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Shakespeare's character

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This assignment focuses on the Characters in Shakespeare’s play “Merchant of Venice”. It highlights the major characters in the play and their importance in the play. It describes in-depth features of the major characters. Hence there is a detail analysis on four major characters of the play: Shylock, Antonio, Portia and Bassanio. Also, there is information about the types of characters found in all Shakespeare’s play. The purpose of this assignment is to portray the importance of characters in Shakespeare’s play as Shakespeare’s play is character driven. They are vital elements of the play as the plot revolves around them.

Character has various meanings. For instance it can mean a personality, a representation of a person in a narrative or a dramatic work of art or distinctive qualities built into an individual's life which determines his or her response regardless of circumstances. A character is an imaginary person in a story. Character can also mean the characteristics that determine the moral and ethical beliefs a person has.
There are many kinds of characters in a play that determines the essentiality of a play. There are major characters and minor characters in a play, followed by Round characters, flat characters, stock characters, static characters dynamic characters and also Antagonist and Protagonist.
Major character is an individual who has a main influence in the determination of the story or event. They are vital to the development and resolution of the conflict. In other words, the plot and resolution of conflict revolves around these characters. While on the other hand, Minor characters serve to complement the major characters and help move the plot events forward.
Plays have to have Plot, Character, Thought, Diction and Spectacle. Some also have Music. Characters are the agents who commit the actions that make up the plot, thus one cannot have a play without them. Real plays must have a minimum of three characters. Some "two character" plays have a third off stage character or an on stage representation of a character that serves the purpose of the third character. These requirements are set forth in "Playwriting" by Bernard Grebanier.

Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays…
The centre of attention is in large part on the characters, described often with a personal slant and using memorable expressions, and incorporating psychological insights. It is widely accepted that Shakespeare’s supreme gift is his universality. He was not of an age but for all times, because his characters are true to the eternal aspects of human life and not limited to any contemporary society. No Dramatist can create live characters save by bequeathing the best of himself into the his work of art, scattering among them a largesse of his own qualities, his own wit, his comprehensive cogent philosophy, his own rhythm of action and the simplicity and the complexity of his own nature.
Linda Edelstein, an author and psychologist, offers 23 adult personality types in her book WRITER'S GUIDE TO CHARACTER TRAITS. These are extremely valuable to writers doing pre-draft character sketches for novels, screenplays, etc. As I read her work, I wondered whether I could find Shakespearean character examples for each personality type, and lo and behold, I could. The resulting 23-point chapter summary, with examples from the Bard, is of potential use to those of us who happen to be Shakespeare freaks and also happen to be creating sketches of major and minor characters for our NaNoWriMo novels.
(a) The Adventurer
May look and sound ordinary, but underlying most activities is the need to feel like a warrior, often unknowingly at the cost of others. This character is typically, but not always, male. (Think: Hotspur in Henry IV PART 1, or Kate in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.)

(b) The Boss has to be in control, whether at home, work, or play. Having things go his/her own way matter a great deal to this character. (Think: King Lear in first two acts of KING LEAR.)

(c) The Conventional
Lives by the rules and prefers the established ways; thinks the status quo is vastly preferable to the risk of change. (Think: Bianca in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.)

(d) The Creator gets meaning from the ability to produce new ideas, products, approaches, and/or outcomes. (Think Prospero in THE TEMPEST. Or, if you don't dig wizard archetypes, Henry V in HENRY V.)

(e) The Dependent this character's whole world revolves around having his/her needs met by others; he/she simply does not do well without help. Making independent decisions may be difficult or impossible. This person's need for validation and support goes beyond what is normally expected for a particular stage of life, occurring as a central reality even in periods of youth or robust health. (Think Virgilia in the early acts of CORIOLANUS.)

(f) The Eccentric
Zigs when others zag. Is genuinely different; typically appears "weird" to others. (Think: the Fool in KING LEAR or Touchstone in AS YOU LIKE IT.)

(g) The Extrovert
Draws energy and inspiration from interactions with other people. Thrives in groups. Actually enjoys time spent with others. (Think: Benedick in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.)

(h) The Fall Guy/Girl seems to make a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. (Think: Roderigo in OTHELLO.)

(i) The Fearful
Inhibited; driven by a fear of rejection. These fears dominate this character's internal life and interactions with others. (This will sound strange, but think it through: the Shakespearean model here is the Othello from acts three and four of OTHELLO. To the extent that he fears and visualizes Desdemona's rejection and betrayal of him, Othello catastrophizes his situation and becomes increasingly isolated. This character is not defined by the absence of physical bravery, but by a terror of being rejected.)

