William Shakespeare 2



  Plays were always very interesting in the past, in the present time, and in the future. A person in this competitive world likes watching plays wherever he/she is. According to this, writers always did their best and still do so. One example of a great English writer who wrote in the 16th century in the world is Shakespeare.

In our project we are going to discuss one of Shakespeare’s plays which is The Merchant of Venice. We have chosen this play because it attracted our attention because it caused religious persecution for Shylock who was forced to change his religion from Jew to Christianity. This play represents the life of that time.

First of all, we are going to give a background about Shakespeare’s life. Then, we will give a summary about the play. After that, we will mention the characters of the play, time, place, and play type. Then we will discuss the topics of the play which are focusing on the main aims of the play [1]  . Analysis will be given before the conclusion.


Shakespeare's life (1564 – 1616 )[2]

Although we cannot know for certain, the house John Shakespeare owned on Henley Street is assumed to have been the family home in Stratford. The house, which still stands today, has become a popular tourist attraction, heralded as the place at which Mary Shakespeare gave birth to William and his siblings, and where Shakespeare spent his young life. Shakespeare's burial is recorded in the Stratford Parish Register as occurring on 25 April, 1616; he died on April 23.

The first teaching device Shakespeare would have used was the hornbook, a small wooden frame with a handle, rather like a hand mirror, but with the alphabet and the Lord's Prayer on a piece of parchment protected by a thin layer of horn. In a protestant education the instruction from the Bible and Prayer book would have been in English.

Although there is no clear evidence about the nature of Shakespeare's religious faith, the religious training of the Stratford community was Protestant. Under the recent Act of Uniformity, Shakespeare's religious education at school would therefore have centered upon the Homilies, the Geneva Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer, all of which were in English, and all of which stressed the teachings of the Church of England.


Summary of the Merchant of Venice

Bassanio loves a girl called Portia. Portia is a wealthy heiress and she is very beautiful. Her father gave her three boxes. The first box contains gold, the second contains silver, and the third contains lead. Of course, the one who chooses the third box will be her husband.

   Bassanio wants to marry Portia.  But before that, he wants to give her some money. He asks Antonio, his friend, to help him. Antonio is a merchant of Venice and he is very rich. Unfortunately, Antonio does not have cash but he is waiting for ships full of goods.

As a result, he asks Shylock, a Jewish moneylender to give a loan. Shylock agreed to give them a loan, but if he do not repay the loan in three months, he will cut a pound of Antonio’s flesh.

Antonio accepts the condition because he is sure that his ships which will arrive by three months. Bassanio and Portia get marred after he chooses the right box.

   Unfortunately, all of Antonio’s ships are burnt in fire. Shylock comes to Antonio asking  him to repay the loan, but Antonio can not do so. Portia offers Shylock gold but he refuses. Then Shylock goes to the court asking for a pound of flesh. Portia and her servant Nerissa disguise themselves as men. Nerissa dresses like a law clerk and Portia like Bellario.

   After that, Belloria asks Shylock to take a pound of flesh without blood coming out from Antonio’s body. Shylock’s situation becomes weaker. Belloria accuses him of planning to kill Antonio. Consequently, Shylock loses half of his fortune. And also he must change his religion into Christianity.



Duke of Venice: Ruler who sits as the judge in the trial of Antonio, the merchant of Venice.
Antonio: A merchant of Venice who borrows money from Shylock on behalf of his friend Bassanio. Antonio agrees to pay a pound of flesh if he defaults on the loan. 
Shylock: Wealthy Jewish moneylender who seeks revenge for ill treatment by Christians. Because he is a tragic figure–and the most compelling character in the play–the drama takes on overtones of tragedy. 
: Wealthy heiress wooed by many suitors.

Bassanio: Friend of Antonio who loves Portia. 
Prince of Morocco, Prince of Arragon: Suitors of Portia. 
 Jessica: Shylock's daughter. 

Minor Characters: Magnificoes of Venice, officers of the Court of Justice, gaoler (jailer), servants of Portia, attendants.  

Salanio, Salarino, Gratiano, Salerio: Friends of Antonio and Bassanio. 


Type of Play [4]:

Although the play is considered a comedy, it is probably better categorized as a tragicomedy (a play with both comic and tragic elements). As a comedy, the play focuses on Christians whose problems have a happy resolution. As a tragedy, the play focuses on the downfall of a Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who is forced at the end to become a Christian and to forfeit property. He leaves the stage a broken man.

