Contract, Friendship, and Love in The Merchant of Venice - VoegelinView
Jessica is the daughter of Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, in William Shakespeare's The . For the Jessica–Shylock relationship, John Drakakis, the editor of The Arden Shakespeare's third series edition, her theft of her father's gold, her betrayal of his trust, and her apparently selfish motivations and aimless behaviour. This relates to the theme of happiness vs. suffering because for Jessica to be happy with Lorenzo she has to take away what her father values. (The Signet Classic Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, Kenneth Myrick, Ed. Jessica's behavior is not altogether surprising when one considers Shylock's.
Shakespeare takes Antonio very close to death. This builds up the tension but makes the eventual twist of his not dying all the more satisfying.
Antonio demonstrates the quality of mercy but making Shylock become a Christian may be a little harsh, even cruel. We feel relieved when all is revealed. In conclusion, having gained an insight into his character, we feel happy for Antonio in the last scene of the play when he learns that not all his ships are wrecked.
In the last scene he is a lonely figure surrounded by happy couples. He has proved himself to be selfless and generous — a complete contrast to Shylock. On the negative side, his attitude to Jews seems to be a problem, particularly his constant insults and spitting on Shylock.
However, we see Antonio in a good light. Portia is seen from the beginning as someone with lots of qualities but also a few flaws. She is generally recognized as a character above all other people. We hold her in very high regard. Her part in this scene involves mocking her various suitors, generally stereotypically.
Our first impressions of Portia are that she is quite mischievous but witty. Her feelings for Bassanio are obvious though: Like Antonio, Portia is weary.
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Her reasons of weariness, are to do with the caskets. She does not want to end up marrying someone she does not love through no fault of her own. We understand her feelings of distress and sympathize with her. He seems very arrogant. She handles the situation diplomatically and we respect her for this. He believes he deserves Portia. In the end he picks Gold the wrong casket and leaves, disheartened. Portia ends the scene with a possibly racist rhyming couplet.
Let all of his complexion choose me so. The Prince of Arragon arrives to choose one of the three caskets. Shakespeare may have chosen his name to suit his arrogance, because, he, like Morocco seems to have this in abundance. He obviously considers himself to be above other men. He chooses silver after a lengthy conversation with himself. Nerissa and Portia hope that it will be Bassanio.
This shows us that Portia likes Bassanio a lot. Our thoughts that Portia is fond of Bassanio strengthen when Portia declares she wants Portia to delay choosing a casket so she can spend some time with him. She realises that if Bassanio loves her, he will choose the right casket unlike her other unsuccessful suitors. This tells us that Portia does have common sense and that she does think quite clearly. This alters our feelings and opinions of Portia in her favour in this scene Scene II.
He even agrees use a pound of his own flesh as collateral to Shylock, whom he clearly detests, in order to loan Bassanio the three thousand ducats I.
What Antonio does not understand is that perfect friendship is not grounded in the absolute repudiation of contract for the needless sacrifice of oneself but rather is rooted in a type of reciprocity based on moral values like virtue.
The material merely symbolizes the moral significance of friendship and is not, as Antonio wrongly thinks, the substitution of it. But after his life is spared, Antonio continues to perceive the world in contractual and commercial terms.
In revenge to Bassanio for relinquishing his wedding ring to Balthazar, Portia promises him that she will be as liberal with their marriage bed as he was with his wedding ring V. After Bassanio pleads for forgiveness, Antonio speaks in support of his friend and describes what had transpired as a series of commercial transactions: I dare be bound again, My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord Will never more break faith advisedly V.
The return of the ring to Bassanio is not from Portia to Bassanio but from Portia to Antonio who then gives it back to Bassanio.
In a sense, Bassanio participates in the marital contract of Portia and Bassanio. Regardless of how one interprets these questions in The Merchant of Venice, friendship is an important good for us and something without which we cannot live. When he believes that he is about to die, Antonio instructs Bassanio: The remark is humorous because of its implied truth: Nevertheless, both Antonio and Bassanio repeat this mistake after Antonio is saved.
Back in Belmont when Portia hears that Bassanio had bestowed his wedding ring to Balthazar, she immediately chastises Bassanio for not understanding its worth: The ring symbolizes the moral relationship of love instead of contract, which Bassanio had failed to understand. In his defense, Bassanio provides a three-folded explanation of why he gave the ring to Balthazar: Bassanio omits the fact that Antonio had urged him to give the ring to Balthazar — an explicit admission about valuing friendship over marriage — and instead resorts to an argument of honor.
But Bassanio wrongly understands honor as a type of contract: But marriage and friendship are incommensurable goods: Each is valued as its own good with marriage being a superior one over friendship. Honor properly understood would have Bassanio recognize that Balthazar should be honored as should his friendship with Antonio but not at the expense of his marriage with Portia.
