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What differences are there between Venice and Belmont

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Venice is a non-fictional place and exists in Italy today. Belmont is a fictional place that is supposed to be about love and friendship. Venice is supposed to be about money and hard dealings. It’s is very much a male dominated place. In Elizabethan times women had no independence. Belmont has no romance up till the end of Scene 2, however there is a lot of marriage and money involved in Belmont. The marriage between Bassanio and Portia, I think is mainly about money. Bassanio does not love Portia straight away. When he goes to seek her hand in marriage he is mainly after her money even though she is very beautiful.

Venice is a city famous for its trade and its laws. In Act 2 Scene 1 Antonio talks about his ships and merchandise, He quotes about his ships ‘The Pageants of the sea’ and his merchandise ‘ my merchandise makes me not sad.’

Elizabethans (of the time) would not like Jews because they were thought of as being very greedy. They thought this because Jews were not allowed to have proper jobs. During Shakespeare’s time there was much fierce debate about the acceptability of lending money for interest. It was condemned by the Christian Church and many people considered that, whereas making money through trade was virtuous, people thought usury was immoral because it allowed people to make money without working for it. Usury was the only thing Jews could do.

For this reason Jews were disliked. Shylock is the stereotypical Jew for an Elizabethan in that, he is a usurer, an abusive parent, violent, legalistic, bitter, unsociable and greedy. In spite of all these faults, though, one cannot help feeling some sympathy for him. Shylock is into his money-lending by legal restrictions on Jewish professions, he remains highly intelligent and capable of great eloquence, as in this passionate complaint against Antonio’s abuses:

He hath … laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew.

Hath not a few eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, sense, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christians? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?

A modern audience would find the mocking of Shylock quite harsh. A modern day would sympathize more with Shylock than an Elizabethan audience.

When Shylock makes a comment about Antonio, “I hate him for he is a Christian.” The Elizabethan audience would have booed. Nowadays, Shylock would probably be depicted as a more rounded character. The audience would also have been quite happy to accept discrimination against black men like Morocco. When Morocco chooses the wrong casket in Act 2, Scene 8, lines 79-81 Portia says,

“A gentle riddance. Draw the curtains; go.

Let all of his complexion choose me so.”

The casket test takes place in Belmont and is about marriage but is not really about love. I think that it is more about money than love. In the casket test Portia’s dead wise dead father controls whom she marries even though he is dead so that the wrong person does not marry his daughter. He makes sure that she does not marry someone who is only interested in money and full of themselves. The casket test reflects her father’s wisdom in a society where marriage is about marriage and business. Portia is not free to select her own husband. Portia however does not incapable of choosing the right husband for herself as she is a very intelligent woman.

Most of the characters speak in blank verse especially for formal speech between important characters and when something important is being said. When we first meet Portia she seems to be inclined to obey her Father’s wishes even though he is dead. She would like to choose a husband but is prevented from doing so because the suitor who wishes to marry her has to pick the correct casket. (Act 2, Scene 7) Portia says,

“Go, draw aside the curtains and discover

The several caskets to this noble prince. …”

In this play Shakespeare makes Portia look a clever, intelligent, scheming women. An Elizabethan audience would not have expected a woman to outwit men.

At the beginning of the play, Portia does what her father tells her to do. This would have been normal at this time. But by the end she gets the better of everyone and is superior. At Belmont the characters use flowery language to describe their love for each other. Portia uses very unflattering language to describe the men she doesn’t want to marry. In Act 1, Scene 2 she describes the Neapolitan prince as a “colt,” the Duke of Saxony’s nephew as a “sponge,” and Falconbridge as a “dumb-show.”

In Act1 Scene 2 Portia offers herself to Bassanio and is dramatic. Portia is a very strong character in the play and still remains dominant and takes charge. In the trial, Portia has to dress like a man to save Antonio, as Venice was very male dominated Elizabethan society. In important part in the trial is when Portia makes her speech about justice and mercy. Act 4 Scene 1.

‘The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

That, in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much

To mitigate the justice of thy plea;

Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice

Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.’

Shylock still does not change his mind.

When she is at Venice, portia is portrayed as a very clever woman who is in control of the events. She uses the law to bring about mercy for Antonio. In Act 4, Scene 1 Portia very cleverly turns the events in Antonio’s favour. In lines 195-204 Portia says,

“Therefore, Jew,

Though justice be thy plea, consider this:

That in the course of justice none of us

Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy,

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much

To mitigate the justice of thy plea,

Which, if thou follow, this strict court of Venice

Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.”

Shakespeare challenges many ideas that were in practice in Elizabethan era. For example the convention, of the time, in which wealthy people had arranged marriages. He portrays Portia initially as a woman who wanted to find a husband and who obeyed her father’s wishes. In Act 1, Scene 2, lines 23-26 Portia says, “I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike, so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father.” Portia is clearly the most intelligent person in the play; this is typical of Shakespeare but unusual in those days.

Shakespeare intends to the show a difference between the law and actual justice. If the law had been carried out Antonio would have died because of losing his pound of flesh. Portia, however, uses the exact letter of the law to prevent his death.

In conclusion, I do not agree. Belmont is about marriage, not love. It is more about money. Venice is not all about hard dealings and money. It is also about love and the friendship between Bassanio and Antonio.

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