Free ePUB The Merchant of Venice By William Shakespeare –

In This Lively Comedy Of Love And Money In Sixteenthcentury Venice, Bassanio Wants To Impress The Wealthy Heiress Portia But Lacks The Necessary Funds He Turns To His Merchant Friend, Antonio, Who Is Forced To Borrow From Shylock, A Jewish Moneylender When Antonio's Business Falters, Repayment Becomes Impossibleand By The Terms Of The Loan Agreement, Shylock Is Able To Demand A Pound Of Antonio's Flesh Portia Cleverly Intervenes, And All Ends Well Except Of Course For Shylock

10 thoughts on “The Merchant of Venice

  1. says:

    Many years ago I believed this play to be an early experiment in tragi-comedy featuring Shylock, a nemesis of almost tragic proportions, who--both because of the sympathies he evokes and the evil determination he represents--unbalances the play, making the last act in Belmont seem like a hollow exercise in formal completeness. More recently, I believed that Shylock was essentially a comic villain, one dark splash on a predominately sunny canvas that embodies f0r us the fallen world of Venice transformed by the magic of Portia's Belmont. (I also believe our knowledge of the Holocaust makes it impossible to appreciate the play fully in this way).

    Now-after my recent re-reading--I'm no longer sure what to think. For one thing--taking the title seriously this time--I feel that Antonio the merchant, both in his unexplained sadness, his love (whether erotic or paternal or both) for Bassanio, and his unredeemed solitariness, is extremely important to the meaning of the play. I think that Antonio and Shylock, in their preoccupations and loneliness, are similar, but that Antonio--unlike Shylock--is able to look beneath the surface of things, to peer beneath "our muddy vesture of decay" and hear the music of the spheres as it echoes in the human heart. Thus Antonio becomes capable of love and mercy through choice, in much the same way that Bassanio chooses the right caskets and Portia chooses the mature way to respond to Bassanio's giving away of her ring. Shylock, however, by willingly suppressing his compassion for another and insisting strictly on justice puts himself beyond mercy and beyond love.

  2. says:

    3 1/2 stars.

    This review contains huge spoilers.

    Well... I certainly did not expect that ending. I didn't imagine Portia to be one to give second chances, especially after seeing her scheming to discover who is more important to Bassanio, herself or Antonio. It bothered me to see her tricking Bassanio with no repent.

    Incidentally, I feel sad for Antonio. In my opinion, he did deserve to end up wealthy... but not alone. Same for Shylock, even though I can't ignore his showing cruelty instead of mercy. Redemption was hardly an option he considered, but still, he was left with nothing... They took away from him one of the things that was most important to him: his religion. He wasn't a monstrous villain to me, just a very vindictive and avaricious man. His priorities weren't ones I agreed with.

    A good play, in sum. Antonio + Bassanio = ♥

  3. says:

    Maybe because I read this play with the famous controversy of its antisemitism on my mind, or because I expected a true hearted villain, “Iago fashion”, in the Jewish usurer Skylock, but I reached the last scene of the play with the extraordinary sensation that the Jew’s failure to execute the bloodthirsty bond was more of an anecdote than a climatic victory over evil.

    Shakespeare’s precise wordplay presents a flesh and bone figure in Shylock, a flawed human being, a man who has been mocked and persecuted by his Christian antagonists and who seeks disproportionate revenge out of hurt pride and blind rage. He is not wicked by nature; the Jew has a motive to retaliate, either with or without the weight of morality on his side, and that is precisely what makes him such a believable character.

    And then, there is Portia. Portia, Oh Portia. To me, Portia is the great revelation of the play. A beautiful orphan, wealthy but not spoiled, ready to follow his deceased father’s will and marry the man who sees beyond appearances. A woman with passion and brains that outshines her dull peers by daring to break the rules and suspend her role as a subservient female in order to save the day.
    Her transfiguration and disarming display of acumen in the court scene, followed by the allegorical teasing of the ring played on her dumfounded new husband Bassanio is enough to place Portia among sassy heroines the caliber of Beatrice, Kate or Hermione.

    There is nothing to miss in this first-rate comedy, the best I have read so far.
    Fast-paced bantering, misused words over-brimming with jocular double meaning, a fool who is wise enough to choose the winning side, three romances that culminate in a great party and metaphoric sagacity in the form of playful riddles.
    Beyond the literal plotline, there is a universe of challenged beliefs where apparently righteous characters are not essentially good, scheming misers are not outright scoundrels and damsels in distress, mere objects of male protection.
    Shakespeare flips the coin fast enough to confuse the casual reader, but if one reads between the lines, he’ll meet defiant nonconformity in its most elegant disguise.
    More like this, please!