(j) The Flamboyant
May be male or female. This character is driven by love, sex, competition, and disloyalty, always with a lack of authenticity. Shows or expresses more than is really felt. Flamboyant women may lack close relationships with other women. (Think: Cleopatra in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.)

(k) The Hyper
This character is active, but not always with direction. Motion without progress is common. (Think: Hamlet in the first three acts of HAMLET.)

(l) The Loner
Drifts with little strong attachment to anyone. This withdrawal is not the temporary kind resulting from culture shock or trauma, but a way of life. (Think: Don John in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.)

(m) The Manipulator
Seeks control through domination of others, much of it covert. Typically highly charismatic. (Think: Iago in OTHELLO.)
(n) The Man’s Man
Macho, macho man. Only allows certain acceptably "masculine" elements of self (e.g., competititiveness, harshness) to emerge. (Think: Coriolanus in CORIOLANUS.) For the female counterpart, see the Ultra-Feminine, below.

(o) The Passive-Aggressive this character lives under a dark cloud. He/she tries hard, but always feels misunderstood. (Think: the Dauphin in HENRY V.)

(p) The Perfectionist
Strives not for excellence, but perfection. Standards for self and others absurdly high; failure to meet those standards can lead to intense internal stress. May believe he/she will be valued only if perfect. (Think: Angelo in MEASURE FOR MEASURE. Inspector Javert, too, but that's another writer.)

(q) The Personable
Your best buddy. Supportive, loyal, good listener. Values friends and friendships. (Think: Horatio in HAMLET.)

(r) The Problem Solver
Lives to help. The "fixer" who can help you work through just about any dilemma; may lack imagination, deeper insights. (Think: Thesis in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.)

(s) The Resilient
Undergoes same challenges as everyone else, but has an amazing ability to recover from life’s setbacks. (Think: Gonzalo in THE TEMPEST.)

(t) The Show-Off has to be center of attention, has to have an audience, has to stand out. (Think: Mercutio in ROMEO AND JULIET.)

(u) The Ultra- Feminine is to the female sex what the Man’s Man is to is to the male sex. Identity relies heavily on "feminine" archetypes of passivity, innocence, etc. (Think: Desdemona in OTHELLO.)

(v) The Victim
Lacks self-determination and control. Convinced that people or circumstances are more in command than of their lives than they are. (Think: Richard II in the play of the same name.)

Shakespeare's plays are not just about the heroes. There are kings, queens, commoners, merchants, fairies and ghosts. No matter if the character was a ghost, queen or merchant, they fall into three standard types of characters. But Shakespeare’s play involve less females as back then women were not allowed to act by law, and their parts had to be taken by boys with broken voices. This resulted in poor depiction of the women’s in the play. This is why the dramatists preferred so few feminine characters.

Characters in Merchant of Venice…
The Merchant of Venice is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic scenes, and is best known for Shylock and the famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech. Also notable is Portia's speech about "the quality of mercy". The title character is the merchant Antonio, not the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who is the play's most prominent and most famous character. This is made explicit by the title page of the first quarto: “The most excellent History of the Merchant of Venice. With the extreme cruelty of Shylock the Jew towards the Merchant…”
Mention below is all the characters in the play.
Antonio – a merchant of Venice
Bassanio – Antonio's friend; suitor to Portia
Gratiano, Solanio, Salarino, Salerio – friends of Antonio and Bassanio
Lorenzo – friend of Antonio and Bassanio, in love with Jessica
Portia – a rich heiress
Nerissa – Portia's waiting maid- in love with Gratiano
Balthazar – Portia's servant, who Portia later disguises herself as
Stephano – Nerissa's disguise as Balthazar's law clerk.
Shylock – a rich Jew, moneylender, father of Jessica
Jessica – daughter of Shylock, in love with Lorenzo
Tubal – a Jew; Shylock's friend
Launcelot Gobbo – a servant to Shylock
Old Gobbo – father of Launcelot
Leonardo – servant to Bassanio
Duke of Venice – Venetian authority who presides over the case of Shylock's bond
Prince of Morocco – suitor to Portia
Prince of Arragon – suitor to Portia
Magnificoes of Venice, officers of the Court of Justice, Gaoler, servants to Portia, and other Attendants

