The Merchant of Venice



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The Merchant of Venice

  • William Shakespeare
  • Introduction the Shakespeare (see Hamlet)
  • The introduction & source of the play
  • The relationship between characters
  • Story analysis
  • Themes and Motifs
  • Social significance

Trade of Venice

  • Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Venice always traded with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world extensively. By the late thirteenth century, Venice was the most prosperous city in all of Europe. At the peak of its power and wealth, it had 36,000 sailors operating 3,300 ships, dominating Mediterranean commerce. During this time, Venice's leading families vied with each other to build the grandest palaces and support the work of the greatest and most talented artists.

The City of Venice

The Merchant of Venice

  • Written some time around 1597
  • Written as a romantic comedy since it is about love and ends happily
  • Fuses(融合) many dramatic elements:
  • romantic courtship(求爱期), riddling(解开) love tests, eloping(私奔) lovers, comic confusions, a gripping(引人注意的) courtroom trial, and a seemingly harmonious final act
  • At the core of the play is Shylock, the Jewish moneylender. He only appears in five of the 20 scenes, but his presence dominates the play.

Theatrical Traditions of Jews 犹太人在戏剧上的传统体现

  • Roots of Shakespearean drama begin with mystery and miracle plays of the Middle Ages, which were performed by the church for a largely illiterate(文盲) audience about Old and New Testament stories. Jews were often viewed as responsible for Christ’s crucifixion(钉死在十字架上).
  • Jews became the evil villains(反派角色) of Elizabethan drama. They were one-dimensional (一元空间)stereotypical characters.
  • The Jew of Malta(马耳他岛的犹太人), written in 1589 by Christopher Marlowe, is one such work. Marlowe was Shakespeare greatest rival.
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Both money-lenders
  • Both have daughters who leave home with father’s money
  • Both despicable(卑鄙的) characters
  • Barbaras is a villain who steals, cheats, and indulges in murder until he finally meets a gruesome end, boiling in oil.
  • Shylock is presented as a complex man, whose every action can be understood, and who ultimately elicits sympathy from the modern audience.

Jews in England

  • 1075 in Oxford: Jews were not confined to ghettos(贫民区) as many of their European counterparts, but they were not allowed to be citizens. Because Christians could not lend money with interest, many Jews earned lucrative(获利多的) livings as usurers. In trying to regain debt owed to them, Jews became the target of resentment.
  • Late 12th Century: Anti-Semitic sentiment(反犹情绪) culminated in(达到顶峰) two massacres, one at the coronation(加冕礼) of Richard I in 1189 (30 Jews killed), and the other in the city of York in 1190 (150 Jews killed).
  • In fact, the Magna Carta(1215年制定的大宪章), is a testament(实际证明) to growing Anti-Semitic feelings—two clauses(法律条款) state that if a debtor dies debt is paid, neither heir or widow is responsible for paying it.
  • 1275: Jews forbidden to be money-lenders as well as other edicts implemented: taxation of Jews over 12 years old and wearing badges(标记) that identified them as Jews.
  • 1290 (until 1655): Expelled from England

Jews in Elizabethan Society

  • Threat of Civil War
  • Staved off(防止…发生) threat of rebellion by dealing ruthlessly with threat of treason, real or perceived
  • Climate of religious intolerance(不容异说) against Christians
  • Jews who converted(更换信仰) living quietly in England during Elizabeth’s reign
  • In 1593 Rodrigo Lopez, the Queen’s physician, was accused of trying to poison her, allegedly in league with(与……联合) the King of Spain. He was convicted of treason and hung in 1594, and because he was one of the above Jews, yet another outbreak of anti-Jewish sentiment occurred.
  • Therefore, it isn’t known whether Shakespeare ever came into contact with anyone who was Jewish.

Shakespeare’s Intent?

  • Given the anti-Jewish climate in Elizabethan England and Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock as a negative stereotype, it would be reasonable to assume Shakespeare was an Anti-Semite.
  • However, the rest of the details of the play do not support this.
  • It has been suggested that the real evil is the corrupt value system of the principal Christian characters. Antonio, the merchant of the title, is the worst bigot (抱有偏见的人) Portia is also a racist, but not only were Jews her only victims.

Influence on Anti-Semitism

  • Regardless of what Shakespeare's own intentions may have been, the play has been made use of by anti-semites throughout the play's history.
  • One must note that the end of the title in the 1619 edition "With the Extreme Cruelty of Shylock the Jew…" must aptly describe how Shylock was viewed by the English public.
  • The Nazis used the usurious(放高利贷的) Shylock for their propaganda. Shortly after Kristallnacht in 1938, "The Merchant of Venice" was broadcast for propagandistic ends over the German airwaves. Productions of the play followed in Luberk (1938),Berlin (1940), and elsewhere within the Nazi Territory.
  • The depiction of Jews in English literature throughout the centuries bears the close imprint of Shylock. With slight variations much of English literature up until the 20th century depicts the Jew as “a monied, cruel, lecherous(好色), avaricious(贪婪) outsider tolerated only because of his golden hoard(财产积蓄)”.

