Themes of The Merchant of Venice
Themes of The Merchant of Venice
Antonio & Bassino
Antonio values his friendship with Bassino more than anything else in the world, he loans him money and he isn't worried when he can't pay it back. When Antonio thinks that he is going to die he wants Bassino to be by his side. Bassino doesn't want Antonio to take the bond of flesh with Shylock, he doesn't want Antonio to risk his life for him. Bassino is very distressed when Antonio get's into trouble with Shylock.
Salarino, Salanio, Gratino & Lorenzo
There is a strong friendship between these four men, they also have a very strong friendship with Antonio & Bassino. Salarino & Salanio refer to Antonio as good and honest. Lorenzo gets help from Gratino and Salarino & Salanio to steal Jessica away from Shylock's house. Bassino takes Gratino to Belmont so he can woo Nerissa.
Nerissa & Portia
Nerissa & Portia are very close friends even thou Nerissa is a servant and Portia is the mistress. Portia listens to and takes advice from Nerissa, Nerissa is a loyal friend and confidante (Some you absolutely trust). Both Portia & Nerissa find their husbands at the same time. They both dress up as men and save Antonio in court. They both play tricks on their husbands by getting them to hand over their wedding rings.
Shylock & Tubal
Shylock & Tubal could be friends but it is not very clear. Shylock refers to Tubal as "a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe". I think that they are business associates. When Shylock doesn't have the money to loan to Bassino he borrows it from Tubal. When Antonio's ships go down & Jessica runs away, Tubal can't wait to give all this news to Shylock, he also tells Shylock that Jessica swapped the ring for a monkey, Shylock get's very upset and tell's Tubal that he is torturing him.
Shylock Refusal To Show Mercy
Shylock says that he has no appetite for mercy because Antonio has treated him so badly in the past, he only wants revenge. Shylock says that he will torture Antonio when he hears that Antonio's ships have gone down. Antonio begs Shylock for mercy but Shylock refuses to give him mercy.
The Courts Plea For Mercy
The Duke asks Shylock to give mercy to Antonio, Shylock refuses he says he doesn't have to give mercy. Portia asks Shylock for mercy and makes a great speech saying if Shylock gives mercy to Antonio it will be a very powerful and noble act. Shylock is offered three times the money that he loaned, but he refuses the money, he wants his pound of flesh.
Is Shylock shown any mercy?
The Duke shows mercy to Shylock, he could have ordered that Shylock would be put to death (Because he would have killed Antonio if he had taken his pound of flesh). But the Duke orders that he spilt his estate in two, one part to the court and the other part to Antonio. Then Antonio says that Shylock must convert to Christianity. (We do not know if this is to save Shylock or is it vengeance).
Prejudice & Intolerance
Shylock has a very difficult time and he is treated very badly by the Christians in Venice. Antonio hates Shylock, he called him a "cut throat dog" and he has even kicked him and has spat on him. Salanio called Shylock "The dog Jew" Gratiano called Shylock an "inexecrable dog" and said that Shylock was the devil himself. Lorenzo said he was a "Faithless Jew". Portia in court just called him "the Jew". Shylock has lived and worked all his life, but as a Jew he has no legal rights and he is treated as an "alien" or a foreigner.
Shylock hates Christians and refers to Christian fools as they are going to Bassino's party. He hates Antonio because he is a Christian. Shylock will do business with Christians but he will not sit down and eat with them.
Portia is horrified that Morocco might solve the puzzle and that she would have to marry him, she does not like people who are black.
Loyalty & Betrayal
Antonio is very loyal to Bassino and when Bassino asks Antonio to borrow money again, Antonio immediately helps his friend. When Antonio thinks that he is going to die, he sends for Bassino and says that he wants to see him before he dies and tells him that he debts are cleared. When Bassino hears that Antonio is in trouble with Shylock, he leaves Portia and rushes back to Venice. He offers his own life to save Antonio in the court. Portia is loyal to her father she will marry the man that solves the riddle of the three caskets.
Bassino & Gratiano
Bassino & Gratiano are tricked by their wives Portia & Nerissa into giving away their wedding rings. But they gave their rings away to the doctor of law and the clerk who saved Antonio. I don't think that Portia & Nerissa were cross about the betrayal because they teased Bassino & Gratiano about giving the rings away.
Jessica is very cruel she steals a great deal of money and jewels from her father. She swaps the ring her mother gave her father for a monkey and this heart her father very deeply. She ran away with a Christian (Lorenzo).
Justice & The Law
Shylock Demands The Law Be Upheld
Shylock says "I crave the law" he shows no mercy to Antonio & he knows that the court must uphold the law because if it doesn't there will be chaos in Venice.
Portia Works Carefully With The Law
Portia is a very clever lawyer & by sticking to the law and the words in the bond she is able to save Antonio from certain death, she outsmarts Shylock.
Appearance & Reality
Bassino works out that the lead Casket it the most valuable, "All that glisters is not gold"
Women Pretending To Be Men
Jessica dresses up a boy who is a torch bearer so she can run away with Lorenzo.
Portia & Nerissa dress up as a Doctor of Law & a Court Clerk so they can go to Antonio's trial to save him and trick their husbands to hand over the rings.
Bassino & Portia:
When Portia falls in love with Bassino, she is worried by the dept of her feelings for him, she is afraid of losing. She offers the courts any amount of money to save Antonio because he is Bassino's best friend and she loves Bassino so much that she will do anything to help him. She makes a clever plan to save her husbands best friend. In the beginning of the play we worry that Bassino is only after Portia's fortune, but we see that Bassino does love Portia very much.
Gratino & Nerissa:
Fall in love in Belmont & get married & it looks like they will have a good marriage with lots of fun & humour.
Lorenzo & Jessica:
Run away together with the money and Jewels they stole from Shylock. They spend lots of money on silly things and you would wonder if they really are in love or are they just having fun.
Shylock & Leah:
When Shylock hears that Jessica has given away his wife's ring, he is very distressed and this is the only sign we see of Shylock's love for his wife.
Loans & Interest:
Shylock makes money by charging interest on the loans he gives. Christians believed this was sinful, this is one of the reasons why Antonio hates Shylock so much.
Wastefulness & Thrift:
Bassino is the most wasteful character in the play, he has spent all of his inheritance, he borrows money from Antonio & he doesn't pay it back. Jessica is also very wasteful she spends lots of money on herself and Lorenzo when they run away from Shylock, she even swaps her mother's wedding ring for a monkey.
Inheritance & Work:
Bassino inherited a large amount of money from his parents. Portia has inherited a great deal of money from her wealthy parents. Jessica will inherit Shylock's fortune when he dies. Antonio has to work very hard for his money as a merchant. Shylock works very hard for his money as a money lender. Lancelot is a hard working servant to Shylock and then Bassino.
Marriage & Money:
Bassino is attracted to Portia because she is beautiful but also because she has inherited a lot of money. Lorenzo gets a great deal of money when Jessica steals from her father, he will inherit all of Shylock estate.
Money & Happiness:
At the end of the play Shylock says that he would rather die than live on without his wealth & business. Bassino is interested in Portia for her inheritance as well as her beauty. Jessica & Lorenzo need money for their love to survive. When Antonio learns that he has not lost all of his ships he feels that he has been given his life back.