But why is marriage superior to friendship? Shakespeare suggests that marriage is superior to friendship because of its procreative aspect.
Traditionally marriage was the way to create and socialize children into society: Furthermore, the sexual and procreative act of marriage not only produces children but unifies the body and soul of both partners. This spiritual and physical unity is symbolized in the wedding ring which should be accorded the highest honor. The fact that Bassanio fails to understand this, or is unable to act upon this when it conflicts with friendship, reveals his contractual thinking about relationships: It is only when he is confronted with the possibility that Portia could also see their marriage as contractual and commensurable, e.The Merchant of Venice (2004) - selected scenes
If Bassanio were to violate his oath, then his friendship with Antonio is to be forfeit. Both Antonio and Bassanio fall short in participating in meaningful relationships: Although Antonio aspires for perfect friendship, he was not able to achieve it because his companions, including Bassanio, behave out of self-interest, utility, and profit rather than out of moral values like virtue.
As a result, Antonio mistakes money as the essence rather than as a symbol of non-monetary values like friendship and engages in irrational behavior to the point of literally risking self-annihilation as proof of these moral values. At the end of the play, it is unclear whether Antonio has learned how non-contractual relations like friendship and marriage should be understood and valued.
Bassanio agrees that his friendship with Antonio will be the collateral to guarantee his marital oath and therefore his friendship will be subordinate to his marriage; otherwise, Portia will be unfaithful. However, this understanding is explained and agreed to in the contractual language of Venice in the supposedly non-contractual place of Belmont. There is no evidence in the play, particularly in the final act, that Bassanio has actually learned the value of marriage, or even friendship, on moral grounds; or, that he knows their value but lacks the social tools to participate in a meaningful relationship.
This trial requires suitors to solve a riddle that filters out those who want to marry Portia for the wrong reasons. Although Belmont appears to have a different set of values when compared to Venice, it is actually governed by the same laws of contract.
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This moral deterioration is most evident in the marital relationship between Bassanio and Portia, with especially the latter relinquishing his wedding ring so easily. An examination of this marriage will show how contractual Belmont leads both characters to think and act out of self-interest. Portia stands poised to be transferred to the winning suitor, the portrait hidden in one of the three caskets that symbolizes her objectification III.
On winning Portia, Bassanio immediately becomes indebted to his new wife, who has positioned herself as a creditor rather than as a prize to be handed over. I would not trebled twenty times myself, A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich, That only to stand high in your account, I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends Exceed account III.
Contract, Friendship, and Love in The Merchant of Venice
In other words, Portia presents herself as type of investment that appreciates value over time and can be redeemed at some point in the future. Although Portia initially trusts Bassanio with her house, servants, and herself, she later changes the terms of the contract where she becomes both owner and possessor of Bassanio III.
This inversion of the usual situation, which the husband typically imposes fidelity on the wife, is not only a demonstration of feminism but a form of feminism that conceives and explains the non-contractual relationship of marriage in contractual terms. Bassanio can only offer his blood as collateral to ratify the nuptial bonds between him and Portia.
Like Portia, Jessica is bound to her father; but unlike Portia, this bond is also religious as well as paternal. Jessica has a choice to honor the bond with her father, Shylock, or follow her desires to flee with Lorenzo.
Both women also are associated with caskets and wealth: While Jessica has recklessly spent their stolen money, Portia has carefully conserved her wealth to make her husband a debtor in their relationship. Except Shylock, those character who conceive and act in contractual terms are successful, while those who do not, such as Antonio and Jessica, fare less well. Because both Venice and Belmont are cities founded upon contract, the regimes make those who act non-contractually, whether agreeing to unreasonable loans or breaking paternal bonds, melancholic without knowing the motive behind it.
Only those who are able to calculate correctly like Bassanio and Portia will be content in such a regime.
Values incommensurate with contract must either be re-conceptualized in contractual terms to be successful or face failure in a world governed by self-interest, utility, and profit. Archived from the original on 26 May Old Gobbo is alike to Shylock as well. He does not recognize his son when he meets him on the street, but he is nearly blind.
They were excluded from guilds, meaning they could not practice a certain trade and that less and less occupations were available to them.
She divulges and shares all her thoughts, feelings, desires and frustrations with her. More essays like this: Click the character infographic to download. Hath not a Jew organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? It becomes clear that he valued his wealth almost more than he valued his own daughter. She makes it pertinently clear that she desires Bassanio and would stay his visit if she has to. Why does Portia do this? My ducats and my daughter!
This shows his fatherly concern towards her as they were living in an extremely anti-Semitic society. A rich, beautiful, and intelligent heiress of Belmont, she is bound by the lottery set forth in her father's will, which gives potential suitors the chance to choose among three caskets.