The Merchant of Venice is a play both about love and hate. Shakespeare illustrates the theme of hate most prominently through the prejudices of both Christians and Jews and their behaviour towards one another. The theme of love is shown amongst the Christians, in the love of friendship and marital love. The themes are emphasised in the settings of the play, Belmont symbolising love and Venice symbolising hate. As well as this the immorality of various characters can be seen in their motives for love and hate.
The entire play is centred around racial prejudices between Christians and Jews and their hate for one another. In The Merchant of Venice Shylock, the Jew, is characterised ...view middle of the document...
Antonio is the symbol of racism in society and he openly exhibits it. He is not phased in the least after Shylock’s downfall. Shakespeare displays the repugnant effects of hatefulness in The Merchant of Venice.
Shakespeare demonstrates love in The Merchant of Venice amongst the Christians. He also distinguishes between the love of friendship and marital love. In Act 4, Shakespeare implies that Bassanio and Gratiano’s love for their friend Antonio is greater than that for their wives. Both men broke vows that they had with their wives because of Antonio:
“Antonio, I am married to a wife which is as dear to me as life itself; but life itself, my wife, and all the world, are not with me esteem’d above thy life: I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all, here to this devil, to deliver you.”
True love seems to be demonstrated in Jessica and Lorenzo’s relationship. Jessica is willing to give up her previous life, even if she wasn’t altogether happy, to marry Lorenzo:
“I shall be saved by my husband; he hath made me a Christian.”
The Merchant of Venice is set in Italy in Venice and Belmont, representing the two worlds of the play. Shakespeare uses these two settings to emphasise the themes of love and hate. Love is centred around Belmont, a tranquil paradise to which lovers can escape, and hate around Venice, a hectic place which exploits and corrupts. This can clearly be seen when we look at where various events relating to love and hate in the play take place. All prejudicial activity takes place in Venice, including the trial. This is also the only place where Jews are found (Jessica becomes a Christian when she moves to Belmont). The Christian couples reside in Belmont, and there is rarely any talk of racial prejudice here. Belmont is where the Christians retreat to after their victory over Shylock in Venice. The surroundings complement the events that are taking place in both Venice and Belmont.