The setting s [5] : Venice and Belmont

Shakespeare makes use of two distinct settings for The Merchant of Venice. 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 city at the frontier of Christendom, beyond according to Christians which lies Asia, Africa, the Ottoman Empire the rest of the world? Society in Venice is a predominantly male world, where the single female, Jessica, is locked up in her house, and can only escape in disguise as a male.

Belmont, on the other hand, is the home of Portia. It is a place of romance and festivity to which the victorious Christians retire at the end of the play.


1- Friend requires sacrifice. Friend must help his friend in difficult situations. Some friends are closer than brothers, because we tell them secrets that don't tell our brothers. Sometimes friend is forced to scarify for his friend. You can know your true friend in this situation. A friend must forgive his friend in all times, even if he commits a mistake. The real friend must be patient about his friend.

2- Appearances are deceiving. Many people choose their friends by appearances. Appearances are not important thing in your friend. The important thing is the morals, and how faithful he is. May be you like your friend and you don't think he is bad friend, but if you are in difficult situation want his help, he will leave you and doesn't think about you. Real friend will stand with you and join you in happy and sad times.

3- Revenge ultimately destroys its perpetrator. Shylock seeks revenge against his enemies, but it is he who suffer the downfall after Christians unit to trick him. Perhaps would have had more success if he had persuade justice instead of revenge. From that we shouldn't think of revenge first. Revenge is a bad way to treat with our enemies. May be there is a way to convert an enemy to a friend like forgiveness.

4- Jews suffer bigotry and other forms of mistreatment because of their religion and race. Christians alienate Shylock simply because he is a Jew. In ancient, medieval, and Renaissance times, Jews almost always encountered prejudice from non-Jews around them. Scholars are divided on whether Shakespeare, in The Merchant of Venice, was attempting condemn anti-Semitism by sympathizing with Shylock or approve of anti-Semitism ridiculing Shylock. It may well be Shakespeare was simply holding a mirror to civilization to allow audiences to draw their own conclusions. This issue will take us to talk about Anti-Semitism.


Analysis of the Merchant of Venice

Merchant of Venice is scrutinizing each of the characters, to see if they are suited to marry Portia. It is giving us the message that outside appearances are worthless. We find out that the person, who does not regard the outside appearances as an important aspect, gets what they aim for. And also is always the winner in this life.

We have been reading Shakespeare’s: The Merchant of Venice. In this essay, we are going to include what we have learnt about the three characters, Prince of Morocco, Prince of Arragon and Bassanio. We learnt a lot about the characters by their choice of the casket (box). Each casket expresses certain characteristics in a person.

In act 2, scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice we learn a little bit more about each Prince. The Prince of Morocco enters the scene by coming to ask for Portia’s hand in marriage, in order to do so, he is asked to choose the correct casket. He will know if it is correct because it will contain a picture of Portia inside it. If he chooses the wrong casket, he will never be permitted to seek another woman’s hand in marriage.

As soon as The Prince saw the caskets, he immediately dismissed the lead one.

‘’ This third, dull, lead, with warning all as blunt. [6]‘’

From this quote, we learn that his viewpoint of life can be described as shallow, as he lacks emotional depth. We get the impression that he is not serious and he does not think of life in the right way. We also learn that he is proud of himself and does not give the respect that is due, to things with a low status, such as lead. He also mentions that men who decided to risk choosing a casket are only doing it in order to get money. His basic point here is that he is not a gambler and is not prepared to take a risk for a fair advantage. Another reason why he refused to choose the lead casket is that he believes that lead is an impure metal

‘’ In golden mind stoops not to shows dross; I’ll then nor give nor hazard ought for lead.’’[7] This quote justifies our point of Morocco being an ignorant man.

He decides not to risk choosing the lead casket. So his choice is only with the silver and the gold. By reading the quote, we believe at this stage that his mind is set to choose gold.

He then starts to look at the silver casket.

‘’ Who chooses me shall gain as much as he deserves.’[8] He reads this and then begins to think of what he deserves and his values. He begins to wonder if he actually deserves the woman.

