The Merchant of Venice is a comical play that was written by the legendary Shakespeare, with the setting of the play differing from one scene to another. In the play, Antonio, who is very rich complains to his friends of the melancholy that he cannot explain. Meanwhile, Antonio’s friend, Bassanio needs some cash in order to court Portia in style. Antonio agrees to bail Bassanio out, but then, he has no liquid cash as all his money is invested somewhere else. As such, he had to take a loan in order to help Bassanio. Portia, on the other hand, is very much saddened by the terms of the will that her father left. She was instructed to marry any man who could correctly choose the casket that her father had left. As much as she does not like all her current suitors, she has some liking to Bassanio. The immediate need of cash forces Antonio to take a loan from Shylock amid the risky terms that were suggested by Shylock that should Antonio be unable to pay the amount within the stipulated time, then Shylock would be entitled to a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. As such, days later, Shylock rejoices to the rumors that Antonio’s ships had been wrecked. This is despite the fact that Shylock’s daughter had eloped. His dream of taking revenge against Antonio was seemingly likely to happen because Antonio would fail to raise the amount required to pay the debt (Gilbert et al, 23).
At the double wedding of Bassanio and Portia, they are informed that Antonio had actually lost his ships and as such, he had to fall prey to the terms and conditions that had been set by Shylock. Shylock displays his merciless character by ignoring the several pleas to spare the life of Antonio. However, the whole event changes when the matter is presided over by the legal expert (Portia, disguised as a young man). Through her trickery, Portia manages to save the life of Antonio. This marked the beginning of the celebrations as Shylock lost the case and Antonio was set free. As such, it can be argued that the Merchant of Venice is among the best comical plays of all time. It is written with a lot of expertise to bring out all the necessary aspects of a literal work. All the characters and themes are clearly shown out in a simple and understandable manner.
The play entails several themes which have been used to bring out the flow of the play. Among the major themes is that of the divine quality of mercy. In regards to the concept of mercy, the conflict that existed between Shylock and Antonio demonstrated to be the main issue of the paper. When the setting of the play switches to the characters being in the court room, it is evident that the law was on the side of Shylock (Gilbert et al, 43). However, they expect him to show some mercy to Shylock. Shylock questions Portia the rationale for his expected response to showing mercy. Portia’s response was to the effect: “ the quality of mercy is not strained.” As such, all human beings are expected to be merciful to one another. They even quoted some bible verses that required people to be merciful, since Christ himself portrayed this character and practiced it all through. Mercy is one of the themes that is clearly presented within The Merchant of Venice and will be further analyzed throughout the essay.
The Merchant of Venice is a thoroughly enjoyable play as it is easily understood and has a lot of dramatically events. Going through the play, one is always kept wondering what could happen next since all the scenes and events are greatly intertwined, one scene leading to the development of the other. Suspense and irony are highly used in the play, the effect of which one is always kept waiting for the next stage action. The climax or high point of the play is when they are in the court setting and Shylock fully expects to win the case and take his revenge against Antonio. However, because of her clever character, Portia had managed to disguise herself as a young man lawyer and she was able to save Antonio, without the knowledge of all the characters. The manner in which this scene is expressed is very professional and further shows Shakespeare’s expertise in making the plays successful.
The significance of this play’s title is very evident throughout the play. Taking the phrase Merchant of Venice, the title is in itself a summary of what one can expect in the play. For instance, one may be informed that the play is about some business activities that take place in the town of Venice. As much as the title is a shallow reflection of the contents of the play, it is difficult to envisage another title that could be as effective as the merchant of Venice. The author’s overall emphasis is therefore based on the business activities that take place in Venice (Miller et al, 22).
Stage directions have been used in the play. They are very essential in any play since they inform and give further explanations to the audience on what to expect. At times, the stage directions provide additional information to the public and audience that it would be very difficult for them to be aware of were there not to be stage directions. These stage directions that have been employed in this play are both primarily descriptive and at the same time, they are interpretative.
The Merchant of Venice is a rather direct play. As such, it is easy for one to deduce that the major conflict that the protagonist faces is to free himself from the trap that was laid to him by Shylock. Having taken a loan from Shylock and failing to repay it in time, Antonio was in danger since were Shylock to execute his bond as expected, then the chances of Antonio surviving would be very minimal. These complications are however brought up as a result of bad luck, since the ships of Antonio failed to navigate the deep waters successfully. The conflict is however resolved when Portia disguise herself as a man and managed to save Antonio.
The choice of characters for the play by the author seems to have not taken into account any given order or trend. The characters that have been used in the play do not in any way reveal the characteristics of the characters, nor do they portray their actions. Be it the places and the setting of the play, the people in the play and all that consist of the characters, it seems that the author decided to take random names of places and people in order to create this play. The character’s names do not in any way reveal anything about them, although the name Shylock has been adopted to refer to someone who has the habit of lending money to people and charging high interest rates to them in return.
The minor characters, in most cases of a play, perform a role of ensuring the continuity of a play. In most circumstances, they just play a very minimal role especially after a long episode of the major characters. They also bring out the qualities of the major characters, and as such, not much is known about them in any play. In this play, it is also important to note that all the characters use the same kind of language, which is formal. Mainly, this should be attributed to the fact that all the characters hail from the same geographical area (Shakespeare et al, 50).
The play has employed several literal materials, including the use of symbols and symbolism in general. Some of the symbols that are used in this play include the three caskets which are used to symbolize the same opportunities that are represented to all men, whether black or white to the chances that arise in the modern world. The pound of flesh is also another symbol that has been used in this play to show the extent to which Antonio and Shylock hated each other.
The themes that present themselves in this play are not express, rather they are implicit. By going through the play and understanding it, one gets into a better position to be aware of the themes that are being discussed in this play. Shakespeare has employed this tactic in most of his plays, including Othello. Bringing out themes in such a manner is an essential tactic since one will have to go through the plays extensively in order to fully appreciate the work done by the author.
There are several recorded versions of The Merchant of Venice. One of such recorded versions adopted the title fully. Just like in the play, the setting of the film is in Venice but Belmont is replaced by Luxembourg in the film. Unlike most cinematic adaptations that pick only the storyline and create their own characters and venues, this film adopts virtually everything, ranging from the names of the characters to what they speak. One gets the impression that the director never wanted to distort the great works that were done by Shakespeare. Nevertheless, The Merchant of Venice is a good play.
Gilbert, Miriam. The Merchant of Venice. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2002. Print.
Miller, Jonathan, Jack Gold, Warren Mitchell, Gemma Jones, John Franklyn-Robbins, Susan Jameson, and William Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice. New York N.p., n.d. Print.
Shakespeare, William, Haydn Gwynne, Trevor Peacock, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Bill Nighy, Clive Brill, Dominique LeGendre, Bill Shepherd, and Tom Treadwell. William Shakespeare's the Merchant of Venice. S.l.: Arkangel Productions, 2003. Print.