Contrasts Presented in the Play

  • Jew against Christian
  • Love against hate
  • Usury against venture trading
  • Mercy against justice
  • Appearances are rarely what the seem: gold and silver prove worthless, identities are mistaken, women disguised as(伪装) men trick their husbands.

Subplots

  • Bond Plot 契约情节
  • Casket Plot 首饰盒情节
  • Elopement Plot 私奔情节
  • Ring Plot 戒指情节
  • These plots are interwoven throughout the play.

Reading Shakespeare: A Review

  • Unlocking Shakespeare's Language, by Randal Robinson
  • Unusual Word Arrangements
  • I ate the sandwich. I the sandwich ate. Ate the sandwich I. Ate I the sandwich. The sandwich I ate. The sandwich ate I.
  • Robinson shows us that these four words can create six unique sentences which carry the same meaning.  Locate the subject, verb, and the object of the sentence.  Notice that the object of the sentence is often placed at the beginning (the sandwich) in front of the verb (ate) and subject (I).  Rearrange the words in the order that makes the most sense to you (I ate the sandwich). 

Poetry We speak in prose (language without metrical(韵律的) structure).  Shakespeare wrote both prose(散文) and verse(韵文) (poetry).  Much of the language discussion we will have in this guide revolves around(围绕着) Shakespeare's poetry.  So, it is important that you understand the following terms:

  • Poetry We speak in prose (language without metrical(韵律的) structure).  Shakespeare wrote both prose(散文) and verse(韵文) (poetry).  Much of the language discussion we will have in this guide revolves around(围绕着) Shakespeare's poetry.  So, it is important that you understand the following terms:
  • Blank Verse(无韵诗、素体诗):  unrhymed iambic pentameter(不押韵的五音部诗). 参照书本94页起
  • (introduced by Christopher Marlowe)
  • Iambic Pentameter(抑扬格五音部):  five beats of alternating(交互的) unstressed and stressed syllables; ten syllables per line.

Omissions Again, for the sake of his poetry, Shakespeare often left out letters, syllables, and whole words.  These omissions really aren't that much different from the way we speak today.  We say:

  • Omissions Again, for the sake of his poetry, Shakespeare often left out letters, syllables, and whole words.  These omissions really aren't that much different from the way we speak today.  We say:
  • "Been to class yet?" "No.  Heard Albrecht's givin' a test." "Wha'sup wi'that?“
  • We leave out words and parts of words to speed up our speech.  If we were speaking in complete sentences, we would say:
  • "Have you been to class yet?" "No, I have not been to class.  I heard that Mrs. Albrecht is giving a test today." "What is up with that?"

A few examples of Shakespearean omissions/contractions follow:

  • A few examples of Shakespearean omissions/contractions follow:
  • 'tis ~ it is ope ~ open o'er ~ over gi' ~ give ne'er ~ never
  • i' ~ in e'er ~ ever oft ~ often a' ~ he e'en ~ even

Source

  • There are many possible texts that Shakespeare could have used in writing The Merchant of Venice.
  • His chief source was a tale in an Italian collection entitled Il Pecorone or The Simpleton, written in 1378 by Giovanni Fiorentino, and published in 1565.
  • In addition, Shakespeare could have relied upon a play called The Jew. He also could have used a novel called Zelauto, written by the English playwright Anthony Munday in 1580. Lastly, in approximately 1591, Christopher Morlowe wrote the Jew of Malta.
  • Long time ago, a man called Antonio lived in Venice. He was a merchant, owning many ships which traded with distant countries. And he was a good man as well as a rich one. His best friend Bassanio, who fell in love with a beautiful and rich lady called Portia, was not a wealthy man. So he didn’t ask Portia to marry him. At last, he asked Antonio to lend him some money, so that he could visit Portia at Belmont. It happened that time all Antonio’s shops were at sea, and he wouldn’t have money to lend Bassanio until the ships returned. So they decided to go to a money-lender.        Now, an old Jew named Shylock lived in Venice. The Jews in those days were the money-lenders of Venice. He asked Antonio to sign a bond promising that he might cut off a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body if the money was not paid. So Bassanio unwillingly took the money, and sailed away to Belmont.       
  • Story introduction

In fact, Portia loved Bassanio too. So they arranged to get married. However, their happiness was soon disturbed by a bad news: Antonio’s six ships, full of riches, had all been wrecked at sea, which also meant Antonio lost all his money. Shylock was extremely happy after he heard the news and he went to cut off a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. When he began sharpening the long knife he had brought with him, a lawyer entered. Portia was the lawyer, but none of others knew recognized her. Finally, Portia was so clever that she saved Antonio’s life.

