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The Merchant of Venice Essay

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The Merchant of Venice Essay Throughout The Merchant of Venice, there are a variety of ways in which the characters view wealth. Their views on wealth shape the play. Different characters view wealth in extremely different ways. Shylock’s life is centered around wealth, Bassanio views wealth as extreme power, while Antonio balances wealth and love greatly. Shylock’s view on wealth is rather extreme. He values only money, and not family. After Jessica runs away Shylock states, “I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear.” (III. i. 79-80). When Jessica runs away, he does not care that she is gone. He only wishes for his money, which she has stolen, to be returned to him. Shylock also prioritizes himself and what he has to gain over the lives of others. While making the deal with Antonio, Shylock states, “Expressed in the condition, let the forfeit be nominated for an equal pound of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me” (I. iii. 150-154). This deal alone shows Shylock’s greed for money. If Antonio is unable to pay Shylock back by the deadline that he sets, Shylock will take advantage of Antonio. Shylock will cut a pound of flesh from whatever part of Antonio’s body he pleases. Shylock would go to any length to gain wealth. Bassanio’s opinion on wealth is different from Shylock’s. He views wealth as a sign of strength and power, but does not center his life around it. Although he does not share such an extreme passion for money with Shylock, his views create the issue between Shylock and Antonio. Bassanio asks for money to travel to Belmont to impress Portia. Antonio is quick to allow this, although he does not have the money now saying, “Where money is, and I no question make to have it of my trust or for my sake” (I. i. 188-189). This creates an issue because Antonio does not have any money, so he must borrow money from Shylock to help his friend, Bassanio. This is when the deal is made and problems begin to arise. Had Bassanio not needed money to impress Portia, the deal never would have been made. Bassanio would use wealth as a way to achieve a specific goal, such as winning Portia’s heart.
Antonio’s values are what set him apart from the other characters. While he does view money as an important object, he has other values that he prioritizes, the main one being religion. In court, the Duke gives Antonio half of Shylock’s assets. Antonio does not accept by stating, “He presently become a Christian; The other, that he do record a gift Here in the court, of all he dies possessed, Unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter” (IV. i. 400-403). Although Antonio may have been harsh in the way he articulated this, he had a great passion for Christianity, and wanted Shylock to convert. He was never after his money or his life, but he wanted to enrich Shylock with the religion that he believed in, Christianity. Another value Antonio prioritized before money was friendship. When Bassanio needed to go to Belmont and did not have any money, Antonio offered him the money while he had none to spare. This not only shows he has compassion, but also that he is charitable. Antonio is not very concerned with the power behind wealth and is more focused on a life that combines wealth, religion, and friendship.

Wealth is viewed very differently among the characters. For Shylock wealth is all that matters, Bassanio believes that power lies in wealth, and Antonio believes there is a greater balance between wealth and other aspects of life. Without the wide variety of values prevalent in The Merchant of Venice, fewer problems would have arisen.

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