‘’ Pay not extend so far as to the lady.’[9] At this part of the speech, we learn that he is confused about what he is doing and if his deserving and values are high enough to marry Portia. He finally reaches the stage of convincing himself that he deserves Poria’s love

‘’ What if I had strayed no further on and to choose this casket but then decide to see the gold casket once again’[10]. We learn so far that the Prince of Morocco does not appreciate being put in a position to take a risk, and he believes that lead and silver are cheap to be chosen by him.

He now moves on, and begins to look at the gold casket.

‘’ Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.[11]’’

By reading this, the Prince of Morocco immediately agrees with it.

‘’ Why that the ladies all the world desire her.[12]’’

Morocco believes that Portia is what all the men desire, he has been fooled by the exterior appearance of the golden casket, as it is much more attractive than the lead or the silver.

‘’ Never so rich a gem was set in worse than gold.[13]’’

After all his consideration, he decides that choosing the golden casket would be the best option. This tells us that he has been led along with his shallow thoughts and is now taking things a step further and following deceiving judgments.

We know very well that the prince of morocco does not like to take any risks in the game of love or anything else. He believes that his love for Portia is worth much more than something to take a gamble over.

Before he opens or looks at any of the caskets, he prays for luck from God. This tells us that he is considerably religious person who follows a religion faithfully.

From act 2, scene 9 we learn that the Prince of Aragon is the second person to come and choose a casket, he is from the region of Spain. Taking into consideration that Spain was Britain’s greatest rival at the time this was written, the audiences attitudes towards Arragon are not going to be as fair as they should!

Just the way Morocco wished luck upon himself so did Arragon.

 ‘Fortune now to my hearts hope.’ From this quote, we can tell that he relies on luck. We also know that he is not confident enough to make a choice all by himself. In a way, it shows us that he lacks confidence.

The Prince of Arragon then begins to talk about the caskets.

‘’ Gold, silver and lead.[14]’’

The lead casket is being dismissed straight away. He does not like the appearance of lead. He thinks of himself as much higher than ‘base’ lead. This immediate dismissal shows us that Arragons is a character who reflects Morocco’s behaviour in a certain way, because his shallowness is the same.

He then moves on to look at the golden casket. After reading the inscription, his response is extremely negative.‘’ What many men desire! That many may mean by the fool multitude, that chose by show.[15]’’

The audience may feel intimidated by Arragons words. They are considered the fool multitude by Arragon.

We are told that only fools make their choices by appearances. He is indirectly calling Morocco a fool! He decides not to choose the gold casket and so he moves on to see the silver casket. He reads the engraved message and concurs with it straightaway!

‘’ And well said too; for who shall go about to cogon fortune.[16]’’

Arragon made it seem like there was only one reason why he chose the silver casket. It seemed as though he ruled out the gold and the lead for the reasons that he did, and he was only left with the silver. This is why it seems like a choice that was made with no solid reason, simply because of the fact that the other two did not seem like the right ones to pick.

When he actually opens the casket, he sees a fool staring back at him.

‘’ What here? The portrait of a blinking idiot.[17]’’

So far, in this scene, the Prince of Arragon has been arrogant. He only considers himself right and sees everybody else as a fool to choose any other casket. This is called irony. When he actually opened the casket, he is being told in a humiliating way that he is the only fool!

After being so humiliated, he tried to change the whole situation by saying that the portrait is nothing like Portia.

‘’ How much unlike art thou Portia.[18]’’

I can also tell that Arragon does not want to b told that he is wrong. He likes to blame everybody, apart from himself.

Finally, he admits that he was a fool and he is now going home as an even bigger fool!

In act 3, scene 2, we learn that Bassanio is the third and final competitor.

Bassanio begins to talk about things that have extremely attractive external beauty, and are not always, what they seem.

‘’ So many outward shows be least themselves. The world is still deceived with ornament.[19]’’

By reading this, we can tell that Bassanio’s decision will not b made on the outside appearance of the casket. The point which he made is very true because gold and silver are both extremely beautiful from the outside, but were not all that from the inside, infact they were a great disappointment!

Afterwards bassanio speaks about four different categories in life: law, religion, bravery and beauty.

We do learn that Bassanio is not the type of person who would make the decision of comparing the caskets to his standards of life. I admire him, as he makes his decision with an open mind.

His final decision is to open the lead casket.

‘’ And here choose I: Joy is the consequence.[20]’’

Shakespeare fakes 28 lines to dismiss the silver and gold casket. He explains to us that looks can be very deceiving, and even though the lead looked the worst out of the three, it actually turned out to be the best!

