The Merchant Of Venice: A Justice Not Justified Essay, Research Paper
The Merchant of Venice was a comedy written by William Shakespeare. Antonio, a merchant of Venice was a venerable businessman. He was a wealthy man and offered his friends the loan of money, without interest. Antonio became bound to Shylock when he agreed for his good friend Bassanio to use him as security to borrow money from Shylock. Shylock was a Jewish usurer who lives in Venice. He believed in charging interest and hated Antonio who did not. Portia was a wealthy heiress who is confined by her father’s will of the caskets. She was the one whom Bassanio married after he chose the correct lead casket that contained her portrait. Shylock insisted on collecting a pound of Antonio?s flesh when Antonio was unable to repay the money he owed to Shylock through Bassanio. At the end of the play Shylock faced an extremely difficult time and he was not treated at all fairly.
The relationship between Antonio and Shylock had a lot to do why Shylock was so insistent on taking Antonio?s flesh. Shylock was a Jewish merchant who lived in a world where the Jewish religion was regarded as evil. The people of Venice including Antonio, had ridiculed him, they called him a dog, and spat on him, all this simply because he was a Jew. That gave Shylock a very good reason for hating Christians. He was considered an alien in Venice and yet had to abide by Venetian Law. He hated Antonio all the more because Antonio lent money out free of interest and it contrasted with Shylock?s way of lending money at high interest. Antonio was a well-respected merchant in Venice. Antonio became bound to Shylock when he acted as Bassanio?s surety to borrow a sum of three thousand ducats from Shylock. This set up a perfect opportunity for Shylock to get revenge on Antonio.
Antonio became bound to Shylock because his friend Bassanio needed to borrow money. Bassanio informed Antonio that he have spent his money too extravagantly and had accumulated quite a lot of debts. Bassanio had come up with a plan to pay off his obligations by marrying Portia. To do so he needed to borrow enough money in order act like a real nobleman and woo Portia properly. Unfortunately, all of Antonio’s money was tied up with his business ventures. Antonio, however, offered to act as surety for Bassanio. After some consideration, Shylock agreed to lend three thousand ducats for three months to Bassanio. ?I would be friends with you, and have your love.? Shylock said he would lend the money free on interest, ?Supply you present wants, and take no doit of usance for my moneys.? He offered to sign the bond ?in a merry sport? that if Antonio did not repay the bond when the time is up, Shylock demanded a pound of Antonio?s flesh from any part of his body Shylock chooses. Antonio thought that Shylock was joking about taking his flesh and was confident that his ships would return well before three months. In this way Shylock convinced Antonio that it was a good deal and set the setting of Shylock?s plan for revenge.
Shylock and Antonio ended up in the courtroom three months later fighting the case over Shylock?s claim on Antonio?s flesh. Unfortunately none of Antonio?s ships had come back to port and he could not repay the debt. Antonio was brought before the Duke to stand trial for failing to pay off his contract with Shylock. The Duke was most upset about the penalty, a pound of Antonio’s flesh, but could not find any legal way to release Antonio from his bond. Shylock is called in and the Duke made a further plea for commiseration but Shylock remained obdurate. Shylock replied that he has already sworn by his Sabbath (holy Jewish day) that he would have his pound of flesh from Antonio. Shylock admitted that he could not give a clear reason of why he wanted Antonio?s flesh, he simple said, ?Can I give no reason, nor I will not.? It was simply because of his hatred for Antonio, ?More than a lodg?d hate and a certain loathing I bear Antonio,? that he would rather have the flesh that twice the money. The Duke asked Shylock how he expected to receive mercy if he would give none. Shylock answered that he had done nothing wrong, he was simply trying to collect what was rightfully his. He argued that if they denied him his right, it would show the uselessness of the Venetian law and would hurt the reputation of Venice as a city of international trade. Portia entered disguised as a young lawyer with a letter of recommendation from Doctor Bellario, a famous law doctor the Duke had asked for judgment for on the case. Portia began her case with a plea for mercy, she asked Shylock to take three times the original amount and relinquish the bond. Shylock ignored the plea like all the others before and insists on taking what he is qualified to by law. Portia asked if no one can pay the amount but since Shylock refused it in favor of taking the flesh, there was nothing she could do about it. ?There is no power in Venice can alter a decree established.? Portia animadverted that therefore she must side with Shylock. Portia ordained that Shylock had the right to claim a pound of flesh from next to Antonio’s heart according to the bond. Antonio’s bosom was laid bare and Shylock got ready to cut. Portia asked Shylock if he could have a surgeon ready to stop the bleeding once he had taken his pound of flesh but Shylock replied, “I cannot find it.?Tis not in the bond.? Since it was not stated in the bond, he had no responsibility to do so. Just as Shylock was about to cut again, Portia judiciously defined a flaw in the exact wording of the bond. The bond only gave him permission take a pound of Antonio?s flesh but was not allowed to let Antonio shed a drop of blood. Shylock realized that if he still took the pound of flesh, he would be in trouble with the law because he took more than the bond stated. Shylock decided to take the money that Bassanio was still ready to offer but Portia would not allow it. She insisted that Shylock could only have what he had demanded; since he refused the chance she had given him before to take the money. ?The Jew shall have all the justice; soft! No haste: he shall have anything but the penalty.? Shylock, unable to comply with the stipulation, tried to withdraw his case. Portia forced Shylock to remain in the court. She stated that Venice had a further law stated that if any foreigner tried to kill a Venetian directly or indirectly, the foreigner would be forced to forfeit all that he owns. Half of the property would go to the Venetian against whom he plotted, and the state will receive the other half. In addition, the life of the foreigner would be at the mercy of the Duke, who could decide to do whatever he sees fit. Duke pardoned Shylock before he begged for mercy but Shylock argued that since all his property would be taken away, he would rather be killed at once. ?Nay, take my life and all, pardon not that. / you take my house when you do take the prop / that doth sustain my house; you take my life / when you do take the means whereby I live.? Antonio intervened on Shylock’s behalf, and asked the Duke to allow Shylock to keep half of his wealth. He asked to take care of the half he was bequeathed in a trust and keep it as a form of inheritance for Jessica and Lorenzo, Shylock?s daughter and the man she ran of with. However, Antonio requested that Shylock had to convert to a Christian and all that he owned had to go to Jessica and Lorenzo after his death. Shylock could do nothing but accept the terms. Shylock received more that he deserved.
Shylock was not treated fairly. Although he wanted Antonio?s life, it could be justified in a way because Antonio and many other Christians did him wrong many times in the past. He deserved to be forced to forfeit all he had but he should not have been compelled to become a Christian. A person no matter what kind of person he or she should not be forced to believe in a religion they hated so much. The sentence was too harsh and the entire Venetian law as discriminatory against the Jews.