  • In fact, Portia loved Bassanio too. So they arranged to get married. However, their happiness was soon disturbed by a bad news: Antonio’s six ships, full of riches, had all been wrecked at sea, which also meant Antonio lost all his money. Shylock was extremely happy after he heard the news and he went to cut off a pound of flesh from Antonio’s body. When he began sharpening the long knife he had brought with him, a lawyer entered. Portia was the lawyer, but none of others knew recognized her. Finally, Portia was so clever that she saved Antonio’s life.
  • The Duke of Venice
  • T he Prince of Marocco
  • suitors of Portia
  • The Prince of Aragon
  • Antonio, a merchant of Venice
  • Bassanio, his friend, suitor of Portia
  • Portia, the lady of Belmont
  • Shylock, a jew of Venice
  • Gratiano
  • Salerio friends of Antonio e Bassanio
  • Solanio
  • Lorenzo, in love with Jessica Balthasar
  • Nerissa, Portia’s waiting-woman Stephano servants of Portia
  • Jessica, daughter of Shylock
  • Tubal, a jew of Venice, Shylock’s friend Launcelot Gobbo, servant of Shylock
  • Leonardo, servant of Bassanio Old Gobbo, father of Launcelot
  • The characters in the play
  • Shylock
  • Who He is
  • A successful Jewish moneylender who is much maligned over his religion and the practice of moneylenders such as himself of charging interest.
  • Key Words:
  • Glib
  • World-wise
  • Mercenary
  • slick and flimflam

Roles of Shylock

Role 1: Usurer/Miser

  • Shylock is a greedy and heartless moneylender who lends money to Christian.
  • He ill-treats his servant
  • He holds his daughter and ducats tightly.

Role 2: Jew

  • The “Humanity” of Shylock has been proved many times. He is not merely a monster to revile辱骂 and curse; his viewpoint is fully given and can, on occasion, command the whole sympathy of an audience.
  • The first full opportunity for this is his sarcastic dialogue with Antonio:
  • should I bend low, and in a bondman’s key
  • With bated breath, and whisp’ring humbleness
  • Say this:
  • “ Fair sir, you spet on me on Wednesday last,
  • You spurn’d me a day, another time
  • You call’d me dog: and for these courtesies
  • I’ll lend you thus much moneys”? (Ⅰ. iii. II8-24)20’20’’

Role 2: Jew

  • The next full opportunity for Shylock to state his case is the speech:
  • Hath not a Jew eyes?
  • Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, Passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, Subjec to the same diseases, healed by the same means, Warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as A Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison Us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
  • (III. i.)52’40’’
  • Here he claims a hearing on the grounds that he suffers as other men, and will take revenge like them.

Role 2: Jew

  • So powerful has Shylock’s justification proved, that it is sometimes forgotten that a villain坏人 is speaking. It has to be pointed out that “ What is commonly received as Shylock’s plea for tolerance is in reality his justification of an inhuman purpose.” Shakespeare has created in Shylock an outcast who suffers and is driven to extremity in his suffering, but no matter how harshly the Christians treat him, he remains the Jew who intends to kill his enemy, a harsh , cynical, and ruthless villain. Whether his suffering forces him to be a villain, or whether his villainy causes him to suffer, Shakespeare is not concerned to say. But there is a judgment: at the end of the trial scene, Shylock ‘s designs are defeated and he has to accept conversion to Christianity.

Role 3: Father/Master

  • Besides being a Jew, he is also an old father with a young daughter who escapes from him to escapes from him to marry the man she loves.
  • Shylock's function in this play is to be the obstacle, the man who stands in the way of the love stories; such a man is a traditional figure in romantic comedies.

He is also a cruel master who refuses to allow his servant (Launcelot Gobbo) being stuffed, which results in Launcelot Gobbo’s betrayal.

  • He is also a cruel master who refuses to allow his servant (Launcelot Gobbo) being stuffed, which results in Launcelot Gobbo’s betrayal.
  • Duke of Venice
  • Who He is
  • As judge over the court case between Shylock and Antonio, he has the power to pardon a death sentence
  • What He does and what happens to Him
  • In the play, he is put in a difficult position by Shylock; he doesn't want Antonio to die, but to ignore Shylock's legal rights would be to place all of Venice in disrepute as a place to conduct business.
  • Antonio
  • Who He is
  • A Venetian merchant of considerable wealth, he makes his money from "ventures", or mercantile enterprises using his fleet of ships.
  • What He does and what happens to Him
  • Much liked by his friends, Salanio, Gratiano and Salarino, Antonio is owed money by his friend Bassanio. The title of this play is considered to be derived from this character as well as the character of Shylock.
  • Key words:
  • generous
  • noble
  • warm-hearted
  • kind
  • upright
  • Jessica
  • Portia
  • Portia
  • Who She is
  • The heroine of this play, Portia is a wealthy and beautiful woman who is desired by many, so much so that her father has devised an ingenious test all suitors must perform to win her hand in marriage This consists of a suitor choosing one of three chests in which her portrait lies.
  • What She does and what happens to Her
  • Far from being merely beautiful, Portia also possesses a sharp mind, one, which saves Antonio from doom at the hands of Shylock.
  • Key Words:
  • Keen-witted
  • intelligent
  • brave
  • merciful
  • well-educated

Quick-witted, wealthy, and beautiful, Portia embodies the virtues that are typical of Shakespeare’s heroines—it is no surprise that she emerges as the antidote解毒药 to Shylock’s malice恶意.