  4. says:

    The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare is the old classics selection for catching up on classics for September 2016. This comedy, first printed in 1609 five years prior to Shakespeare's death, offers many pressing issues of its day that are unfortunately still relevant today. It is still widely studied in schools yet is banned in many places as well due to its anti-Semitic portrayal of Jews and some lewdness. It is in this light that I discuss the Bard's work.

    Jews had been banned from England in 1290, so it is highly unlikely that Shakespeare came across many Jews during his lifetime. His portrayal of Shylock as a greedy moneylender is considered stereotypical by many. Other scholars, however, have created rumors that perhaps Shakespeare himself was Jewish and that his creation of Shylock was to bring awareness the poor treatment of Jews throughout Europe. The fact that this play was published in the First Folio after the Bard's death makes one question if perhaps Shakespeare himself did not write this particular play, but maybe a ghost writer, specifically a Jewish born ghost writer, did. Regardless, Shylock's character, including his "Hath not a Jew eyes..." speech remains memorable these 420 years later.

    Additionally, Shakespeare has created strong female characters in this play, both Portia of Belmont and Jessica, Shylock's daughter. I recently read Macbeth where Lady Macbeth is more ruthless and calculating than her husband. In The Merchant of Venice, Portia uses a mind game to find a worthy suitor and later on disguises herself as a lawyer in order to free her husband's dear friend Antonio from Shylock's bond. I remember all these years later being naturally drawn toward Portia's strong character when I read this play in school, which is why I feel that schools select this work so that girls have a protagonist that they are captivated by while reading.

    While the Merchant of Venice is officially deemed a comedy because three sets of characters marry, the play also contains dramatic elements. I am more drawn toward the intrigue in tragedies, so, naturally, the plot involving Antonio's bond to Shylock in order to assist Bassanio in wooing Portia, held my attention more than the actual romance involving Portia and Bassanio as well as Nerissa and Gratiano. Additionally, the role of Jews' in society which lead Jessica to renounce her Judaism in order to marry Lorenzo, was heart rending to me, as opposed to romantic. Interestingly enough, the last play of Shakespeare's that I read discussed little of the world at large but chose to focus on the characters themselves. This leads me to question if the rumor to whether or not the Bard penned all of his plays actually contains a kernel of truth.

    I enjoyed reading The Merchant of Venice for the first time in nearly twenty years. It is eye opening through adult eyes the roles of both Jews and women in Shakespearean works. Was the bard an anti-Semitic Englishman renouncing Jews or a Jewish ghost writer warning Europeans of Jews' plight. The fact that scholars are still debating this question over 400 years later is a testament to the Bard's place in written history. It was a treat to revisit this work, which I rate 5 huge stars for its societal awareness and timelessness.

  5. says:

    Although the most famous speech from this piece is, deservedly and understandably, Shylock's 'prick us' monologue, I think that the more useful speech to talk about what I felt about the play is Portia's only slightly less famous 'quality of mercy' speech in the court room scene:

    The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
    'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
    The throned monarch better than his crown;
    His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
    The attribute to awe and majesty,
    Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
    But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
    It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
    It is an attribute to God himself;
    And earthly power doth then show likest God's
    When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
    Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
    That, in the course of justice, none of us
    Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
    And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
    The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
    To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
    Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
    Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

    That speech above is the reason why this play has received three starts instead of the five that it deserves for the brilliance of its rendering, the writing, the amazing commentary, the bravery of putting it out there, complication of its presentation... and really, everything else about it. Actually, let me be more precise: the fact that none of the characters in this play lived up to that speech is the reason is the reason for the three stars.

    Here's the thing: I did not like a single person in this play. Not one. It was an absolute chore to read this play, and took much longer than it should have to get through- the same reaction I have to reading Russian novels or George Bernard Shaw plays where the characters are mere mouthpieces, and their sometimes jaw-droppingly awful actions should be excused by their overall 'message'. There were so many absolutely horrifying things going on in this play, and not one plotline to redeem it, or attach me to the story. Not one. Piles of racism, nationalism, religious preaching, a Christ complex or two, mildly offensive gender politics, the whole thing was an absolute morass- there's, as always, too much to deal with in a Shakespeare play to cover it all, which is why I have chosen the quality of mercy speech, and perhaps I'll be able to touch on everything spiraling out from there.

