrender in court, is now the merciless one in this situation. The Christians in this courtroom show no mercy towards Shylock and treat him as if he is not a human being. Portia is the hypocrite in this scene. Another major theme in this play is Prejudice. One of the most significant examples of prejudice in this novel is the Anti-Semitic views of the Christian citizens in Venice. Around that time there was rampant prejudice against Jews by Christians. Antonio spat and made fun of Shylock all the time. Jews were hated just plainly for being themselves. Shylock, is referred to as 'The Jew' all throughout the play by all the other characters who are Christian. Shylock was not considered to be a human being in the eyes of the Christians of Venice, for example in the court scene when they took everything away from Shylock he said, "if you prick us, do we not bleed?...". This means that he is a human also despite of his religious beliefs; everyone should have the chance to be accepted as who they are. Besides anti-Semitism, characters anticipate the prejudice of others. Women have a particular and confined role, and there’s rampant discrimination against those with dark skin, especially when Portia meets a Moorish suitor. These two themes play a very important role in defining this play. They show us that some of these themes actually occur in today’s society and we fail to correct these mistakes. By: Kimberly George

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