  • Quick-witted, wealthy, and beautiful, Portia embodies the virtues that are typical of Shakespeare’s heroines—it is no surprise that she emerges as the antidote解毒药 to Shylock’s malice恶意.
  • At the beginning of the play,she is a near prisoner, feeling herself absolutely bound to follow her father’s dying wishes. This opening appearance, however, proves to be a revealing introduction to Portia, who emerges as that rarest of combinations—a free spirit who abides rigidly by rules.

In her defeat of Shylock Portia prevails获胜 by applying a more rigid刚硬的 standard than Shylock himself, agreeing that his contract very much entitles him to his pound of flesh, but adding that it does not allow for any loss of blood.

  • In her defeat of Shylock Portia prevails获胜 by applying a more rigid刚硬的 standard than Shylock himself, agreeing that his contract very much entitles him to his pound of flesh, but adding that it does not allow for any loss of blood.
  • Anybody can break the rules, but Portia’s effectiveness comes from her ability to make the law work for her.

Portia rejects the stuffiness that rigid adherence to the law might otherwise suggest.

  • Portia rejects the stuffiness that rigid adherence to the law might otherwise suggest.
  • In her courtroom appearance, she vigorously applies the law, but still flouts藐视 convention by appearing disguised as a man.
  • After depriving Bassanio of his ring, she stops the trick before it goes too far, but still takes it far enough to berate Bassanio and Gratiano for their callousness无情.

As many people have pointed out that Portia seems like an extremely merciful person , both in the court scene and in her treatment of her suitors.

  • As many people have pointed out that Portia seems like an extremely merciful person , both in the court scene and in her treatment of her suitors.
  • Portia, one of the play’s leading characters, is functioning as a mere mouthpiece(代言人)in the play’s climactic(高潮的) scene. She speaks words of a character who never even appears.
  • Nerissa
  • Who is She
  • Portia's waiting-maid.
  • What She does and what happens to her
  • She tends to Portia and also helps Portia save Antonio's life. She later marries Bassanio's friend Gratiano.
  • The prince of Morocco
  • What He does and what happens to Him?
  • He chooses the gold casket, which is the wrong one and loses the right to marry Portia.
  • Who He is?
  • He’s one of Portia's suitors.
  • Launcelot Gobbo
  • Who He is
  • A clown and servant to Shylock.
  • What He does and what happens to Him
  • He aids in the escape of Jessica from Shylock and works for Bassanio.
  • The prince of Arragon
  • Who He is
  • As one of Portia's suitors.
  • What He does and what happens to He
  • This suitor also fails to win the fair Portia's hand in marriage when he incorrectly chooses the silver casket.
  • "If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?". – (Act III, scene I).
  • "The devil can cite scripture for his purpose". -(Act I, sce. III).
  • "I like not fair terms and a villain's mind". - (Act I, scene III)
  • I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, A stage, where every man must play a part; And mine a sad one. (Act i. scene. 1.)
  • Superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer. (Act i. sce. 2. )
  • I dote on his very absence. (Act i. scene. 2.)
  • The devil can cite scripture for his purpose. (Act i. sce. 3.)
  • Mislike me not for my complexion, The shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun. (Act ii. scene. 1. )
  • It is a wise father that knows his own child. (Act ii. sce. 2.)
  • In the twinkling of an eye. ( Act ii. scene. 2. )
  • But love is blind, and lovers cannot see The pretty follies that themselves commit. (Act ii. sce. 6.) 
  • All that glisters is not gold. (Act ii.)
  • Shakespeare’s four comedies  
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • As you like it
  • Twelfth Night
  • The merchant of Venice
  • The four misers in literature
  •   Harpagon (French Moliere The Miser)
  •   Grandet(French Balzac  Eugenie Grandet )
  •   Plyushkin (Russian Gogol Dead souls)
  •   Shylock (English Shakespears The merchant of Venice)
  • friends
  • Bassanio
  • Gratiano
  • nerissa
  • Duke
  • judge
  • judge
  • accuser
  • Shylock 
  • lawyer
  • Potia
  • Potia
  • Lawyer
  •   被  告  
  •    Antonio
  •   defendant  
  • a pound of flesh
  • A contentious case
  • 1、What’s the story about?
  • 2、Who are the people involved in the conflict?
  • 3、What’s the conflict of the two sides?
  • The first half:Shylock intended to revenge and punish Antonio .
  • ( Shylock’s play)
  • The second half:Potia intellegently defended Shylock and won the case.
  • (Potia’s play)
  • kind
  • friendship
  • mercy
  • contrast
  • greedy
  • cruel
  • cunning
  • 1、In the first half of the debate,what’s the attitudes of the accuser and the defendant?What’s their personalities?What’s the rhetorical device used here?
  • “a pound of flesh”due bill
  • Antonio
  •  Shylock
  • concede
  • insist
  • Ask for mercy
  • Triple payback
  • Ask for doctor
  • Concede
  • 3times
  • Refuse 3times
  • Potia
  • Shylock
  • Must cut,law permission,verdict of the court
  • Threaten the life of the citizen,confiscate property, lose the suit
  • Play hard to get
  • 1、The battle between Potia and Shylock can be devided into two rounds.
  • 2、The two rounds of debate can be devided into three parts.
  • 3、In what way did Potia won?
  • conversion
  • suspence
  • Ups and downs
  • 4.From the two rounds of debate,what’s the feeling impacting on the audience?
  • vengeful 
  • Money-oriented
  • Callous&cunning     
  • intellegent
  • kind
  • courageous
  • Shylock
  • Cut a pound of flesh
  • Potia
  • lose
  • win
  • contrast 
  • What’s the personalities of them?What’s the rhetorical device used here?
  • Theme
  • In the play Shakespeare praises friendship, love and the wisdom of kind people. It is a story of friendship and love versus greed and money; good versus evil; Love and money versus religions; the law was used justly. This is the humanism during the Renaissance.