    Not one person in this play particularly stuck to the above defined, idealized presentation of justice or mercy. Nobody particularly deserved mercy, either. Shylock (as subversive a condemnation of anti-Semitism as he might be), is forced to take his revenge too far for the sake of wrapping up the plotline so that the Jew doesn't win. Antonio, despite his surface presentation of goodness is a deeply cruel, probably racist prick who plays the martyr as it benefits him, and, I have a deep suspicion, gave to his friend Bassiano due to the fact that he is in love with him (and so, is selfish, not selfless). As for our supposed 'romantic' leads: Bassiano is one selfish jerk who teaches the audience that its totally cool to cheat people and take advantage of people if you're young and hot, Gratiano expresses his desire to lead a lynch mob, and thinks going off on racist rants is fun, and Lorenzo can't wait to spend the rest of his life lording his 'generosity' over what he believes will be his slavishly grateful Jewish wife. As for the women, Jessica cares more for rising in the world out of her 'inferior' Jewish position than her father or, really, anything else, and makes a sickening speech about how awesome her Jesus-lovin' fiance is, Nerissa starts off potentially interesting and winds up very quickly as a mere shadow and eventually literal echo of her employer, like Shakespeare forgot what he put her there to begin with.

    And as for Portia... she's the only character in this play that I have a bit of a struggle with. I do want to like her- I certainly appreciate the fact that she starts off as independent as it is possible for her to be- supposedly living her life in accordance with her dead daddy's wishes, and yet her own mistress for what seems to have been a very long time. She's smart, witty, quick, and definitely not afraid to stick up for herself. She pretends the submissive wife when her husband runs off five minutes after they get engaged, pretending to go to a convent, and instead goes on a cross-dressing, everyone-saving adventure. But here's my thing with Portia- she is not merciful. She's mean, man. I started to feel sorry for all those poor princes who show up to try to claim her hand- I know they're just plot points and there to be made fun of, but good God. They're not people at all- they're just countries, being made fun of, 'cause dumb national stereotypes are fun. Shakespeare was in all likelihood playing to his audiences' nationalistic sympathies at the time- the two Princes who actually appear are of Arragon and Morocco. The English were not huge fans of Spain at the time given the current and past political situation, and making fun of black people... well, why not? The ones who are just talked about are Palatine, French, English and Neopolitan Princes- all (except for the English, which is dealt with below), countries I'm sure England was totally cool with them looking a bit ridiculous.

    (I did actually love the description of the English prince- it was a humorous, sharp commentary on English power and imperialism.-"What say you, then, to Falconbridge, the young baron
    of England?
    You know I say nothing to him, for he understands
    not me, nor I him: he hath neither Latin, French,
    nor Italian, and you will come into the court and
    swear that I have a poor pennyworth in the English.
    He is a proper man's picture, but, alas, who can
    converse with a dumb-show? How oddly he is suited!
    I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round
    hose in France, his bonnet in Germany and his
    behavior every where.)

    ...Anyway, just another example of the cardboard people thing that helped to add up to a deeply unlikeable play- even if the observations were funny, and did help to set up Portia as a witty woman, their other uses cannot be ignored. (The above is the nicest thing she has to say about anybody, btw.) And after she gives an admittedly brilliant performance in the courtroom, Shakespeare feels the need to end the play with her as the nagging, scolding wife, who deliberately sets her husband up to be caught. 'Cause that's what the wimmens are like! Just waiting to claw your eyes out at any opportunity, dontcha know? Also, the action directly contradicted everything she had just said in the courtroom, as it was exactly like or worse than what Shylock supposedly did to Antonio. She spends this whole speech talking about how mercy does not mean keeping to the letter of the law, and it means understanding human frailty and how mercy is better than justice, etc, etc, and then, literally two scenes later, she's all, "but Bassianno, you saaaaaaid...." and takes huge self-righteous delight in ripping down the man she supposedly loves after setting him up to lose.

    I suppose you can make the feminist argument that at least she doesn't give in totally to her man, and she still reminds him constantly who is in control- it is her money that allows Bassiano to put on a brave face in the courtroom, it is her words that get him out of it, it is her ring that shows him how close he can come to being tossed the fuck out. Even if she can't do that once she's married, she's made her point. But I don't know if this is a more positive stereotype of women than the woman who wilts into her husband immediately after her marriage.

