The Merchant of Venice by WIlliam Shakespeare.

Essay by spiketwo03High School, 11th gradeA-, December 2007

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Does Shylock receive a fair trial? Is his punishment just and fair? Which character is more respected? In the Merchant of Venice, the trial scene is the climax of the play. In this scene, Portia finds a loophole in the bond making it almost impossible for Shylock to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh. As a means of punishment, Shylock loses half his estate to Antonio and when he dies, the other half to his daughter, Jessica. Shylock is also forced to renounce his Jewish faith and turn Christian. But did Shylock receive a fair trial and was his punishment appropriate?If we look at this through a modern perspective, the trial was by no means fair. From the initial stages of the trial, it was quite obvious that the Duke demonstrated favouritism towards Antonio. He said to Antonio “I am sorry of thee. Thou art come to answer, A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch, Uncapable of pity, void and empty from any dram of mercy”.

This quote depicts the preconceived thoughts the Duke has towards Shylock, even before the trial begins. On Shylock’s behalf, this is exceptionally unwarranted as the trial has already tipped against him even before he argues his case.

Also, as the judge of a court, the Duke cannot argue for either party. His job is to merely take into account the evidence and arguments of both sides and make his decision solely based on those arguments. In the play, however, this was simply not the case. The Duke tried to reason with Shylock, he begged Shylock to show mercy towards Antonio and abandon the bond. He said “And where thou now exacts the penalty, which is a pound of this poor merchant’s flesh, thou wilt not only loose the forfeiture but,