Writing to Evaluate The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

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Writingto Evaluate: The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare



Authorsplay a big role in the society. Their works shape morals andbehaviors in the society. However, it calls for deep evaluation oftheir work as it circulates in the community to determine itsrelevance and where the writer could have merited or de-merited.Evaluation of a non-fiction book is quite interesting since anevaluator has to take more time in reading related articles. One ofthe renown authors that this paper will be dealing with is WilliamShakespeare. Shakespeare has written various plays that are readworldwide and which has made a great impact in globally. Romeo andJuliet, for instance, is a play which was written many years back,but until now, its fame is still fresh and as entertaining as it wasat first. Shakespeare is known for great poetic books full ofRomance. This paper will therefore perform a critical evaluation ofone of his works “The Merchant of Venice”.

TheMerchant of Venice

InThe Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare uses characters whoserelationships and bonds are irrational. The ruthless moneylender,Shylock, is depicted as a person who charges very high interest ratesin an irrational way. Despite this, other major characters likeBassanio and Antonio are seen to display unreasonable images byagreeing on the conditions given by Shylock such as “the pound offlesh”. It is apparent that Antonio borrowed some money fromShylock to facilitate Bassanio’s urge of marrying the rich fairlady, Portia. If Shylock had rejected to offer his services toAntonio, then it is apparent that Bassanio would not have won therichly left heiress, Portia. In a similar way, the Venetianbusinessman, Antonio would lose his venture since no adequatefinances were at his disposal. According to Shakespeare (2005),Bassanio is quoted agreeing on the fact that he had misused hisfinancial resources. It is later on realized by critical analysisthat he had lavishly used his fortune. Bassanio is portrayed as afoolish opportunist in the play when he reveals to Antonio that hewanted to seek the hand of marriage from Portia. Bassanio’sgreatest urge for Portia is seen to be her riches as opposed to herbeauty. He says, “…in Belmont is a lady richly left…” (Shakespeare, 2005). The play uses characters who display behaviorsthat deviate from the accepted norms of the society as depicted bythe way in which they conduct their activities making them to be seenas irrational with very many evil bonds.

Irrationalityin the Evil Bonds of Characters

Thebond created by Shylock’s scheme which was later accepted byBassanio and Antonio is out rightly absurd if the consequences facedby concerned characters is to be put into consideration. The playopenly depicts an ‘irrational feature’ of the deal that leadsevery person in the play to the absurdities of court rooms. Antoniomust come to the help of his friend Bassanio who wants to woo Portiaby entering into a deal with Shylock who agrees to lend him threethousand ducats. Antonio’s predicaments are due to the fact thatall his fortunes are invested in his businesses at sea. Weinstein(2007) explains that England had not established a proper bankingsystem that could allow people to make their savings or access wellprocessed loans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is thereason that made Antonio to seek help from Shylock. When Shylocklends money to Antonio, he does it because he “…is forced to lendmoney because other professions are closed to Jews” (Weinstein,2007). Many questions are raised on the issue that drives Antoniotowards raising money for Bassanio towards courting Portia. It ispointless for Antonio to risk his life helping Bassanio when theissue being considered is marriage leaving out other grave issueslike sicknesses or death. Weinstein (2007) criticizes this by basinghis argument on the fact that Bassanio was an extravagant who failedto save for the future. While Antonio is seen to express a lovingheart to Bassanio to the extent of sacrificing his life to a friendwho does not show love at any instance in the play, the greatestirony is that Bassanio does not show care for his life. Antonio’sfriend finances his shortcomings using other people’s money. Thefriendship between Antonio and Bassanio is seen to reveal one sidedkind of love. This is deeply revealed when Bassanio establishes hiscontact with Portia. It is put to record that he does not mentionAntonio’s name to his newly found love. Taking a quote fromShakespeare (2005), the urge of Bassanio towards Antonio is seen tobe disposable because he is not serious enough to take a solemnstride towards stopping Antonio from making an engagement withShylock’s bond. He says to Antonio, “you shall not seal to such abond for me”. Considering the fact that the play waswritten in the sixteenth century, the only legitimate people who wereallowed to carry out the business of lending money were the Jews. Ananalysis of Antonio’s ventures reveals that he obviously lent hismoney without interests to uphold humanity. Since Shylock is a Jew,he lends his money with interests and at times increases it to earnmore profits. Despite this practice being morally seen as a repulsivevocation, Weinstein (2007) explains that “…it was the onlybusiness venture a Jew could be allowed to practice in England atthat time”. It is evident that Antonio is a high profile merchantin Venice. Putting this into consideration, it is true to concludethat Antonio had friends in his line of trade who would have come tohis aid at this tempting moment. From this, a critical analysis ofthis play would raise questions like why did Antonio only go forShylock as his alternative for getting money? Did the town lack otherJews from whom Antonio could get the money? Did all his otherfriends and business partners him down? considering Antonio’snature as a generous person, did this town lack other people whowould give him interest free loans at better condition? Suchquestions reveal the ill relationships that Antonio would haveestablished with other people in the society. Critically, such weakties are seen to cause him problems while further portraying him asless rational. Despite Antonio revealing that his fortunesare at sea, the likelihood that all his wealth is put to thisengagement is compromised. It is further obvious that all Antonio’sships are not sent to one place and therefore all his wealth at seais not put to jeopardy. By implication, Antonio is well placed to usesome of his other property to meet Bassanio’s needs. In Shakespeare(2005), Antonio is quoted saying “Neither have I money, norcommodity/ To raise a present sum”. Antonio’s sentiments hold noground. Further, Antonio reveals to Bassanio that his lack offinances can be reversed by his offer to Shylock. He says,“therefore, go forth /Try what my credit can in Venice do” thecondition in the bond signed by Antonio is’ “Three thousandducats, for three months, and Antonio bound” (Shakespeare,2005).Colmo (2001) in his interpretation of this agreement explains thatShylock agrees to pay three thousand ducats back to his business bygiving inhumane conditions. According to him, Shylock has the rightto cut off a pound of flesh from the body of Antonio if he does nothonor the agreement. Shylock is seen to have a justified irrationalevil bonds basing on the fact that he cannot afford the money butrather he is only a manager of Tubal’s business. Shakespeare (2005)reveals this in Shylock’s conversation when he says:

“Icannot instantly raise up the gross

Offull three thousand ducats. What of that?

Tubal,a wealthy Hebrew of my tribe,

Willfurnish me” (Shakespeare, 1973)


WilliamShakespeare’s the Merchant of Venice is full of characters whoclearly show how irrational they are. Despite having otheralternatives to find solutions for their problems in outright ways,these characters are seen to follow paths which later lead them totroubles. People in this play are seen to divide themselves whilemaking ties on the basis of religion, social classes and tribe. Theseare ill bonds which later portray characters as irrational.


Colmo,C.A. (2001). Law and love in Shakespeare’sThe Merchant of Venice. Oklahoma City University Law Review,26(1), 307-325. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/kkfb8hf

Shakespeare,W. (2005). TheComplete Works of William Shakespeare.Sybil Thorndike (foreword). London: Rex Library

Weinstein,B. (2007). Shakespeare`s Forgivable Portrayal of Shylock. JewishBible Quarterly, 35(3), 187-192. Retrieved fromhttp://tinyurl.com/pd9nmex

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