    As for the anti-Semitism in this play... it is a delicate subject, but I definitely come down on the side that Shakespeare meant this to be a subversive commentary on the popular views of the day. If the 'prick us' speech didn't open that window, the treatment of Shylock and how other characters talk about him throughout the play does. Shakespeare gives his audience exactly what they want (or what he believes they do) and believe, all while showing them why it is wrong, every step of the way. Even the way that Shylock is caught is absolutely wrong- these Christians, are, as mentioned above, worse than anything that Shylock could possibly have been- even with the exaggerated traits given to him by Shakespeare. His punishment is elegant, and far more cruel than just shooting him in the face would have been. And it certainly does not have that quality of mercy, whatever Antonio would like the audience to think. Shakespeare's poignant rendering of the realities of life as a member of an inferior sect in domestic or world society, and what those in positions of power feel entitled to do to you, is both subtle and in your face, and draws both laughter and anger at once. Beyond brilliant, really.

    In any case- this is worth reading, as a brilliant, very brave, social commentary, as an interesting historical document, and as a beautifully written treatise on a number of very touchy subjects. It is absolutely worth the read, and I will probably read parts of it again as I wrestle with what I feel about it- but don't come in here looking for a story, or for people, for you will walk out quite disappointed. I don't think this is a bad thing- knowing the play's focus and limitations, rather (at least for me), allows one a window into appreciating a hidden, manic brilliance that might otherwise have remained hidden in the muck and sewer rotting garbage.

    And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
    That I have much ado to know myself.

    Antonio's lines open the play- I choose to read this as a disclaimer from Shakespeare, perhaps a statement of his own mind in setting these sometimes ugly, complicated thoughts to paper. A plea to look under rocks and among the worms, if we must, to find the beauty.

    Do. It is worth it.

  6. says:

    ‘’I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.’’

  7. says:

    The pretty islands of Venice, in the shallow lagoon, atop the blue, Adriatic Sea, as the blazing rays of the Sun, shine down, on the brilliant colors of the homes, the calm canals full of boats , with cargo, from faraway lands, a glorious past, but an uncertain future, the rise of Portugal, worries the people. The city once powerful, a short distance from the Italian mainland, vastly wealthy, is in decline...Antonio, the most successful merchant in Venice, and a gambler in commerce, his ships float in the unpredictable oceans waves, always bringing him back riches , to the lucky man. His cousin, and best friend , Bassanio, not so much, he has a bad habit of spending not only all his money, but quite a lot not in his pockets ( a concept still popular in modern times ). As they say, a friend in need, is a friend indeed, Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan, but unfortunately his kinsman has everything tied up, but wait a short while, soon his ships will come in, and Antonio will be richer than ever. Bassanio can't, there is a woman involved, he needs plenty of ducats, to impress the lady Portia, who lives on shore, Belmont, that he is well off, not a penniless seeker of gold , through marriage to her. Only the moneylender Shylock, can do this, Christians in the middle ages, considered it unchristian, getting interest from loaning money... so intelligent Jews, dominates this trade and did very well. The wise Shylock ( who despises Antonio, a rival, and the merchant does not love him either), will not have anything to do with the reckless Bassanio, but Antonio, that's different, an excellent reputation in business. 3,000 ducats agreed to, a contract signed by Antonio, with a funny line about a pound of flesh taken from The Merchant of Venice, if he can't repay back the loan, with interest, in three months. Simple, his ships have always brought back precious merchandise, making huge profits, much over the cost of his investments, but the mammoth seas, are exceedingly treacherous, and unfeeling, news arrives, a shipwreck off Tripoli, another in the English Channel, others, fall under the stormy waves, never to be seen again, sink in the cold waters, to the unknown bottom of the abyss. Antonio, is ruined, like his ships, Shylock demands not his money, but the pound of flesh from his hide, even the Duke, of the city, is helpless, a contract is a contract, bad for business if not enforced ...His cousin has been better served by the gods, married to the wealthy , smart, independently-minded, beautiful, Portia, but Antonio, still needs a good lawyer, now, the hesitant Bassanio returns to Venice, with his wife's support, on their wedding day. Nerissa, Portia's maid, married Gratiano, her husband's friend, the two secretly follow them to the city, dressed as men. Their new, unperceptive, maybe even vacuous husbands, know not these gentlemen...Portia, a pretend attorney, with whatever legal knowledge, she acquires ( but an intellectual giant), must save Antonio from an undoubted death...The Jewish Shylock, makes the best statement ever, against racism... "If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?"