From what I have learnt, Shakespeare’s point is that you should never judge anything on its exterior. You should look at everything equally and never compare them to how high or how low your standards are. Everything holds the same value, but maybe in a different way.


Morocco chose the golden casket because he compared Portia to the gold, and finalised that nothing else could match her standard. He was also ignorant and unlike Bassanio, he did not look at things in a realistic, general way.

Arragon chose the silver casket because he was left choiceless! He did not intend to be shallow, but Morocco shares similar characteristics to him.


Bassanio chose the lead casket because he believed that things with a beauteous exterior could be deceiving, and he looked at things from a general point of view. He is a very practical person, and is highly admired by me for his extremely sensible choice! He came out to be the winner.


















•The meaning of anti-Semitism.

   The word "anti-Semitism" is inadequate. It is a misnomer. The word was coined in 1879 from the Greek words "anti", meaning "against" and "Semite", a descendant of Shem. The word was first used by Wilhelm Marr a German agiator, who created it to explain the current anti-Jewish campaigns in Europe. The word came into general use in the past hundred years and encompasses all forms of hostility manifested toward Jews throughout history.



•Was William Shakespeare an anti-Semite?

   One school of Shakespeare interpreters answers yes, resoundingly. Their primary evidence is his depiction of the Jewish moneylender shylock in the merchant of Venice as grasping, vengeful, and ethnically foul. Shakespeare's message: Jews are evil.

   However, close scrutiny of the play reveals that Shakespeare wrote it to condemn the moral and ethical values of errant Christians, not Jews. The Christian characters in The Merchant of Venice assess their own worth and the worth of others according to faulty standards, believing that money, position, and establishmentarian affiliations are the sum of a man or a woman. It is they who force shylock into money lending; it is they who seed his monomaniacal lust for revenge. To be sure, shylock exhibits monstrous behavior, but it is reactive behavior. He makes his living through usury because usury is the only way he can compete in Christian Venice; he accumulates wealth because he believes it undergirds his security and independence in a hostile Christian world.

   What Shakespeare thought about Jews is profoundly important to writers, teachers, actors, historians, social scientists, members of the clergy-indeed to every thinking human being- because of extraordinary influence literary legacy exerts on human thought and endeavor. No other writer of any age is more widely read; no other writer is argued over and written about. The popularity of Shakespeare films in recent times further aggrandizes his reputation while instilling uneasiness in those who believe he harbored prejudices that inflame anti-Semitism.




Now we have finished our project which is about the Merchant of Venice. We have included in this project, the background of Shakespeare's life, summary of the story, and description of characters .Also, we have included many topics and one theme which is about Anti-Semitism and finally we have analysed the Merchant of Venice.

  We have learnt some lessons from this project. For example, friendship requires sacrifice, like what Antonio did to his best friend  " Bassanio ". Another lesson is that appearances are deceiving. An example of this is what happened to prince of Morocco and other suitors, when they have chosen the gold casket





1-Bloom, Harold. Ed. Shylock. New York : Chelsea House Publishers, 1991
2-Charlton, H. B. Shakespeare's Jew. Manchester: The Manchester University Press, 1934; (Folcroft, Pa.: Folcroft Press, 1973.)
3-Gross, John. Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend. London: Chatto & Windus, 1992.
-Lelyveld, Toby. Shylock on the Stage. London: Routledge, 1961.
5-Shapiro, James. Shakespeare and the Jews. New York: Columbia UP, 1996.
6-Shatzmiller, Joseph. Shylock Reconsidered: Jews, Moneylending, and Medieval Society. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
7-Sinsheimer, Hermann. Shylock: The History of a Character. New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1947





[1]  The aims will be discussed on page 6

[2] -ise.Uvic.ca ( 26 /2 /2006 )

[3]- cummingsstudyguides.Net ( 27/2/2006)

[5]- ibid

[6] www.amazon.com by Assia K. ( 26/2/2206 )

[7]- ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[8] -ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[9]- ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[10]- ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[11] -ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[12]- ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[13]- ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[14]- ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[15] - ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[16] - ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[17] - ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[18] - ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[19] - ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[20] - ibid ( 26 / 2 / 2006 )

[21] - www.amazon/anti- Semitism /com (6/3/2006)


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