THE ROLE OF PREJUDICE IN THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
This paper discusses the subject of prejudice in the William Shakespeare
play, 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