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William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

The play centres on two main characters, Antonio, an extremely wealthy
merchant and Shylock, a very wealthy Jew. In Venice, a person's word
was their bond. A promise made by word of mouth was the same as having
an agreement in writing; they had to keep their word or pay the
consequences.

Shylock is a usurer, a person who lends sums of money to others,
charging vast amounts of interest. However, Antonio also lends amounts
of money, but minus the interest. This is one of the main reasons why
Shylock hates Antonio, as Antonio is supposedly causing Shylock's
profits to drop. Shylock also hates Antonio for the differences in
their lifestyles and religions.

Shylock has agreed to lend a sum of money to Antonio. As part of the
agreement, Shylock insists that if his money is not returned within a
designated period of time, with the added interest, he would be
entitled to cut exactly one pound of flesh from Antonio's body.

It is this bond between Shylock and Antonio that results in the court
scene in Act 4 Scene 1, the dramatic climax of the play. Although it
is not the final scene, it is the finale of "The Merchant of Venice",
where all the perplexing sub-plots and main storyline are pulled
together to create an explosive ending.

One of the reasons Act 4 Scene 1 is so dramatically effective is due
to the tension created between Shylock and Antonio. At the very
beginning of the scene, a slight sense of injustice is induced due to
the fact that Antonio is seated and Shylock is standing before the
Duke. In a Venetian court of justice, the accused is standing with the
accuser seated, not...


... middle of paper ...


...1, Line 383). Shylock is now a totally beaten
and resigned man, and is broke as Jessica stole his ducats and Antonio
does not have to pay him back, far cry from his confident and vengeful
image and with his exit from the courtroom. Harmony begins to
disappear into the play as the scene draws to a close.

Shakespeare successfully combines elements of comedy, irony, sadness,
horror and justice in "The Merchant of Venice" to produce a play full
of dry humour and thought provoking storylines. Many aspects of the
plot such as the discrimination of Jews are regretfully still in place
in today's society. Throughout the play there was also the reoccurring
image of the scapegoat. Both men fit this description, with Shylock
clearly the social outcast, driven out of society and Antonio
represents the goat about to be sacrificed.


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