Character Analysis of the Major Characters…
The major characters of the play the Merchant of Venice are Antonio, Shylock, Portia and Bassanio. Most of the plot seems to revolve around them.
Shylock is the most vivid and memorable character in The Merchant of Venice, and he is one of Shakespeare's greatest dramatic creations. On stage, it is Shylock who makes the play, and almost all of the great actors of the English and Continental stage have attempted the role. But the character of Shylock has also been the subject of much critical debate: How are we meant to evaluate the attitude of the Venetians in the play toward him? Or his attitude toward them? Is he a bloodthirsty villain? Or is he a man "more sinned against than sinning"? One of the reasons that such questions arise is that there are really two stage Shylocks in the play: first, there is the stage "villain" who is required for the plot; second, there is the human being who suffers the loss of his daughter, his property, and, very importantly for him, his religion.
Shylock's function in this play is to be the obstacle, the man who stands in the way of the love stories; such a man is a traditional figure in romantic comedies. Something or someone must impede young, romantic love; here, it is Shylock and the many and various ways that he is linked to the three sets of lovers. The fact that he is a Jew is, in a sense, accidental. Shakespeare wanted to contrast liberality against selfishness — in terms of money and in terms of love. There was such a figure available from the literature of the time, one man who could fulfill both functions: this man would be a usurer, or moneylender, with a beautiful daughter that he held onto as tightly as he did his ducats. Usury was forbidden to Christians by the church of the Middle Ages, and as a consequence, money lending was controlled by the Jews; as a rule, it was usually the only occupation which the law allowed to them. As a result, a great deal of medieval literature produced the conventional figure of the Jewish moneylender, usually as a minor character, but also too, as a major character.
It is from this medieval literary tradition that Shakespeare borrows the figure of Shylock, just as Marlowe did for his Jew of Malta. Some commentators have said that the character of Shylock is an example of Elizabethan (and Shakespeare's own) anti-Semitism. In contrast, many have seen the creation of Shylock as an attack on this kind of intolerance. But Shakespeare, they forget, was a dramatist. He was not concerned with either anti- nor pro-Semitism, except in the way it shaped individual characters in his plays to produce the necessary drama that he was attempting to create. The play is thus emphatically not anti-Semitic; rather, because of the nature of Shylock's involvement in the love plots, it is about anti-Semitism. Shakespeare never seriously defined or condemned a group through the presentation of an individual; he only did this for the purposes of comedy by creating caricatures in miniature for our amusement. Shylock is drawn in bold strokes; he is meant to be a "villain" in terms of the romantic comedy, but because of the multi-dimensionality which Shakespeare gives him, we are meant to sympathize with him at times, loathe him at others. Shakespeare's manipulation of our emotions regarding Shylock is a testament to his genius as a creator of character.
When Shylock leaves the courtroom in Act IV, Scene 1, he is stripped of all that he has. He is a defeated man. Yet we cannot feel deep sympathy for him — some, perhaps, but not much. Shakespeare's intention was not to make Shylock a tragic figure; instead, Shylock was meant to function as a man who could be vividly realized as the epitome of selfishness; he must be defeated in this romantic comedy. In a sense, it is Shakespeare's own brilliance which led him to create Shylock as almost too human. Shylock is powerfully drawn, perhaps too powerfully for this comedy, but his superb dignity is admirable, despite the fact that we must finally condemn him. Perhaps the poet W. H. Auden has given us our best clue as to how we must deal with Shylock: "Those to whom evil is done," he says, "do evil in return." This explains in a few words much of the moneylender's complexity and our complex reactions toward him.
Antonio is the merchant of Venice, the titular protagonist of the play. He is about forty years of age and has lived his life to the fullest. He is a successful businessman, owning a fleet of trade ships. Surprisingly, Antonio appears in relatively few scenes of the play, but he is the driving force behind much of the action. Antonio is the model Christian, as defined by Elizabethan society. He represents, among other things, the ideal of nobility in friendship. He is also kind and generous, both to his friends and to the poor of Venice. Although he is now more philosophical, gentle, and quiet, he can still appreciate the frivolous nature of youth, as portrayed by his beloved friend, Bassanio. Aside from his love for Bassanio, he is unattached. Perhaps his lack of love is the reason for his melancholy.
Antonio's principles are against the borrowing or lending of money for profit. He reflects the medieval attitude that money should be lent for Christian charity. His noble generosity for his friend, however, leads him to cast aside these principles and to take a loan from the merchant, Shylock. He borrows money and pledges his flesh as the bond. When his ships are lost at sea, he cannot repay the loan and accepts the fact that he must pay Shylock with a pound of his flesh.
