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The Lst Leaf Essay

1923 words - 8 pages

The Merchant of Venice is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic scenes, and is best known for Shylock and the famous "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech. Also notable is Portia's speech about "the quality of mercy”. The title character is the merchant Antonio, not the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who is the play's most prominent and most famous character. This is made explicit by the title page of the first quarto: The most excellent History of the Merchant of Venice. With the ...view middle of the document...

For example, priests would preach that plenty was enough and to give to those worse off etc., whilst maintaining for a large part relatively luxurious lifestyles from their generous salaries. Whether Shakespeare intended to critique the Christian church or provoke controversy for dramatic purposes is unclear.
Act 1 when we first see him commiserating with his friends Solanio and Salerino he is pondering the unknown source of his depressive state:In sooth I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me, you say it wearies you; But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff ‘tis made of, where of it is born, I am to learn And such a want-wit sadness makes of me That I have much ado to know myself. (MOV 1.1.1-7)'His friends try to guess the origin and nature of his condition by questioning him. First they inquire as to whether or not he is worried about his investments. When he insists that is not the reason they ask if he is in love which he is also quick to dismiss. It is then speculated that perhaps he has a strange temperament as some people do. This pair quickly exits to make way for Bassanio who is accompanied by his friends Lorenzo and Gratiano. Lorenzo cannot get in a word for the boisterous Gratiano who makes sport of Antonio's melancholy telling him that he is too serious and that he himself would rather go through life acting foolish. After Lorenzo and Gratiano leave Bassanio tries to put Antonio at ease by saying Gratiano talks a lot of nonsense. It is in this conversation that we find a possible reason for Antonio’s sadness, the impending loss of his friend (or some suspect lover) to a woman’s affections.Antonio: Well, tell me now, what lady is the same To whom you swore a secret pilgrimage That you today promised to tell me of? (MOV 1.1.119-121)Bassanio then proceeds to tell Antonio of his depleted financial state due to his own excesses, making sure to note that he is aware he already owes him money. He laments his ill fortune but cheers at the thought of solving his problems by marrying Portia, a woman who has come into a sizeable inheritance from her father and whom he thinks is predisposed to choose him. He compares himself with Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. He beseeches Antonio to back this venture knowing he is not likely to be refused by his generous benefactor. Indeed Antonio, despite the fact that his capital is already at risk elsewhere, gives him a letter of credit and wishes him well.Later Antonio enters the rialto to assure Shylock that he will be bound for the 3,000 ducats Bassanio wishes to borrow. Antonio has belittled and harassed Shylock in public, and he loathes him because when Christian friends of his owed money to the Jews he paid off the debts, thus depriving them of their interest. Far from lamenting his ill treatment of the Jew who accuses him of spitting on him and calling him a dog, Antonio replies resolutely “I am as like to call thee so again, /To spet on thee again, to spurn thee.” (MOV...

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