If we probe into what Jim O’Rourke over at Florida State University calls the late 16th century “micro-politics” of Tudor England, we arrive at the interplay of Elizabethan prejudice, humor and self-hatred. O’Rourke is engaged in a debate with other scholars and his goal is to re-frame The Merchant of Venice as an anti-racist work that was written in response to the high profile case of Francis Bacon and Rodrigo Lopez in 1594, but his efforts are most helpful in localizing the themes of xenophobia and homophobia in the immediate historical moment of the play. Continue reading
Lars Engle writes a particularly interesting essay called, “Thrift is Blessing”: Exchange and Explanation In The Merchant of Venice, where he exposes a woman who takes advantage of homosexual desires to protect her financial endowment and prove herself as the presiding individual in her marriage. Continue reading
In the article, “The Problem of More-than-one: Friendship, Calculation, and Political Association in the Merchant of Venice” by Henry S. Turner, Turner discusses the political perspective of the play in terms of friendship, calculation and decision, and justice. He discusses the question of the relationship between friendship and democracy, and how “The Merchant of Venice” may show slight traces of modern democracy throughout the play. One point that I found particularly interesting is the idea of the quantum of friendship and how that relates to value in terms of numbers and the blurred lines from which that value comes about. This lack of clarity can be seen in the play in the recurring issues of self-interest versus love and friendship. Continue reading
The themes of marriage and same-sex relationships in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice warrant the discussion of same-sex marriage. While there is no explicit condoning of same-sex marriage, Arthur L. Little argues that the concept of same-sex relationships is used to challenge the very institution of marriage within the play.
In The Merchant of Venice, Portia, an affluent and quick-witted heiress from Belmont, aids in rescuing Antonio from his legal plight with Shylock. The fates of people around Portia shift constantly, while her situation generally improves without problem. Portia’s actions through the play embody Fortuna’s whimsical interest in humanity. Continue reading
The trial scene in The Merchant of Venice, I believe, distinctly mirrors one of Plato’s earlier dialogues, Crito, in regards to initial plotline, character relationships, and the puzzle of civic ethics raised. In Crito, Plato presents a hypothetical dialogue between Socrates, who is in prison awaiting execution, and his friend Crito, who, trying to convince Socrates to escape, offers three justifications for evading the Athenian court’s verdict. In The Merchant of Venice, Bassanio and Antonio’s other friends are akin to Crito, and Antonio, whom Bassanio describes as “one in whom the ancient Roman honor more appears than any that draws breath in Italy” (III.2.306-308), echoes Socrates. Continue reading