Racism in The Merchant of Venice
William Shakespeare's satirical comedy, The Merchant of Venice, believed to have been written in 1596 was an examination of hatred and greed. The premise deals with the antagonistic relationship between Shylock, a Jewish money-lender and Antonio, the Christian merchant, who is as generous as Shylock is greedy, particularly with his friend, Bassanio. The two have cemented a history of personal insults, and Shylock's loathing of Antonio intensifies when Antonio refuses to collect interest on loans. Bassanio wishes to borrow 3,000 ducats from Antonio so that he may journey to Belmont and ask the beautiful and wealthy Portia to marry him. Antonio borrows the money from Shylock, and knowing he will soon have several ships in port, agrees to part with a pound of flesh if the loan is not repaid within three months.
Shylock's abhorrence of Antonio is further fueled by his daughter Jessica's elopement with Lorenzo, another friend of Antonio's.
Meanwhile, at Belmont, Portia is being courted by Bassanio, and wedding plans continue when, in accordance with her father's will, Bassanio is asked to choose from three caskets -- one gold, one silver and one lead. Bassanio correctly selects the lead casket that contains Portia's picture. The couple's joy is short-lived, however, when Bassanio receives a letter from Antonio, informing him of the loss of his ships and of Shylock's determination to carry out the terms of the loan. Bassanio and Portia marry, as do his friend, Gratiano and Portia's maid, Nerissa.
The men return to Venice, but are unable to assist Antonio in court. In desperation, Portia disguises herself as a lawyer and arrives in Venice with her clerk (Nerissa) to argue the case. She reminds Shylock that he can only collect the flesh that the agreement calls for, and that...