Commentary

  • The Merchant of Venice is classified as a comedy in the first folio but the play is more remembered for its dramatic scenes, and it is best known for the character of Shylock.
  • We consider the Merchant of Venice one of the best Shakespearean plays, because through the character Shakespear represents many features of the English society, such as friendship, love and racism. So we recommend this play to those who want to know more about key issues in the English Renaissance society, which are also extremely up-to-date.
  • Shylock
  • Symbolism
  • Imagery
  • Allegory

  • Shylock asked for a pound of Antonio’s flesh as a guarantee for Bassanio’s debt, which is definitely too unusual to not be symbolic. There’s a bunch of different ways to interpret why on earth Shylock would want a pound of flesh, and why Antonio would be into giving it up.
  • A pound of flesh

It emerges most as a metaphor for two of the plays closest relationships, but also calls attention to shylock’s inflexible adherence to the law.

  • It emerges most as a metaphor for two of the plays closest relationships, but also calls attention to shylock’s inflexible adherence to the law.
  • The fact that Bassanio’s debt is to be paid with Antonio’s flesh is significant, showing that their friendship is so binding that it had made them almost one.

Shylock’s determination is strengthened by Jessica’s departure as if he were seeking recompense for the loss of his own flesh and blood by collecting it from his enemy.

  • Shylock’s determination is strengthened by Jessica’s departure as if he were seeking recompense for the loss of his own flesh and blood by collecting it from his enemy.
  • lastly, the pound of flesh is a constant reminder of the rigidity of shylock’s world, where numerical calculations are used to evaluate even the most serious of situations. shylock never explicitly(明确的) demands that Antonio to die , but asks instead in his numerical mind for a pound in exchange for his 3000 ducats(达卡银币).Where the other characters measure their emotions with long metaphors and words, shylock measures everything in far more prosaic(无聊的) and numerical quantities.
  • Early on, there’s some brouhaha(躁动) about the fact that Christians will eat the flesh of anything. On the other hand, Shylock, as he is Jewish, will not eat pork. Though he says Antonio’s flesh isn’t worth as much as beef or mutton, there’s still a sense of some secret delight he might get from taking this forbidden flesh.

Another controversial interpretation hinges on the religious significance of the pound of flesh. Gareth Armstrong’s 2005 interpretation of The Merchant of Venice, called “Shylock,” according to the Freudian(弗洛伊德) interpretation, hinges on the penis(阴茎). The thought here is that the taking of a pound of flesh is Shylock’s own iteration of the Jewish ritual(宗教) of circumcision(净化), or the cutting of the foreskin(包皮) from the penis. Shylock can’t get Antonio to come around to Judaism by proselytizing(劝诱改宗), so he has Antonio lose flesh and thus become more like a Jew.

  • Another controversial interpretation hinges on the religious significance of the pound of flesh. Gareth Armstrong’s 2005 interpretation of The Merchant of Venice, called “Shylock,” according to the Freudian(弗洛伊德) interpretation, hinges on the penis(阴茎). The thought here is that the taking of a pound of flesh is Shylock’s own iteration of the Jewish ritual(宗教) of circumcision(净化), or the cutting of the foreskin(包皮) from the penis. Shylock can’t get Antonio to come around to Judaism by proselytizing(劝诱改宗), so he has Antonio lose flesh and thus become more like a Jew.

Venice & Belmont

  • Venice, as in Shakespeare’s time, is the city of commerce where wealth flows in and out with each visiting ship. Venice is also a cosmopolitan (世界性)city at the frontier of Christendom(基督教世界), society in Venice is a predominantly(支配的) male world.
  • Belmont, on the other hand, is the home of Portia and her mysterious caskets, it is a place of romance and festivity. Belmont is idealized “green world” that is removed from the ruthlessness(无情的) of the real world, unlike Venice, it is controlled by women.

One of the play’s most obvious symbols are the three caskets of gold, silver, and lead. This gimmick of choosing a casket to choose a suitor was an old folktale, and Shakespeare likely took it from the medieval Gesta Romanorum(中世纪拉丁文献,以短小故事的形式讲述了罗马时代的风俗和传奇) which had been translated into English in 1577.

