News By/Courtesy: Sneha Suresh | 01 Aug 2020 14:32pm IST


  • Who is the Merchant of Venice and why is he sad?
  • Why is it still relevant to today's world status?
  • How important is humanity ?

Merchant of Venice: A story of anger, revenge, and wit

Merchant of Venice is a play by the Bard himself tackling various themes of relevance in current times through the art of comedy, wit, emotion, and romance in the truest Shakespearean fashion there is.
Strong female leads that are imperative to the story, an antagonist you can’t help but sympathize with and jesters that fool their own blind fathers.

The story simplified without any spoilers is as follows:

Antonio is the merchant in Venice from our title. Knowing that his closest friend, Bassanio is in love with Portia of Belmonte and needs the money to court her, he decides to give him 3.000 ducats so they could marry. But there was a problem, Antonia wasn’t with money at the time. All his assets were at sea and were yet to return. But since Bassanio needed the money, he decides to borrow the money and uses his name as surety. Here we are introduced to Shylock, a Jewish usurer. Described as shrewd, and hates Antonio and intends to use this loan as an opportunity for revenge. The truth is Antonio has previously insulted Shylock for his high interest and for being a Jew. According to the deal made, Antonio will be bound to offer a pound of his flesh to Shylock if he fails to pay the 3000 ducats back in time.

At the same time, Portia's father decides that suitors, in order to win her hand in marriage, must do so in a game of chance and gamble away their entire life. For a condition was placed, if they were to choose wrong they were to live a life of celibacy and to never marry but if they chose right, they would win Portia and all her fortunes. Bassanio is one of the suitors willing to take that risk.

The climax of this play takes place in court. With Antonio failing to pay back the loan, Shylock takes him to Court to claim his pound of flesh.  We are left hearing strong and driven arguments from both sides and with a surprise appearance of a character in court the case is decided.

Though this play is nothing less than at least 4 centuries old there are two prominent prologues that are still heavily relevant to today’s times.
Shylock’s plea that “hath Jews not bleed if they are pricked...”  This speech will bring tears to one’s eyes. Even though the character is the main antagonist and wishes nothing but the worst for the main characters, the more you understand his backstory you understand his hatred stems for the years of disrespect and oppression his kind has had to face by the hands of the Christians of the town. The Bard in a poignant speech lists out how even though the only difference between the two men was the gods they believed, every other aspect of them was the same. A Jew would bleed if cut, a Jew would laugh if tickled, a Jew would die if poisoned. A very important and relevant matter now. The discrimination and hate and anger because of religion and caste are still very prominent in our society to date.

The other speech or rather sonnet that is famous from the Merchant of Venice is the quality of mercy by Portia. Where she eloquently talks about how important is it to show mercy and how it’s a blessing for both the giver and taker. And further compares the power of mercy and how one is treated well and liked more for it. But more than anything this sonnet appeals to one’s humanity and how important it is to never lose sight of it or let it be forgotten in the name of revenge or anything else for that matter.

A 4-century old book will still teach us lessons humans need to learn this date. Teach us loving each other regardless of our beliefs, reminding us of the power and need to never forget our humanity.
The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s best works that one must read at least once in their lifetime. It’s interesting, funny, witty, and educational all at the same time.

This article does not intend to hurt the sentiments of any individual, community, sect, or religion etcetera. This article is based purely on the author's personal opinion and views in the exercise of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(A) and other related laws being enforced in India for the time being.

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 02 Aug 2020 0:07am IST

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