Discuss The Moral Issues Raised In ‘The Merchant Of Venice’

659 words - 3 pages

Discuss the moral issues raised in ‘the merchant of Venice’

In William Shakespeare’s ‘the merchant of Venice’ the passage taken from IV.i, outlines three moral issues that are running themes throughout the play. The scene takes place immediately after the dukes appeal to shylock to withdraw his bond. It is followed with portia's speech, which outlines the idea of mercy. Shylocks answer to her illustrates his desire for revenge and Bassanio’s comments highlight the issue of friendship.

Portia’s character is introduced when she intervenes on Antonio’s behalf, disguised as a man of law. She enters disguised this way in order to defend Antonio when shylock refuses to show mercy. The law is on Shylock’s side and therefore shylock refuses to show mercy as he feels that succeeding in his bond will satisfy his long awaited revenge against Antonio. Portia’s speech begins after ...view middle of the document...

His desire or revenge is strong after years of mistreatment from the Christians living in Venice. He is unyielding to mercy and insists the pound of flesh is rightfully his. He wants retaliation for all the derision to which he has been subjected and thinks that his bond with Antonio is his way to get it. Shylock is stubborn with his bond and uses the court of law being on his side in order to obtain it “my deeds upon my head, I crave the law, the penalty and forfeit my bond” Shylock offers no explanation for his insistence other than to say that certain hatreds, like certain passions, are lodged deep within a person’s heart. Shylock hates Antonio, and for him that is reason enough.

In Bassanio’s response he offers Shylock twice the money he owes. His immediate and uncalculated love is shown over the fate of Antonio and will do whatever is possible for his friend. He sets himself on a rescue mission, as the situation is melodramatic. Bassanio even states he is willing to pay the bond ten times over, or with his own life. “ I will be bound to pay it ten times o’er on forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart.” Bassanio begs the court to be reasonable and to not let Shylock go through with his bond however the law cannot be broken and the rules of Venice must stand.

Prejudice is another moral issue developed in this passage. Bassanio speaks of “curbing this cruel devil of his will” however is Shylocks will so wrong after years of mistreatment for the lone factor that he is a Jew? Although Shylock is in the right the duke still does all he can to lawfully stop him. Therefore he sides with Antonio, an unjust action that is done only on the compulsion that Shylock is Jewish.

This passage outlines four main moral issues: Mercy is shown through Portia in her efforts to change shylocks mind over the matter of his bond. Revenge, which is depicted by Shylock with his harsh bond. Bassanio shows the moral issue of friendship with his loyalty to Antonio. Lastly prejudice which is shown again shylock at the court case because he is Jewish.

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