Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice is a story about man seeking justice for the forfeiture of his bond. Shylock the Jew created a bond loaning three thousand ducats to his rival Antonio. In the event that the loan could not be paid back, Shylock was entitled to a “pound of flesh from the breast” of Antonio. Antonio’s invested the money in his merchant ships hoping to gain profit. Unfortunately he loses his ships at sea, losing everything Shylock had loaned him. Shylock happily takes Antonio to court in hopes of receiving that pound of flesh as a result of the forfeiture of his bond. However due to manipulation of the court by an illegitimate lawyer, Shylock is ruled as the guilty party of the case. Shylocks’ sentencing from the court is an act of abuse and bias while not necessarily being justified.

One significant argument that proves the bias within the Venetian court comes directly in the beginning of the court scene. The Duke, who plays the role of a judge, announces to Antonio that he is at the hands of a merciless person (Shylock): “I am sorry for thee. Thou art come to answer a stone adversary, an inhuman wretch, uncapable of pity, void and empty from any dam of mercy.”(4.1-2-6) As the judge of this court, the Duke should always be impartial to both parties of the court regardless of their religion, social status, etc. In this case the Duke is clearly in favor of helping Antonio even though the bond declared that Shylock was in his rights to obtain a pound of his flesh. In the Dukes final effort to persuade Shylock he ends his speech by saying he expects a “gentle answer, Jew” (4-1.34) This is another example of the Duke flexing his authority to force Shylock to give in and take mercy upon Antonio. The reference to ...

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...of blood must be shed or else Shylock would be breaking the law. Both Portia and the Duke showed an extreme level of aggressiveness in penalizing Shylock for wanting to receive that pound of flesh as his payment. The Duke asking Antonio for his thoughts on what Shylocks punishment should be is another significant example of the conflict of interest between the entire court against defenseless Shylock. In conclusion the court was manipulated by an impersonating lawyer, who swayed the courts decision to aggressively and abusively penalize Shylock. Not only did they confiscate his property but also his identity as a Jewish man. Shylock ultimately is the victim of this story because he loses everything he owns by the hands of the very thing he hoped would bring him justice, the law.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Merchant of Venice. New York: New American, 1993.
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