The Merchant of Venice is a play that I have previously read in High School, but feel like I never thoroughly understood everything. Still, I do not completely understand all of the language that Shakespeare uses. I feel like I understand all the “pokes” at religion more than I did in the past. In just one act, Shakespeare works to show the reader that there is a huge conflict between Antonio and his friends and Shylock. As previously stated by Aimee, I found myself feeling bad for Shylock, even though he is the said “antagonist” of the play.
“…You call me misbeliever, cut-throat, dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gabardine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it appears you need my help.” (Lines 107-109)
In this passage Shylock appears to be showing control over the situation. He now has the power to say “no” to an enemy in need of help. Like Antonio says, “But rather lend it to thine enemy…” (130) so that if the money is not repaid in full Shylock can pose consequences on Antonio. Had it been a friend, it would have been harder to threaten them with negative consequences.
As far as Portia is concerned, I feel that because she finds flaws in all the suitors that are in the “running” to become her husband, she should choose the person that she wants. Yes, she feels it is her duty to do as her father “willed.” I don’t understand the relevance of picking the right casket in this segment either. What is the meaning behind the caskets? What does it mean if one chooses one and not the other? I guess I really do not understand what them picking these certain caskets means for Portia. Is it what is more important to them? But still how does she rate them? So many questions that I guess will be answered later in the play. I do feel that Bassanio has a shot with her when she says, “I remember him well, and I remember him worthy of thy praise.” (100)
Another subject that interested me was the friendship that Antonio and Bassanio share. Obviously Bassanio takes many loans from Antonio and fails to pay him back and still Antonio is willing to take a loan and risk losing “a pound of flesh” for him. I’m assuming that Bassanio does not take the loan out himself because he knows it will take longer for him to repay than Antonio, considering Antonio has many “commodities” on ships. I find it funny though that Shylock loans him the money even though he does not agree with the way Antonio lends his money.
“How like a fawning publician he looks.
I hate him for he is a Christian;
But more, for that in low simplicity
He lends out money gratis, and brings down
The rate of usance here with us in Venice.” (Lines 36-40).
It’s almost as if he is betting on the fact that he will gain this “pound of flesh” if the debt is not paid. Almost hoping that he cannot pay his debt. Previously stated in the blog, I also feel that Shylock’s current greedy behavior is a result of the negative treatment that he has been dealt. Therefore, there is a bigger hatred between the two religions and classes.