  8. says:

    If this had a secondary title, delivered in "the parlance of our times" it would be THE POUND OF FLESH.

    I liked this for many reasons but the element that stands out most is Shakespeare's focus. Many of his plays have various, complex, and intertwined sub-plots, some being more interesting than the theme itself, TMOV is focused and almost relentless, we have one simple course of action that the story leads inevitably towards and which keeps the reader and the audience entranced, will Shylock really remain intent on claiming his bond?

    Even the Duke seems ready to predict that Shylock will relent at the end and just take the money. Other fascinating themes explored are the love of money and love itself, both in romantic terms and in friendship. While Antonio and Portia present complex and thoroughly entertaining Shakespearean characterizations, Shylock, of course, steals the show.


  9. says:

    “One had best state this matter very plainly: To recover the comic splendor of The Merchant of Venice now, you need to be either a scholar or an anti-Semite, or best of all an anti-Semitic scholar.”
    ~ Harold Bloom


    See how yond justice rails upon yond simple thief.
    Hark in thine ear: change places, and handy-dandy,
    which is the justice, which is the thief?
    ~ King Lear (–4)


    “Which is the merchant here? and which the Jew?”
    ~ The Merchant of Venice


    The traditional interpretations are usually on the lines of ‘accept the play as what it is - a comedy that utilizes stereotypes’  or on ‘Shakespeare managed to use a stereotype and yet humanized him and created one of the great characters in theatre’. Truly, the scope and diversity of theatrical interpretations of the Merchant are extraordinary, and there have been many new and exciting attempts at understanding the play over the centuries. In addition, its racism has often been reversed in performance, converted into an eloquent plea for human equality. Indeed, in some ways the play has been instrumental in changing people’s perceptions of the Jewish community, and it therefore occupies a valuable place in world culture.

    It is said that Merchant of Venice is one of the most performed plays of all time and has continuously been in production for over 300 years now. Is there a reason why it is so popular? It is partly due precisely to this breadth of interpretation that is possible, and partly due to the immense challenge thrown up by the character of Shylock.

    Shylock can be interpreted in many ways on the stage. He can be seen as a simple comic villain who occasionally reveals sympathetic qualities. Or he can be a tragic hero, a spurned and battered victim of oppression, who tries unsuccessfully to challenge the society that oppresses him. Similarly, the Christians can be saintly personifications of charity and mercy, or hypocritical money-grubbers. It may seem strange that a play can produce such divergent readings, but they are, in fact, a result of the complexity of Shakespeare’s writing.

    It is a play that is curiously capable of moulding itself to our present, we only have to project the current OTHER into the role of Shylock - as many directors over the centuries have done.

    It allows reinterpretation as per this current Other - and can then be a vehicle for showcasing a sense of how a historic wrong is ripe for correction!

    What this sort of interpretation of Merchant of Venice misses is that both Venice and Shylock were ‘The Other’ to each other. They were both incomprehensible to the other.

    The Directorial Debut: A World Without Belmont

    Keeping this in mind, now, if I were to direct the play today, I would focus on these things:

    1. The risky speculative nature of Antonio's ventures.

    2. The twisting of the laws by Portia to ‘bail out’ Antonio and to make Shylock bear the brunt of Antonio's speculations.

    In a bit more detail, this would be my approach towards the production:

    Shylock: Shakespeare uses ‘Jew’ and “Shylock’ in the play depending on whether he wants to humanize him or not. ‘Shylock’ is used where involvement in his feelings is indicated; and ‘Jew’ is used when Shakespeare sees him purely as a moneylender, as a stereotype. It is significant that at the very end, in the Trial Scene, ‘Shylock’ is used by Shakespeare and not ‘Jew’!

    I would extend this to its extreme - humanize Shylock completely, strip him of his 'monstrosity' status and of his usurer brand and make him the common family man, downtrodden occasionally, trying to get by.

    Antonio: is given no real reason for nobility in the play except his Christian credentials - I would strip him of those and make him just what he is, a speculator with many failings with no cushion of Christianity to fallback on. A quintessential Wall-Street figure.

