How Does Wealth Affect The Relationship Between The Characters In The Merchant Of Venice?

1303 words - 6 pages

How does wealth affect the relationship between the characters in the play?

“Money is like water. It flows in and out of our lives”
The theme of wealth plays a very important role in The Merchant of Venice. Though it may not be surprising because Venice is an exciting, cosmopolitan setting for the play as well as a heart of european business in the Renaissance. Most character relationships in the play reflect on the theme of love and friendship. Yet, there are still many images of money portrayed in these relationships. One of the examples is Bassanio and Antonio’s boundless friendship and the demanded pound of flesh. While in Bassanio’s relationship with Portia, Portia is ...view middle of the document...

Though Antonio seems less interested in money because he is so wealthy, so love could be more important to him than wealth. The audience sees that he is a loyal friend when he says “My purse, my person, my extremest means, Lie all unlock'd to your occasions” (1.1.8), Shakespeare uses the power of three to allow the audience to look at the situation more objectively and make Antonio’s speech very effective. Antonio makes his entire "person" accessible to his friend, this could even show that his decision of risking his life with a pound of flesh is a symbolic chance for it to mean something to Bassanio and maybe for Bassanio to understand how faithful his friend is. Even in the beginning of the play, Antonio is sad, there is no specific reason him being miserable but we can guess that wasn’t because of the money. Especially when Antonio asks Bassanio about Portia “Well; tell me now what lady is the same/ To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage,/ That you to-day promis'd to tell me of?” (1.1.7) Here, Shakespeare is trying to create a reasonable connection between Antonio's sorrow and the impact of Bassanio's forthcoming courtship – Antonio is scared of losing his dear friend to the woman.

Shylock and Jessica’s relationship is also hugely affected by wealth since Jessica runs away and Shylock wants her dead with her money back. Nearly all Shylock’s relationships in the play are focused on money. E.g the incident with Antonio and his pound of flesh or even the situation with Launcelot, who leaves Shylock’s “hell” house and goes to serve Bassanio. Shylock is one of the main characters, best known as a Jewish moneylender and the father to Jessica. Jessica can’t stand her father’s rude manners and even feels ashamed when saying “Alack, what heinous sin is it in me, To be ashamed to be my father's child!” (2.3.1). According to her complaints about her home “Our house is hell, and thou, a merry devil, / Didst rob it of some taste of tediousness" (2.3.1), Jessica is probably locked up just as carefully as her father’s wealth. She uses negative and evil words like “hell” and “merry devil” to describe the atmosphere of the house and how it feels to live there. Maybe that’s the reason why she runs away with her love, spending her father’s entire wealth. After stealing all the money, she even decided to turn Christian as she says “O Lorenzo, If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife, Become a Christian and thy loving wife” (2.3.2). Everything that she has done is probably meant to wreak as much damage on her father as possible. Jessica is mad that her father is accused of caring more for...

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