  • One of the play’s most obvious symbols are the three caskets of gold, silver, and lead. This gimmick of choosing a casket to choose a suitor was an old folktale, and Shakespeare likely took it from the medieval Gesta Romanorum(中世纪拉丁文献,以短小故事的形式讲述了罗马时代的风俗和传奇) which had been translated into English in 1577.
  • gold,silver and lead caskets

In the play, Portia’s father left behind three caskets to symbolize three different kinds of love. There’s also some serious paternalism(家长式制度) caught up in the game – Portia must marry whomever chooses the correct casket, regardless of her own feelings or preferences. It points out that Portia’s father was a wise man – his game is likely carefully devised so that only one who truly loves Portia can have her. Unlike many other challenges in the play, the casket game relies on nothing but merit for judgment. Every man – regardless of race, creed, or country – has a shot at her hand. The suitors’ own wisdom, and not any prejudice against them, will decide their fate

  • In the play, Portia’s father left behind three caskets to symbolize three different kinds of love. There’s also some serious paternalism(家长式制度) caught up in the game – Portia must marry whomever chooses the correct casket, regardless of her own feelings or preferences. It points out that Portia’s father was a wise man – his game is likely carefully devised so that only one who truly loves Portia can have her. Unlike many other challenges in the play, the casket game relies on nothing but merit for judgment. Every man – regardless of race, creed, or country – has a shot at her hand. The suitors’ own wisdom, and not any prejudice against them, will decide their fate

The Prince of Morocco chooses the gold chest. He reasons he wants Portia, to him, love, as represented by gold, is not about the contents of the casket but its outer appearance as a coveted thing of value. This love symbolically runs no deeper than a surface level, and so Portia’s father wouldn’t have so perfunctory and material a man win his daughter.

  • The Prince of Morocco chooses the gold chest. He reasons he wants Portia, to him, love, as represented by gold, is not about the contents of the casket but its outer appearance as a coveted thing of value. This love symbolically runs no deeper than a surface level, and so Portia’s father wouldn’t have so perfunctory and material a man win his daughter.
  • The Prince of Arragon is undone by the silver chest, as he reasons he is as deserving as any man. Unfortunately, he is not.

Bassanio is the one who chooses the right casket, finally. He dismisses gold because appearances are often deceiving, and he dismisses silver because it is so base and material a metal that it is used as common currency in coins. Neither of these uses reek of love to him. His choice of lead is very symbolic: it is probably how he imagines himself, as he has less ornamentation to offer than the other suitors. Still, it’s the script that seems to move him –he’s willing to twice risk what he’s lost as a means to getting it all back. He’s rewarded for this because it seems Portia’s father believes that true love is about being able to risk it all.

  • Bassanio is the one who chooses the right casket, finally. He dismisses gold because appearances are often deceiving, and he dismisses silver because it is so base and material a metal that it is used as common currency in coins. Neither of these uses reek of love to him. His choice of lead is very symbolic: it is probably how he imagines himself, as he has less ornamentation to offer than the other suitors. Still, it’s the script that seems to move him –he’s willing to twice risk what he’s lost as a means to getting it all back. He’s rewarded for this because it seems Portia’s father believes that true love is about being able to risk it all.

Characteristics

  • Characteristics
  • Humanism
  • Art
  • Science
  • Religion
  • Self-awareness

Humanism

  • In some ways Humanism was not a philosophy per se, but rather a method of learning. In contrast to the medieval scholastic mode, which focused on resolving contradictions between authors, humanists would study ancient texts in the original, and appraise them through a combination of reasoning and empirical evidence. Humanist education was based on the programme of 'Studia Humanitatis', that being the study of five humanities: poetry, grammar, history, moral philosophy and rhetoric. Although historians have sometimes struggled to define humanism precisely, most have settled on "a middle of the road definition... the movement to recover, interpret, and assimilate the language, literature, learning and values of ancient Greece and Rome". Above all, humanists asserted "the genius of man ... the unique and extraordinary ability of the human mind."

Art

  • One of the distinguishing features of Renaissance art was its development of highly realistic linear perspective. Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) is credited with first treating a painting as a window into space, but it was not until the demonstrations of architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446) and the subsequent writings of Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) that perspective was formalized as an artistic technique. The development of perspective was part of a wider trend towards realism in the arts. To that end, painters also developed other techniques, studying light, shadow, and, famously in the case of Leonardo da Vinci, human anatomy. Underlying these changes in artistic method, was a renewed desire to depict the beauty of nature, and to unravel the axioms of aesthetics, with the works of Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael representing artistic pinnacles that were to be much imitated by other artists. Other notable artists include Sandro Botticelli, working for the Medici in Florence, Donatello another Florentine and Titian in Venice, among others.