    I might or might not keep the personal enmity between Shylock and Antonio. That would add dramatic value, but serves no purpose as far as my core message is concerned.

    Belmont: An outlandish element of this most realistic of Shakespeare’s plays is Belmont - the land of magic where casket-tests and ring-tests determine 'true love' and fidelity, where pure love always wins  - a fairy tale land. It is a world where money has no role, where no class differences occur (or are not allowed since only the privileged enter!) because the oppressed don’t have a role (notice, no Jews in Belmont!), which might have been an impossible but still acceptable dream for much of human history (Voltaire-like), but which crumpled maybe around the middle of this century, with our disillusionment with European dreams of any poised land. We don't have a place for such a trope in our production.

    The Merchant of Venice is a very serious play - Shakespeare made it a romantic comedy by nesting the parallel story of Belmont and its idealism, its fairy tale caskets, the Jason-like Quest etc.

    But we don’t have to take it with the same levity. We can take it more seriously. We can consider a world without Belmont!

    My play would then be set in this “World Without Belmont”.

    Shylock, even back then, is a controversial figure for villain and has not been accepted as such for a long time now. Shall we have another villain for ourselves? - Let me present to you, Antonio!

    Here, Antonio becomes a Speculator who uses borrowed money to finance risky expeditions on a false sense of self-assurance, in spite of being warned right at the beginning of the play by all his friends - ignorantly over-confident, and rather stupid because he is so lacking in common sense.
    When they do choose,

    They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.

    Shylock becomes the common man who was assured that his money would never be risked (a ‘merry bond’ sold to him??) and Bassanio becomes the Aristocracy who meanwhile uses the public money for self-indulgence and exotic adventures.

    If you sympathize with Shylock, then you must turn against Portia.

    ~ E. E. Stoll

    Portia: Portia, in my production, becomes the conservative defender (who is also not above some blatant racism!) of these values who would try to get the state to sponsor these extravagances and is even wiling to twist the law - a complete Deux Ex Machina - are we really to think Shylock, and anybody else, did not know of these laws that Portia presents? To me Portia has used their assumption of her competence to full advantage. The only way to explain it would be ‘Poetic Justice’ or more crassly - Cheating!

    Portia does this 'twisting' to try and make the poor Shylock shell out even more of his personal fortune, who is almost struck dumb when the State and Law that he had placed his belief on turn on him - “Is that the law?" is all he can ask. He was absolutely certain that his trust in the law was inviolate. The Law and the State that he believed to be so solid crumbles before him. He sees what power privilege has in this world.
    And I beseech you,

    Wrest once the law to your authority.

    To do a great right, do a little wrong,

    And curb this cruel devil of his will.

    Thus making Shylock representative of the common man, who is a mirror to the society’s worst atrocities - by trying to take exacting revenge on the Wall-street speculator Antonio; and by trying to point out the many wrongs of his society, such as slavery back then or enforced poverty today. The common man, whose tax dollars and life-savings are used to finance the risky ventures of the Antonios and the Bassanios.

    Of course, they don’t have to worry, the conservative state represented by the Duke (talk of an impartial judge - he starts the trial by calling Shylock names! And proceeds to threaten to annul the whole thing when Shylock seemed on the verge of winning) and by Portia, who will, with her ingenious manipulations of the law, ensure that Shylock not only loses but also accepts their value systems! “I am content” he says and disappears from the play, into the black-hole that is the State - an Orwellian vision.
    Portia: Art thou contented, Jew? What dost thou say?

    Shylock: I am content.

    In this ‘World Without Belmont’, we have to notice that the upholding of Justice is done not for nobility or any love of justice for its own sake but to ensure that the ‘too big to fail’ establishments are not allowed to sink - just as “The trade and profit of the city” of Portia’s Venice depends on the confidence foreigners have in Venetian law. Thus it is not love of justice for her own sake, but mere self-interest, that keeps our play’s world within the law.

    Thus, going from the ‘New Comedy’ aspect of Merchant of Venice to a full blown Tragedy, I would end my modern production with this Shylock slighted and stolen of his possessions, the Antonios and Bassanios happy in the thought that they can continue their indulgences at the expense of the public, while strictly following the letter of the law, no less… and a dark foreboding of when this whole structure will collapse, no matter how well hedged by class distinctions and 'just' laws.

    Encore: “Which is the merchant here? and which the Jew?”

