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Merchant of Venice

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In Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, the audience is challenged by the conflict of different religions and faiths, unfairness in the law and revenge towards other characters to explore relationships with fellow humans. The play’s essential focus around these themes allows the audience to explore each character’s actions and morality. Antonio and Shylock’s continued conflict over their different religion, Portia’s inability to choose who she wishes to marry and Shylock’s revenge towards Antonio by taking him to court because he did not repay the bond of three thousand ducats are all crucial moments in the play which stimulate audience empathy, sympathy and concern. This leaves the audience to question and consider their own moral values and relationships.
Shakespeare displays Shylock, one of the main characters in the play The Merchant of Venice in his relationships with fellow humans through the conflict of different religions and faiths. Shakespeare depicts Shylock to the audience as angry when he is around Christians especially Antonio. “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish gabardine, and all for the use of that which is mine own” here Shylock reclaims the despicable manner that Antonio has treated him with. It is clear that Shakespeare wants the audience to empathise with Shylock and take pity on Antonio. Shylock takes offence when his daughter Jessica runs away with a Christian man, exclaiming “My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats! Justice! The law! My ducats and my daughter!” The repetition used in Shylock’s dialogue shows Shylock’s anger and aggressiveness when hearing that his daughter ran away with a Christian. From this, audience sympathy is lost within the audience toward Shylock as his anger towards Christians becomes too strong to control.
Shakespeare presents the theme of unfairness in the play The Merchant of Venice through the character Portia. The will of Portia’s dead father states that Portia must marry the suitor who chooses the casket with her picture in it. “I may neither choose whom I would, nor refuse that I dislike, and so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father”, it is clear that Portia dislikes the circumstance that her father left her. Here Shakespeare wants the audience to sympathise with Portia because of her insecurity and situation in life. Although the audience sympathy is soon lost as Portia describes the Prince of Morocco, “If he have the condition of a saint, and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he shrive me than wive me” Here her description of the Prince is disrespectful and impertinent and the audience is brought to question their own family relationships as Shakespeare portrays Portia as being insecure with her situation in life as a result of her father’s will.
Shakespeare demonstrates the theme of revenge through two of the main characters in The Merchant of Venice, Shylock and Antonio. The tensions arise between the characters as Shylock exclaims “The pound of flesh which I demand of him is dearly bought; ‘tis mine, and I will have it. If you deny me, fie upon your law” the hatred between Shylock and Antonio is obvious. Here Shakespeare wants the audience to feel concern toward Antonio, as Shylock has control over his life. Shylock is trying to claim the penalty of the bond following the law. However, when the penalty is overridden Shylock finds himself begging for mercy “Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that: You take my house when you do take the prop, that doth sustain my house; you take my life, when you do take the means whereby I live” Here Shakespeare provokes the audience toward the way Shylock was treated in court. This theme leaves the audience questioning the fairness of law and also their relationships with fellow humans.
Finally, the themes conflict of different religions and faiths, unfairness in the law and revenge towards other characters in The Merchant of Venice, emanates the audience to explore relationships with fellow humans. Shakespeare’s production of these themes through scenes of fierce conflict between different religions and faiths, unfairness in the law involving guiltless characters and revenge towards other characters through a dramatic court case, confirms that the audiences are forced to question their relationships with fellow humans and consider their own moral values and relationships.

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