The Merchant of Venice: Self-Interest versus Love

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While there are many fundamental themes in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, only one seems to drive the play to its inevitable conclusion. There is a constant theme of self-interest versus love. On the surface, this seems to be the dividing factors between the Christians and the Jew. Shylock is portrayed to only care about money and profits, while the Christians are shown as people who value human relationships more. Examples of this theme are shown through Shylock’s behaviour, the many weddings of the Christian characters, and the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. The Christian characters view Shylock as someone who only cares about money and business. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock is a cold-hearted man, who only has one true love: his money. He would sacrifice anything for money. We see Shylock as the greedy moneylender. He charges high interest rates and when he is not repaid, he insists on revenge. In the play, Shylock loans Antonio money, and suggests that should the loan not be repair in time, Shylock may cut off one pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. Soon after, Shylock’s daughter runs away from home with Lorenzo, a Christian, and takes her father’s ducats and jewels with her. Shylock agonizes over the loss of his money and it is reported that ran through the streets crying, “O my ducats! O my daughter!/...And jewels–two stones, two rich and precious stones, /Stolen by my daughter! Justice! Find the girl!” (II.viii.15-21). With these words, he apparently values his money at least as much as his daughter, suggesting that his greed outweighs his love. However, upon closer inspection, this supposed difference between the Christian and Jew breaks down. When we see Shylock in Act III, scene ... ... middle of paper ... ...ips do indeed matter to Shylock more that money. There are many loving relationships in this play such as the one between Bassanio and Portia, Jessica and Lorenzo, and Gratiano and Nerissa. It is most likely that these marriages will not last. One of the main reasons for this is because they all got married too fast, leaving no time to realize that they are probably not meant for each other. Although Portia and Bassanio come to love one another, Bassanio seeks her hand in the first place because he is monstrously in debt and needs her money. The theme of self-interest versus love is one that is still present in our society today. The Merchant of Venice teaches us that although you may be friends with somebody, often they are using your without you knowing. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. Ed. Roma Gill. Oxford University Press, 2001.

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