The merchant of Venice contains many points and ideas which were relevant to the Elizabethan society, many if not all of these points and ideas are still relevant in today’s modern society. Some points and ideas included in the merchant of Venice are the role of women, the power of love and friendship and justice and mortality. All of these themes are present in today’s modern society. The role of women in the play is represented though Portia, Nerissa and Jessica. The three of the women are very different yet they are all the same as they stand up to the typical Elizabethan women way of being a ‘happy little housewife’ with no voice or backbone. Jessica is the Jewish daughter f the ‘villain Shylock who runs away from her father to marry a Christian. This is a brave act for a woman to do as she turns her back on her family which wasn’t done in Elizabethan times. This shows that Jessica isn’t going to fall into the typical Elizabethan women category. Portia and Nerissa also stand up to the stereotype although they do it in a more discrete way by dressing up as young men, a young doctor of law and his clerk. Portia and Nerissa by disguising themselves as men save Antonio, becoming the heroes of the play. This idea is a very modern one that women are equal to men.
This idea would have been a radical idea in Elizabethan times. Love and friendship is a dominant theme present in the play. Shakespeare portrays this through the actions of his characters. Many of the climatic scenes in the play arouse due to love and friendship. The famous courtroom scene develops due to love and friendship. Bassiano’s love for Portia leads him to borrow money off the ‘villain’ Shylock. Antonio’s love and friendship for Bassanio leads him to sign Shylocks bond for a pound of flesh. This is the beginning to the climax of the play. During the plays climax, the courtroom scene, the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio is seen clearly “life its self, my wife, and all the world, are not with me esteemed above they life. I would loose all, ay, sacrifice them all here to this devil, to deliver you.” (act 4, scene 1, line 280, Bassanio) this heartfelt line is quoted form Bassanio during the courtroom scene. This quote clearly displays the bond between the two men. This is just one of many examples of love and friendship present in the play.
Shakespeare’s theme of justice and morality is portrayed through the use of characters and scenes throughout the play. The plays climax, the courtroom scene, is a clear example of the themes of justice and morality. It not only shows the ‘villains’ defeat but also the scales of justice. Shylock the ‘villain’ is portrayed in this scene as being heartless and cruel. Being a Jewish money lender he would have been despised by an Elizabethan audience. Although this could also be seen by a modern audience it could be seen as much more. A modern audience could see Shylock as a lonely, sad man who is seeking compensation for his mistreatment by Christians through revenge. A modern audience may feel sorry and pity him. Throughout the courtroom scene Shylock is asked to take mercy on Antonio, begging him to take three times the amount of duckets in the bond. Whic he refuses adamant about his pound of flesh. ‘The pound of flesh which I demand of him is dearly bough; ‘tis mine, and I will have it.’ (act 4, scene 1, line 100, Shylock) this is quoted from shylock during the courtroom scene. The certainty of Shylock in this scene is unnerving; all he wants is the justice of his bond, ultimately he wants to kill Antonio. That balance between Justice and Mercy is fine and can easily be disrupted. In this case Shylock wants Justice so badly he is blinded by it and can’t see anything else besided it. Shakespeare uses the Justice and mercy theme to good effect; he creates feelings and impressions through its use. The merchant of Venice is full of Shakespeare’s idea of what’s important and values that should be learned. The role of women, friendship and love and justice and morality are key themes in the play that are still present today. All of these themes are a key feature in today’s society proving that Shakespeare is truly timeless.
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