The Rings of Power: Symbolic Exchange in the Merchant of Venice Essay

The Rings of Power: Symbolic Exchange in the Merchant of Venice Essay

Length: 1602 words (4.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Term Papers

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Rings of Power:
Symbolic Exchange in The Merchant of Venice

Rings are significant to the narrative of The Merchant of Venice for several reasons. Firstly, as symbols of love, wealth and power. Secondly, as a means through which Portia gives and then regains control of herself, her weath and power and finally, the theft and sale of Leah's turquoise ring acts as a source of sympathy towards Shylock and allows him to parallel the Christian husbands, Bassanio and Graziano.
A ring is, in and of itself, a frivolous object; it serves no practical purpose and its only functions are symbolic and aesthetic. They are thus also a symbol of the wealth and power of the owner; a demonstration that they have so much money they can afford to fritter it away on useless trinkets. Further, a signet ring bestowed power on the wearer, as they were used to authenticate and seal official documents, much like a signature. Thus, the ring bestowed the ability to issue orders in the name its owner and thus symbolised that power.

Rings also often indicate a promise, vow or bond (for example, a purity ring standing for the vow of abstinence and chasteness). Bonds and promises are a centre point in The Merchant of Venice, and so too the breaking of them. This will be explored in more detail later in the essay.

Traditionally, and to this day, rings also indicate love and affection. The most common and widespread form of this is, of course, the wedding or engagement ring. This is not a tradition divorced from the symbolism of wealth or power, however, especially in the context of the text — in Shakespeare's time, wedding rings were a tradition mostly confined to the upper merchant and noble classes, since the poor simply could not afford them.
...


... middle of paper ...


...s Portia to end up in a position she otherwise would not have been able to achieve and maintain her own wealth and power despite her marriage to Bassanio. Rings and bonds are the hinges on which the play turns, and they are both interlinked and integral to the play.
Works Cited


Blanchard, Jane. "Contesting Constancy in The Merchant of Venice", Renascence 61, vol 4 (2009), pp 209-220

Kunz, George Frederick. Rings for the Finger. North Chemsford: Courier Dover Publications, 2012.

Newman, Karen. "Portia's Ring: Unruly Women and Structures of Exchange in The Merchant of Venice", Shakespeare Quarterly 38, no 1 (1987), pp 19-33.

Scott, William O. "Conditional Bonds, Forfeitures, and Vows in The Merchant of Venice", English Literary Renaissance 34, vol 3, 2004, pp 286-305

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2010.


Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Romantics and Merchants in The Merchant of Venice

- Romantics and Merchants in The Merchant of Venice   Shakespeare's comedies usually follow a clearly defined pattern. He presents a conflict, and the characters eventually resolve the conflict in a relatively happy ending, which involves marrying off the hero and his entourage to the heroine and her companions, leaving the villain outside the "magic circle" of protagonists. In The Merchant of Venice, Antonio is presented as the hero, and Shylock the villain, but neither is within the circle of marriages at the end of Act V....   [tags: Merchant Venice Essays]

Free Essays
1391 words (4 pages)

The Merchant Of Venice Essay

- The Merchant Of Venice Act 1 In the fist act, Antonio is introduced as the Merchant of Venice. A friend of him, Bassanio, desperately needs money because all of his money is on his ships and he wants to go to Belmont to visit the woman of his dreams, Portia. Therefore he goes to Antonio to ask if he is willing to go to Shylock and ask him if he can have 3000 ducats. Antonio agrees and goes to Shylock and explains that he has to pay it back within 3 months. If he doesn't do this, he may cut one pound of his fair flesh......   [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]

Free Essays
524 words (1.5 pages)

Merchant of Venice Essays

- Antonio, a Venetian merchant, complains of melancholy; his friend Bassanio asks for a loan to travel to Belmont to court the beautiful heiress, Portia. Antonio agrees, but says that he must borrow the money from one of the city's moneylenders because all of his ships are at sea. At Belmont, Portia is also melancholy because, according to the terms of her father's will, she must marry the man who chooses the casket (out of a choice of gold, silver or lead) containing her portrait. If he chooses wrongly, he is condemned to remain unmarried forever....   [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]

