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Merchant Of Venice: Law And Love

2268 words - 10 pages

The Necessity of Choice: Separation of Law and Love in The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice illustrates two cities and a dichotomy surrounding them both. Venice, a city of law, and Belmont, a city of love, are represented by the leading characters that reside in each as well as the events that unfold in Venice and Belmont; however, when the characters move between the two cities, the line blurs between law and love distorting both. The drama yearns for the separation of the two themes, and it is when the characters are given the option of choice – to choose either law or love – they find themselves in the throes of their selection and in the city their choice ...view middle of the document...

i.153-55). The strong emotions between these men drive doubt into their routines; both men are characters governed by the steadfastness of law where love creates uncertainty. Antonio, a man of Venice, suffers because he has love for Bassanio, yet he lives in a city represented by and built upon fact, business and law; therefore, this is the true reason for the combative forces driving his melancholy. Antonio must choose, while he resides in Venice, to be a businessman and succumb to the monotony of law in order to be unhindered by the unsteadiness of emotion.
Like the ferry that travels between Venice and Belmont, Bassanio travels the most between the two cities, thus he is the main contributor to the events that unfold within each location (III.iv.53-54). Bassanio would be the perfect example of the capabilities of love and law working harmoniously together because he is both passionate and logical, but wherever Bassanio is, problems are sure to ensue. Through Bassanio, the audience can clearly deduce law can only be successful in Venice, and love can blossom solely in Belmont. A playboy of sorts, Bassanio has partied his way into a consuming hole of debt, and it is because of his debts owed to Antonio that Bassanio decides to venture to Belmont where there is “a lady richly left” (I.i.161). Bassanio is continuously stirring up controversies and illustrates the impossibility of combining love and logic. Bassanio loves Antonio for his friendship and generosity, and Bassanio loves Portia because of her wealth and beauty; therefore, his affection is positioned where the greatest economical situation prevails. Bassanio loves, but he does so through economical means, and when he speaks to Antonio about Portia’s value, Bassanio claims:
Nor is the wide world ignorant of her worth,
For the four winds blow in from every coast
Renowned suitors ...
O my Antonio, had I but the means
To hold a rival place with one of them,
I have a mind presages me such thrift
That I should questionless be fortunate. (I.i.167-176)
Bassanio is the haphazard representation of love and law residing in one city and in one person; he travels between Venice and Belmont the most out of all the leading characters, so it is understandable that his character is the most chaotic. For order to resume in the separate cities of Venice and Belmont, Bassanio must choose the methodical world of Venice or the passionate estate of Belmont, but he cannot continuously travel between the two locations blurring that which should be individual entities.
Confusing law and love proves to be detrimental to the characters in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. For Shylock, economics is the essence of success, and love is a weakness. The Jewish moneylender is the epitomical metaphor of Venice because he is driven by fact and method. Due...

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