The Merchant of Venice: Money & Love

Essay by mike1022slugerA, December 2007

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The main theme in The Merchant of Venice is the way money and love is viewed by each character. The Christian characters in the play value human relationships over business ones, whereas Shylock is only interested in the money. Antonio lends money without interest and puts himself at risk for the people he loves. Shylock destructs over the loss of his money and runs through the streets saying, “O, my ducats! O, my daughter!”Skylock apparently values his money more than he values his daughter, meaning that his money and greediness outweighs his love.

When Bassanio is in debt, he asks Antonio for a loan so he can go see the woman of his dreams, and have money to spend. Bassanio tells Antonio to look at the money as an investment, since if he marries Portia he will have plenty of money. Antonio insists that he is lending the money solely out of love to his best friend.

When Antonio needs a loan, he talks to Skylock and agrees if he defaults he will lose a pound of flesh. Since Skylock does not like Antonio for interfering with Skylock’s business, by loaning money at no interest. Antonio is lending money to a friend that he loves, whereas Skylock is trying to get revenge on Antonio.

Since Bassanio had enough money to reach Portia in Belmont, he was able to choose the correct chest and have Portia as his wife. This would not have been possible if Antonio had not lent Bassanio the money at the beginning. Bassanio receives a letter from Antonio that since one of his boats crashed, he will default on the loan to Skylock. Bassanio is feeling guilty that his best friend could lose a pound of flesh. He goes to Venice to either pay back Skylock or switch positions with Antonio. Since Bassanio is rich from his marriage, he offers Skylock three times the money he owes, but Skylock still refuses the money. This may show that Skylock is putting his love for revenge before his taste for money.

Portia showed up at Antonio’s trial dressed as the doctor to help decide the case. She dressed up as a man to hide her real motive to help Bassanio, the man she loves. She wants to help Antonio not get hurt. Portia reminds Skylock that if he cuts anything more than a pound of flesh, it would be an attack on Antonio. Since Skylock is a Jew, if he cuts more than a pound off, he will be sentenced to death and all his money will be taken away. Skylock values his money and his life more than seeing Antonio suffer, so he decides to just ask for the money. Since Skylock has given up his debt already he can’t receive it and now has committed a criminal act against Antonio. Skylock’s punishment is that he has to give half of his money to Antonio and the other half to the state. Antonio comes up with another deal that Skylock can keep half, but has to become a Christian and leave the money to his daughter. This once again shows that Antonio cares more about other people than money.

The ending is fitting for Skylock. His greed left him worse off than when he started. It seemed the most important thing to Skylock was his revenge on Antonio, but when he learned he could lose his money, he quickly changed his mind. Skylock continued throughout the whole play as putting his money before others. Ironically, in the end, the people that put love and friendship first had a better ending. Antonio gained half of Skylock’s money and learned that some of his ships have made it back. He also feels that he contributed to his friend Bassanio marrying Portia. Bassanio who had little money, but a lot of love for Portia, married her and inherited money. The theme of the story was about the way love and money changed the way characters acted under different circumstances.