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Religion in The Merchant of Venice Essay

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Religion was a major factor in a number of Shakespeare’s plays. Religion motivated action and reasoning. In Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” religion was more than a belief in a higher being; it reflected moral standards and ways of living. In the “Merchant of Venice,” “a Christian ethic of generosity, love, and risk-taking friendship is set in pointed contrast with a non-Christian ethic that is seen, from a Christian point of view, as grudging, resentful, and self-calculating.” (Bevington, pg. 74) Although Shakespeare writes this drama from a Christian point of view he illustrates religion by conflicts of the Old Testament and the New Testament in Venetian society and its court of law. These Testaments are tested through the Christians and Jews of Venice.
Venice, where this drama takes place, is a largely religious Italian City. Although filled with spiritual people, the city is divided into two different religious groups. Venice was primarily and dominantly a Christian society with Jews as it’s unfairly treated minority. Stereotypes classified Jews as immoral, evil, and foolish people while the Christians were graceful, merciful, and loving. Representing the Christian belief is Antonio who is summoned to court by a Jew who goes by the name Shylock. The cross between Christianity and Judaism begins as Antonio and Shylock create a legally binding bond. The bond’s fine print expresses that if Antonio cannot fulfill his debt to Shylock, Shylock will receive a pound of Antonio’s flesh. As learned in the play, Antonio cannot repay his debt and Shylock publically exclaims his need to receive fulfillment of that bond. Hastily, Shylock is determined to obtain his pound of Christian flesh. Shakespeare provides his audience dist...


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...istian point of view, it was at his disadvantage. Shylock and Jessica’s conversion to Christianity or the New Testament of love, mercy, and grace, indicate the power Christianity had in law and in love. Ultimately, it is safe to say that religion in Venice took the role of judge, and that is, Christ, as its supreme judge.



Works Cited

Bevington, David. The Necessary Shakespeare. 3. Longman Publishing Group , 2008. Print.
Calderwood, James L. Essays in Shakespearean Criticism. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, INC., 1970. Print.
Danson, Lawrence. The Harmonies of The Merchant of Venice. Great Britain: Yale University Press, 1978. Print.
Mowat, Barbara A., and Paul Werstine. The Merchant of Venice. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992. Print.
Swisher, Clarice. The Literary Companion Series: The Merchant of Venice. 1. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Print.


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