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Book Review



Moneylander Shylock

The tragic comedy was composed in 1596 - 98 at Venice, the rhen richest city of Europe

Loan to Bassanio Failure to pay Forum

Payment: amount of money or a pound of Antonio's flesh closest to his heart

Portias speech

Shilocks loss and forced religious conversion

In a nutshell
Portia, a beautiful, wealthy heiress living in Belmont decides to marry the suitor who picks the right casket out of three that contains her picture. Bassanio, a Venetian aristocrat who has lost all his money asks his friend Antonio, a Christian merchant who hates Jews, to loan him money to woo Portia. Since all has his money is tied up in seafaring ventures, Antonio approaches Shylock, a Jewish moneylender who hates Antonio for his antiSemitic feelings. Shylock suggests an unusual condition for loan of three thousand ducats only if Antonio would give a pound of his flesh in case the money is not returned in three months. Antonio, thinking this is a "merry sport," accepts the condition of the bond (contract) and signs it. Bassanio selects the correct casket containing Portias portrait. Portia makes Bassanio promise never to part with their engagement ring. Bassanio receives a letter from Antonio informing that he has lost all his money and must forfeit a pound of flesh to Shylock. Portia sends Bassanio to Venice with six thousand ducats to pay Shylock and cancel the contract. After Bassanio has left, Portia departs for Venice disguised as a man. Shylock has Antonio arrested and brought before the Duke of Venice, who pleads with Shylock to forgive and let Antonio go free. But Shylock won't hear reason and wants justice , delivered through a pound of Antonio's flesh.

A young, effeminate-looking, learned lawyer called Balthazar (a.k.a. Portia) confirms that the contract is in order but tells Shylock should have mercy on Antonio, as mercy is a higher order quality than justice. Shylock insists on justice and refuses to accept Bassanios offer for six thousand ducats, Bassanio says he wishes he could trade his wife and his life for Antonio's.

In a nutshellcontd.
Balthazar decides that Shylock may have Antonios pound of flesh. When overjoyed Shylock is ready to cut into Antonio's breast, Balthazar says the bond entitles Shylock to a pound of flesh - nothing more and nothing less. If he spills even a drop of Antonios blood, then he'll be guilty of plotting to murder a Venetian Christian, the penalty for which is losing everything he has. When Shylock declares that he'll leave, Balthazar says since he conspired to kill a Venetian he actually has to forfeit everything he owns and beg for his life. Finally holding the upper hand, Antonio decides that as punishment, Shylock has to sign an agreement saying that when he dies, all his money will go to Shylocks daughter Jessica and her new Christian husband. Also, Shylock must convert to Christianity. Shylock leaves a broken man. After the trial Balthazar asks Bassanio for the ring Portia had given him as a token of their love. When Antonio points out that he nearly lost his life for Bassanio, Bassanio pulls off the ring and hands it to Balthazar. Portia manages to return to Belmont before Bassanio. She asks Bassanio about the ring (which he had given to Bathazar). Portia complains about the man breaking faith for this lawyer, and she pledges to sleep with this learned man too, breaking her marriage vows like Bassanio did by giving up her ring.

Later, Portia gives Antonio a ring to give to Bassanio. Bassanio is shocked to see it is the same ring he gave Balthazar.
Portia reveals that she had got a letter that says some of Antonio's ships have come home with cash after all. The play ends with happiness for most of the characters in the play all except Shylock.


Principal characters

stereotype of the Jew in Elizabethan times comically caricatured as a greedy miser believes that his profiteering is not a sin eloquently expresses his hatred of Christian Venetians alienation causes his bitterness and humiliation makes him seek revenge well versed in the Bible has a cold and calculating mind - attempts to revenge the wrongs done to him by murdering his persecutor has quick and agile thought processes a powerful personality beneath a cruel, and prosaic figure

titular protagonist of the play : The Merchant of Venice a mercurial figure, often inexplicably melancholy Anti Semite with incorrigible dislike of Jews. ideal of nobility in friendship , kind and generous to friends and the poor even merciful to sworn enemy (albeit with conditions) Christian of Elizabethan times feels money should be lent for charity. As the symbol of Christian warmth, kindness, generosity, and love, truly receives his just reward during the play when all turns out well for him. a rather lackluster character

ineffectual businessman - squandered his wealth on pleasures of good living and extravagant expenditure graceful with words, a worthy suitor - the model of a romantic hero. impulsive by nature - typical of young men uncalculated generosity and concern rushes to save Antonio strength of character in not implicating Antonio while pleading to Portia for giving away the ring more fully drawn than Antonio's, but does not possess the powerful individuality of Portia and Shylock.

most multi-dimensional character in the play, shifting from a wealthy heiress to a learned lawyer orchestrating victory of good over evil her extraordinary beauty is matched only by her intelligence - clever with words and quick-wit perfect example of Elizabethan nobility : ideal of mercy is unselfish generosity and money to be used for helping loved ones. unlike Antonio, she is not passive, but displays boundless energy and strong determination authority and control over life are exemplary - ability to make the law work for her both in choosing her husband and saving husbands friend from certain death.