Antonio's warmth and generosity, however, save him. Portia, who has married Bassanio, comes to Antonio's aid. Even though she has never met Antonio, she loves him for his generosity to her husband. She appears in court as a young, intelligent lawyer and turns the law against Shylock, saving Bassanio's dear friend in the process. Antonio, with characteristic generosity and mercy, spares the life of Shylock and gives the Jew's wealth to Lorenzo and Jessica, the rightful heirs. Antonio's good fortune continues when he learns that his ships are not lost at sea, but have returned laden with goods. As the symbol of Christian warmth, kindness, generosity, and love, Antonio truly receives his just reward during the play when all turns out well for him.
Like Antonio, Portia is an example of nobility. She is a fair-haired beauty with an immense power to attract. Her goodness and virtue enhance her beauty. Unlike Antonio, she is not passive, but displays energy and determination. In many ways, hers is the more forceful figure in the play. Her authority and control with which she deals and manipulates the circumstances of the play are exemplary. In Belmont, the terms of her father's will leave her without any choice in her future husband, and she is saddened that she does not have an appropriate mate. As a dutiful daughter, however, she is compelled to accept her father's wishes. Despite her dissatisfaction with her circumstances, she has a cheerful and optimistic nature. She is clever with words and wit and enjoys the opportunity of performing, both in Belmont and Venice. She uses her wonderful ability with words and her keen sense of humor to enliven the scenes in which she appears. Her treatment of her money reflects Bassanio's belief that money is to be used only in the sense of helping loved ones. She proves she is unselfish and generous. Her happiness and Antonio's meet in Bassanio. Her ideal of mercy is unselfish generosity and she shows an understanding of Christian values.
As a Christian gentlewoman, she considers it her duty to show Shylock the foolishness of his exact interpretation of the law that has no mercy. She dresses as a young lawyer and goes to court to defend Antonio. Like Shylock has demanded, she strictly interprets the law and disallows the Jew from taking a drop of Antonio's blood when he takes his pound of flesh. Since this is impossible, Shylock begs to just be given money, but Portia is unrelenting. She cites another law that states any alien who tries to take the life of a Venetian is to lose all of his money, which will be split between the state and the person who was to be killed. As a result, Shylock loses all of his wealth. Portia has cleverly tricked Shylock at his own game.
Portia is the most multi-dimensional character in the play, alternating between a beautiful woman in the remote setting of Belmont and the authoritative lawyer in Venice, who orchestrates the victory of good over evil.
Bassanio's character is more fully drawn than Antonio's, but it does not possess the powerful individuality that Shakespeare gives to his portraits of Portia and Shylock. First off, when one begins considering Bassanio, one should dismiss all the critics who condemn him for his financial habits. Bassanio's request to Antonio for more money is perfectly natural for him. He is young; he is in love; and he is, by nature, impulsive and romantic. Young men in love have often gone into debt; thus Bassanio has always borrowed money and, furthermore, no moral stigma should be involved. Shakespeare needs just such a character in this play for his plot.
If Bassanio is not a powerful hero, he is certainly a sympathetic one. First, he has some of the most memorable verse in the play — language which has music, richness, and dignity. Second, he shows us his immediate, uncalculated generosity and love; this is especially obvious when Bassanio, who has just won Portia, receives the letter telling him of Antonio's danger. Bassanio is immediately and extremely concerned over the fate of Antonio and is anxious to do whatever is possible for his friend. Here, the situation is melodramatic and calls for a romantic, seemingly impossible, rescue mission.
When at last Bassanio and Portia are reunited, he speaks forthrightly and truthfully to her. He refuses to implicate Antonio, even though it was at Antonio's urging that he gave away his wedding ring to the judge who cleverly saved Antonio's life: "If you did know," he tells Portia, "for what I gave the ring / And how unwillingly I left the ring . . . You would abate the strength of your displeasure." No matter how powerful the circumstances, he admits that he was wrong to part with the ring because he had given his oath to Portia to keep it. As the play ends, Bassanio's impetuous nature is once more stage-center. Speaking to his wife, he vows: "Portia, forgive me this enforced wrong; . . . and by my soul I swear / I never more will break an oath with thee." Of course, he will; this, however, is part of Bassanio's charm. He means it with all his heart when he swears to Portia, but when the next opportunity arises and he is called on to rashly undertake some adventure full of dash and daring, he'll be off. Portia knows this also and loves him deeply, despite this minor flaw.

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