Contemporary Issues in The Merchant of Venice Essay

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Contemporary Issues in The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is still relevant today because it

deals with issues which still affect us. Throughout the play a distinction

is made between how things appear and how they are in reality. The issue of appearance

versus reality is demonstrated in varied ways, mainly by the use of real-life

situations. The first representation of this is Shylock's generosity with his

money and eagerness to make friends with Antonio when he says, "I say, to buy

his favour, I extend this friendship," when all he wants is to take a pound of

Antonio's flesh and end his life, "If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will

feed fat the ancient
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The two

princes, however, were deceived by the ornament of the gold and silver caskets.

Another way that Shakespeare discusses appearance versus reality is with

the use of Portia and Nerissa in disguise, plotting to take Bassanio's ring, the

former dressed as a Doctor of Law and the latter as a Clerk. They save Antonio

and Bassanio from their problem with Shylock, and Portia (Doctor of Law) asks

for Bassanio's ring because she knew he had promised, "When this ring parts from

this finger, then parts life from hence." Bassanio, after some encouragement

from Antonio, reluctantly parts with his ring. When they arrive home, Portia

pretends to be angry at Bassanio for losing the ring but then explains what has

happened and forgives him. Bassanio was deceived by appearance of Portia as a

Doctor of Law and her apparent good intentions to take the ring as a payment for

her services.

The issue of racial discrimination is mainly displayed through Shylock,

a Jew who is proud of his religion. The play was written at a time when there

was much fear, distrust and ill-feeling against the Jews, and therefore Shylock

experiences much discrimination, chiefly from Antonio. Jews were banned from

most occupations and were there for usurers (lenders of money in exchange for

interest on the loan).

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