Other characters
coarse and garrulous young man most vocal and insulting critic of Shylock Bassanios friend, falls in love with Nerissa. Portias lady-in-waiting and confidante escorts Portia to Venice by disguising herself as Stephano - Balthazar (aka Portia) s law clerk. A friend of Bassanio and Antonio Elopes with Jessica to Belmont




Jessica hates life in her father (Shylock) s house, Beautiful, wise, charming with a strong sense of humour and poetical nature we wonder if her sale of a ring given to her father by her mother is excessively callous

Solanio, Salarino, Salerio friends of Bassanio & Antonio Tubal Shylocks friend, a Jew Lancelot Gobbo a comical, clownish servant of Shylock who is especially adept at making puns and starts work for Bassanio Old Gobbo father of Lancelot Leonardo servant of Bassanio Duke of Venice presides over case of Shylocks bond Prince of Morocco, Prince of Arragon failed suitors of Portia Magnificoes of Venice, Officers of the Court of Justice, Gaolor, servants of Portia and other attendants

Sympathetic interpretation

Play as a plea for tolerance

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, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd 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. Act III, scene I

Did Shakespeare intend to attract the sympathetic sensibilities among modern readers,...

Inherent Themes
Judaism and Christianity aren't just religions they're constructed as racial (and even national) identities as well. the play dramatizes 16th century racial stereotypes that are deeply unsettling, especially for modern audiences. While the play depicts anti-Semitism, literary critics are divided over the question of whether or not the play itself endorses racism.

Venice, 1600 Wealth

Interpretation of the play

Money plays is a very big role in this play. the characters' attitudes toward wealth, mercantilism, and usury (lending money with interest) function as a way to differentiate between Christians and Jews. Christians are portrayed as generous and even careless with their fortunes. The money-grubbing Shylock, on the other hand, is accused of caring more for his ducats than Contrast between the human mercy relationships. Shylock forced conversion

of Christian characters and Friendship the vengefulness of a Jew

as a happy ending

"To you, Antonio, / I owe the most, in money and in love" (1.1.4) Friendship is valued above all other relationships Antonio loves Bassanio enough to give his life for him .

Marriage is portrayed in several different ways as a risky business venture, a mythological quest a chance for an unhappy daughter to escape her father's home a way for a father to transmit his wealth to the man of his choosing, opportunity for two men to become more secure in their friendship.

Inherent Themes....contd..
To protect foreign businessmens interest, Venice had laws to protect their legal rights In implementation of a contract. Judaism is associated with the Mosaic code with its strict emphasis on justice and following the letter of the law. Christianity, on the other hand, is associated with the New Testament's emphasis on God's mercy and offer of salvation..

Love Venice, 1600

Love comes in a variety of forms - between family members, between friends, and of course, between lovers. Still, love is more notable for its absence than its presence in the play. Women happy to give love, but they do so with a shred of cynicism. Love is regulated, sacrificed, betrayed, built on rocky foundations

Interpretation of the play

Isolation Contrast between the mercy

Shylock forced conversion riddled with feel a deep ofcharacters Christian who characters and sense of asisolation. a happy ending Shylock is isolated because he is Jewish his religious beliefs and the vengefulness of a Jew cultural values different from fellow Venetians.

Antonio is isolated by his relationship with Bassanio

characters must choose between lovers, friends, and family, personal comfort and societal norms. Bassanio is faced with choosing correctly or permanent celibacy Antonio must choose between preserving his personal happiness as Bassanio's closest friend and enabling Bassanio to marry Portia Shylock chooses to doggedly pursue his pound of Antonio's flesh because Antonio, among others, has chosen to treat him like a dog. Antonio chooses to deprive Shylock of his livelihood and his religion.

A Literary review
The play is a touching and challenging one with several
fascinating interwoven plots Shakespeares insight into the human character is impressive and the passion involved rivets the readers attention Two well-known speeches are often quoted Shylocks defense of Jews against the prejudices of Venetians & Portias statements on quality of mercy

Venice, 1600


Interpretation of the play

In this play Shakespeare has been successful in being relevant Contrast between the mercy Shylock forced conversion

of Christian characters and as a happy ending even though four hundred years have elapsed
In todays time when there is want of sincerity, moral values and justice, the play assumes great significance We can easily find people around us like Shylock

the vengefulness of a Jew

materialistic to the core, ready to enhance personal wealth

through any heinous means The religious intolerance - which is a major theme of this play bares its fangs off and on in all countries