Science

  • The upheavals occurring in the arts and humanities were mirrored by a dynamic period of change in the sciences. Some have seen this flurry of activity as a "scientific revolution", heralding the beginning of the modern age. Others have seen it merely as an acceleration of a continuous process stretching from the ancient world to the present day. Regardless, there is general agreement that the Renaissance saw significant changes in the way the universe was viewed and the methods with which philosophers sought to explain natural phenomena.

Science and art were very much intermingled in the early Renaissance, with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci making observational drawings of anatomy and nature. An exhaustive 2007 study by Fritjof Capra shows that Leonardo was a much greater scientist than previously thought, and not just an inventor. In science theory and in conducting actual science practice, Leonardo was innovative. He set up controlled experiments in water flow, medical dissection, and systematic study of movement and aerodynamics; he devised principles of research method that for Capra classify him as “father of modern science”. In Capra's detailed assessment of many surviving manuscripts Leonardo's science is more in tune with holistic non-mechanistic and non-reductive approaches to science which are becoming popular today. Perhaps the most significant development of the era was not a specific discovery, but rather a process for discovery, the scientific method. This revolutionary new way of learning about the world focused on empirical evidence, the importance of mathematics, and discarding the Aristotelian "final cause" in favor of a mechanical philosophy. Early and influential proponents of these ideas included Copernicus and Galileo. In his 1991 survey of these developments, Charles Van Doren considers that the Copernican revolution really is the Galilean cartesian (René Descartes) revolution, on account of the nature of the courage and depth of change their work brought about.

  • Science and art were very much intermingled in the early Renaissance, with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci making observational drawings of anatomy and nature. An exhaustive 2007 study by Fritjof Capra shows that Leonardo was a much greater scientist than previously thought, and not just an inventor. In science theory and in conducting actual science practice, Leonardo was innovative. He set up controlled experiments in water flow, medical dissection, and systematic study of movement and aerodynamics; he devised principles of research method that for Capra classify him as “father of modern science”. In Capra's detailed assessment of many surviving manuscripts Leonardo's science is more in tune with holistic non-mechanistic and non-reductive approaches to science which are becoming popular today. Perhaps the most significant development of the era was not a specific discovery, but rather a process for discovery, the scientific method. This revolutionary new way of learning about the world focused on empirical evidence, the importance of mathematics, and discarding the Aristotelian "final cause" in favor of a mechanical philosophy. Early and influential proponents of these ideas included Copernicus and Galileo. In his 1991 survey of these developments, Charles Van Doren considers that the Copernican revolution really is the Galilean cartesian (René Descartes) revolution, on account of the nature of the courage and depth of change their work brought about.
  • The new scientific method led to great contributions in the fields of astronomy, physics, biology, and anatomy. With the publication of Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica, a new confidence was placed in the role of dissection, observation, and a mechanistic view of anatomy.

Religion

  • The new ideals of humanism, although more secular in some aspects, developed against a Christian backdrop, especially in the Northern Renaissance. Indeed, much (if not most) of the new art was commissioned by or in dedication to the Church.However, the Renaissance had a profound effect on contemporary theology, particularly in the way people perceived the relationship between man and God. Many of the period's foremost theologians were followers of the humanist method, including Erasmus, Zwingli, Thomas More, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.

The Renaissance began in times of religious turmoil. The late Middle Ages saw a period of political intrigue surrounding the Papacy, culminating in the Western Schism, in which three men simultaneously claimed to be true Bishop of Rome. While the schism was resolved by the Council of Constance (1414), the 15th century saw a resulting reform movement know as Conciliarism, which sought to limit the pope's power. Although the papacy eventually emerged supreme in ecclesiastical matters by the Fifth Council of the Lateran (1511), it was dogged by continued accusations of corruption, most famously in the person of Pope Alexander VI, who was accused variously of simony, nepotism and fathering four illegitimate children whilst Pope, whom he married off to gain more power.

  • The Renaissance began in times of religious turmoil. The late Middle Ages saw a period of political intrigue surrounding the Papacy, culminating in the Western Schism, in which three men simultaneously claimed to be true Bishop of Rome. While the schism was resolved by the Council of Constance (1414), the 15th century saw a resulting reform movement know as Conciliarism, which sought to limit the pope's power. Although the papacy eventually emerged supreme in ecclesiastical matters by the Fifth Council of the Lateran (1511), it was dogged by continued accusations of corruption, most famously in the person of Pope Alexander VI, who was accused variously of simony, nepotism and fathering four illegitimate children whilst Pope, whom he married off to gain more power.

Churchmen such as Erasmus and Luther proposed reform to the Church, often based on humanist textual criticism of the New Testament. Indeed, it was Luther who in October 1517 published the 95 Theses, challenging papal authority and criticizing its perceived corruption, particularly with regard to its sale of indulgences. The 95 Theses led to the Reformation, a break with the Roman Catholic Church that previously claimed hegemony in Western Europe. Humanism and the Renaissance therefore played a direct role in sparking the Reformation, as well as in many other contemporaneous religious debates and conflicts.