  10. says:

    Book Review
    3 of 5 stars to The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. My review is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on appearance versus reality in Shakespeare's plays. In many of William Shakespeare’s famous plays, reality was not quite what it appeared to be. Instead, it was a rather warped appearance that someone molded in a specific way for a particular reason. Reality has been altered in Shakespeare’s plays often by characters who have been known to lie, scheme, and create facades, just so that they could be with the ones they love. When fate intervened in this type of a situation and created an obstacle between the true loves, Portia, the main character in Merchant of Venice, disguised herself as a lawyer to free her love, Bassanio, from the evil Shylock’s clutches. She also altered reality by disguising herself to her husband so that she could see what their wedding rings meant to him. However, this deception, although intended for good purposes, usually ended in disaster. It just goes to show that honesty is always the best policy. Never deceive fate by changing reality, and interpreting [from it] a new appearance that you want other to see.

    Portia had already been through an appearance vs. reality problem when it came to her potential suitor’s choosing of the caskets. They could choose from gold, silver, and lead. The first two appeared to be wonderful gifts from God, but in reality, the most worthless one, the lead, turned out to be the best coffin to pick. If you did, like one person did, you would win Portia’s hand in marriage. Luckily, the first two gentleman chose the wrong casket, and then when it came time for Bassanio to choose a casket, he chose the correct one. Thus, it lead to the marriage between Portia and Bassanio. Bassanio’s best friend Antonio, however, was in need of dire help. Portia decided to help her husband’s friend Antonio. Antonio had borrowed money from a man named Shylock to back Bassanio’s ships in the waters nearby. However, the ships never came back to port, and so Shylock wanted his money back from Antonio. The agreement that was made was that Shylock was due one pound’s flesh if he didn’t receive any money. Bassanio didn’t want to let his friend Antonio die from his debt, either. Eventually, Portia and her lady-in-waiting came up with a plan to disguise themselves and become a doctor and his clerk. This plan again alters reality to suit her own purpose. She needed to help her friend Antonio, so she put on a new appearance. She played the doctor who told Shylock he had permission to take his flesh from Antonio, but he best be careful not to shed any of Antonio’s blood during it, because that is illegal. Also, they revealed the Venetian law that states if any foreigner kills a Venetian, all of his money is to be taken from him. Shylock gives in and decides not to take his flesh from Antonio. In the end, Portia’s trickery and deceit works, but still, she had to disfigure the state of reality that Venice was in because she wanted to help her husband Bassanio.

    Similarly, Portia decides to put on another disguise to test her husband’s loyalty. She again plays with the appearance of things and creates a false appearance like Juliet did in Romeo and Juliet. Portia, as the doctor talks to Bassanio about being paid for having saved Antonio’s life. Bassanio tires to give her money, but she refuses saying that all she wants is the ring on his hand. Bassanio thinks back to when it was given to him. Portia had said “I gave them with his ring, which when you part from, lose, or give away, let it presage the ruin of your love, and be my vantage to exclaim on you” (3.2.171-174). Bassanio had given her his word that he would never take it off. Well, after Portia, as the disguised man, chides Bassanio for keeping it because his woman told him to, Bassanio hands over the ring. When he later returns to Portia, she notices that his ring is gone and yells at him for it. She thinks he doesn’t love her and is reckless. All the while, Portia has set this whole game up to test her husband. Portia’s plays with reality for the fun of it really. She wants to be sure of her husband’s love for her, but she has no right to alter her appearance and trick him. He is a man of equal measure to her and everyone else.

    Portia and Bassanio end up fighting about the loss, but Bassanio ends up vowing never to get rid of the ring again after she tells him what she did. She is constantly switching back and forth from reality, to her perception of it, to the perception she gives to others of reality that she eventually almost messes up the entire situation. Portia wasn’t altogether truthful with her husband with what she did. If she had been though, he would not have given the ring away. Therefore, by playing with the views others see of reality, particularly her husband’s, she tempts fate. If she had never done anything, her husband Bassanio and her wouldn’t have fought and they would have lived happily ever after. However, she doesn’t. They end up talking about it and forgiving each other, but surely there will always be doubt in the back of their minds about what the other is up to. Bassanio may wonder if she is just playing games with him, and Portia may wonder if he will really hold onto the ring for next time. Leave well enough alone and let fate and reality take their course rather than warp the appearance of things for your own purpose.

    About Me
    For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.