Free Essays
498 words (1.4 pages)

Essay on William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

- William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Introduction The three versions of the Merchant of Venice which I have watched are: 1. Channel 4 television version for their Schools Broadcasting Programmes 2. Trevor Nunn's version 3. National Theatre Company version directed by Jonathan Miller and starring Laurence Olivier as Shylock Act IV scene 1 is an intense scene in the play where we see many of the play's main themes such as justice and mercy, money and status, revenge, loyalty, love and prejudice and tolerance....   [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]

Term Papers
2268 words (6.5 pages)

The Merchant of Venice Essay

- "The Merchant of Venice" by WIlliam Shakespeare. "The Merchant of Venice" is a play about revenge, justice, deseption and friendship. The story is about, Shylock a wealth Jew, lending one of his enemies, Antonoi, three thousand ducats. Although Antonio is a rich merchant all his resources are in his ships, trading too distant countries, but because he wants to help out his friend, Bassanio, he has no choice but to ask Shylock for a loan , not to know it could lead to his death. In this play there is a big difference between the Christian charaters and Shylock, the main difference being Shylock seems to be more interested in his money and business rather than human relationships, which the C...   [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]

Free Essays
471 words (1.3 pages)

The Merchant Of Venice Essay

- What They Cannot See In this world, there are many aspects of blindness whether it is mentally or physically. Either way, each blindness brings out the disability in each person. Such portrayal was shown throughout the play The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare presents more than one form of blindness, which complicates the social order of the society, and I feel that the blindness, being their imperfection, creates tension between characters, which is weakened by blindness. When the characters are being blind, they are corrupted by their actions and somehow they do not care who they are hurting as long as they know they are getting the best out of something....   [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]

Free Essays
2455 words (7 pages)

The Merchant Of Venice Essay

- When William Shakespear wrote, The merchant Of Venice, he made a female character that has a huge influence on the play. In most of his work, the women don’t have much power and are not very smart. In the Merchant Of Venice, Portia is a woman that saves the life of a man using her head. Another woman created by Shakespear that is a lot alike with Portia is Beatrice, from Much Ado about Nothing. Both of these ladies add to the main theme of the plays because of their brains, and smart remarks, as well as being careing....   [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]

Free Essays
1041 words (3 pages)

Essay merchant of venice

- The Merchant of Venice The play, ¡°The Merchant of Venice¡± by William Shakespeare has two main settings. One setting is Venice, a city where many businessmen live, a place, full of unhappy and unkind people. It a world of commercial and law. Shakespeare has portrayed Venice as the ¡°real¡± world. The other setting is Belmont, a city which houses a rich, happy society of beautiful people. Belmont is a fairy-tale world of music and love. In this play, it is evident that, good things happen in Belmont and not so pleasant events happen in Venice....   [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]

Term Papers
1384 words (4 pages)

Essay Merchant Of Venice

- The Storytellers in The Merchant of Venice In this play two characters have a bigger role than one might imagine. Salerio and Solanio are the storytellers in The Merchant of Venice. They fill in important information that the audience needs to full understand the play. First, the two names differ by only a few letters, they are so close that one might confuse the two and think that they are the same person. I feel that this is Shakespeare's intention in this play. He makes the two similar so that they are not very important to the plot of the play....   [tags: Free Merchant of Venice Essays]

Free Essays
592 words (1.7 pages)

Merchant of Venice Essay examples

- Mercy v. Justice – Old Testament v. New Testament While the conflict between justice and mercy plays a key role in determining the outcome of The Merchant of Venice, this conflict is even more important because it provides a setting for the contrast between the rigid law and rules of the Old Testament and the concepts of mercy and forgiveness as taught by Christ in the New Testament. It is in the climactic trial scene that The Duke, hoping Shylock will excuse Antonio's penalty, asks him, “How shall thou hope for mercy rend'ring none?” He is referring to expectations of judgment in the afterlife....   [tags: Merchant of Venice Essays]

Term Papers
1334 words (3.8 pages)