  • Churchmen such as Erasmus and Luther proposed reform to the Church, often based on humanist textual criticism of the New Testament. Indeed, it was Luther who in October 1517 published the 95 Theses, challenging papal authority and criticizing its perceived corruption, particularly with regard to its sale of indulgences. The 95 Theses led to the Reformation, a break with the Roman Catholic Church that previously claimed hegemony in Western Europe. Humanism and the Renaissance therefore played a direct role in sparking the Reformation, as well as in many other contemporaneous religious debates and conflicts.

Self-awareness

  • By the 15th century, writers, artists and architects in Italy were well aware of the transformations that were taking place and were using phrases like modi antichi (in the antique manner) or alle romana et alla antica (in the manner of the Romans and the ancients) to describe their work. The term la rinascita first appeared, however, in its broad sense in Giorgio Vasari's Vite de' più eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori Italiani (The Lives of the Artists, 1550, revised 1568). Vasari divides the age into three phases: the first phase contains Cimabue, Giotto, and Arnolfo di Cambio; the second phase contains Masaccio, Brunelleschi, and Donatello; the third centers on Leonardo da Vinci and culminates with Michelangelo. It was not just the growing awareness of classical antiquity that drove this development, according to Vasari, but also the growing desire to study and imitate nature.

Spread

  • In the 15th century, the Renaissance spread with great speed from its birthplace in Florence, first to the rest of Italy, and soon to the rest of Europe. The invention of the printing press allowed the rapid transmission of these new ideas. As it spread, its ideas diversified and changed, being adapted to local culture. In the 20th century, scholars began to break the Renaissance into regional and national movements.

England

  • In England, the Elizabethan era marked the beginning of the English Renaissance with the work of writers William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, and Edmund Spenser, as well as great artists, architects (such as Inigo Jones who introduced Italianate architecture to England), and composers such as Thomas Tallis, John Taverner, and William Byrd.

A Brief Comment on The Social Significance of “The Merchant of Venice”

Key Words: Social Significance Prejudice Hypocrisy Times

  • The Merchant of Venice is to unmask unreasoning prejudice against the Jews and to satirize the Christians' hypocrisy.

the social significance of this play in Shakespeare's times

  • At first, the paper expounds the friendship between Antonio and Bassanio.
  • Secondly, it sets forth Portia of great beauty, wit and loyalty
  • Finally, the paper points out the insatiable greed and brutality of Shylock

the social significance of this play in modern times

  • Firstly, the paper dissertates unreasoning prejudice against the Jews.
  • Secondly, the paper discourses upon the Christians' hypocrisy.
  • the paper expatiates on their false standards of friendship and love, and their cunning ways of pursuing worldliness
  • 1.1 To Praise the Friendship between Antonio and Bassanio.
  • The great friendship between Antonio and Bassanio becomes evident in the first act of the play when Antonio loans Bassanio a large sum of money. From Bassanio's words, we realize that this has taken place before
  • 1.2 To Idealize Portia of Great Beauty, Wit and Loyalty.
  • 1.3 To Expose the Insatiable Greed and Brutality of Shylock.
  • Shylock is a greedy and cruel miser. As a bloodthirsty bogeyman, Shylock is only interested in money
  • 2.1 To Unmask Unreasoning Prejudice against the Jews.
  • Through the above mentioned Shylock's famous impassioned plea in the middle of the Merchant of Venice, to allow us to see Shylock in a characteristically vulnerable position and to view him as a human being capable of feeling humanity, love and grieve more than greed, parsimony and blackness.
  • 2.2 To Satirize the Christians' Hypocrisy.
  • The traditional theme of the play shows that the character of Shylock seems, outwardly, to be a villain and that Antonio, who, outwardly, seems like a good Christian. The play, however, is much deeper than this. Shakespeare gives reasons for Shylock's actions—if they are acts of hatred, it is not unfounded hatred. Instead, it is clear that the Antonio has given Shylock ample reasons to seek revenge. Further, many of the Christian characters exhibit the same behaviors that they persecute Shylock for. Upon examination of Shylock's motives and the actions of the Christian in the play, it is not Shylock's Jewishness that is being criticized, but the hypocrisy shown by Christian characters.
  • 2.2.1 To Criticize Their False Standards of Friendship and Love.
  • The Christian characters in The Merchant of Venice assess their own worth and the worth of others according to faulty standards, believe that money and position are more important than friendship and love.
  • 2.2.2To Condemn Their Cunning Ways of Pursuing Worldliness.
  • The more odious hypocrisy of the Christians is their cunning ways of pursuing worldliness. In the trial scene,at first, the Duke tells Shylock that everyone expects him to give up the pound of flesh at the last minute, and furthermore, he wishes for him to show further mercy on Antonio. He asks Shylock

What is the subject of Shakespeare play “the Venetian merchant”?

  • This is a great irony and comedy. The script is the subject of praise love, friendship and love,
  • At the same time also reflects the business of early capitalism and the bourgeoisie sharks conflict between the performances of the authors of bourgeois society, money, Legal and religious issues such as the humanistic ideas. It plays an important literary achievement; this Shylock is the shape of the mercenary,


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