Examine the presentation of parent-child relationships in Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice"

Essay by xnataliex April 2004

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In 'The Merchant of Venice', there are three parent-child relationships; Shylock and Jessica, Portia and her deceased father, and Launcelot and Old Gobbo. There is an obvious contrast between these relationships. Although Portia's father is deceased, they had a good relationship while he was alive. However, the relationship between Shylock and Jessica is repressive and conflictual and ends tragically. After Shakespeare's song, Hamnet, died tragically in 1596, he began a theatrical study of parent-child relationships for the rest of his career. Although other Shakespeare plays are also based on this theme, 'The Merchant of Venice', written around a year after his son died, looks into the relationships, which varied insights, so we can see the different point of views.

Although Portia's relationship with her father is good, there is some conflict just like any paternal relationship. When her father passed away, he left a will stating that suitors to Portia would have to choose one of three caskets.

If their choice were correct, then they would be able to marry Portia. However, Portia does not think the lottery is a good idea and could mean that she will have to marry somebody that she does not want to. She shows this by saying, "So is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father." In those days, it was common for parents to choose their daughters' partner, especially those from rich, educated families. Seeing as Portia was rich, clever and beautiful, she would have many suitors, and most of them may not have been suitable for her. The idea of the lottery shows that her father had her best intentions at heart, showing a good relationship between the two. Portia also accepts her father's will, showing that he is a still...