Merchant in Vernice Analysis
Stories and plays in literature are authored to communicate the author’s message about the community. The authors use conflict in advancing the story. According to Askarova et al. (53), conflict is a stylistic device characterized by lengthy struggle or friction between two opposing sides. Conflict provides tension within the story, thus motivating the reader to continue reading. The story in the form of the play Merchant of Venice involves numerous characters and themes that join the main body of the story. Two main themes are parallel in the play; love and justice. The two parallel themes at the beginning and the middle of the story collide when love between Portia and Bassanio leads them to intervene in a justice case involving their friend Antonio who was in a legal conflict with Shylock, the moneylender. The author of the play, William Shakespeare, effectively used the conflict stylistic device to advance the themes. One of the big conflicts shown in the Merchant of Venice is that law is supposed to help society and keep regulation, but the law can be used in biased and unfavorable forms.
The first conflict that the author wanted to show was between justice and favoritism. According to the play, the law allowed the people in the moneylending business, such as Shylock, to make personal commitments and oaths that would be presented in a court of law and justice in the event when the person receiving money fails to repay the money as required. It was a practice of justice to ensure that the members of the society stuck to their oaths and commitments. Bassanio asks his friend Antonio to lend him money for Belmont to meet his dream wife, Portia. Antonio commits with the moneylender, Shylock, in Venice and places his pound of flesh as the security on the event when he fails to return Shylock’s rented money. It is a law that oaths and commitments should be followed. Injustice follows when Portia, disguised as a judge, comes in to save Antonio, with a favoritism mind of saving Antonio. First, Portia was not a judge and broke the law for being an imposter. This first invalidate the judgment because the person who made the final judgment was not a judge in the court of law, was a friend to the defendant, and shows an already-made decision to save friend Antonio. Portia, disguised as a judge, asks Shylock to get his pound of flesh from Antonio without shading any drop of blood and not cutting less or more of a pound of flesh. She says, “Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh. Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more, but just a pound of flesh. If thou tak’st more Or less than a just pound, be it but so much, as makes it light or heavy in the substance, or the division of the twentieth part of one poor scruple (Shakespeare, 165). This shows that the judgment disfavored Shylock despite having the law on his side. This was a conflict between justice and favoritism in the court of law.
The conflict between law and favoritism can be interpreted otherwise as to the conflict between mercy or forgiveness and legal justice. Generous Antonio is merciful to his friend Bassanio and accepts to be bonded on money taken from Shylock, despite having a previous unpaid debt. Antonio tells Shylock that he does not give money at an interest, which is a sign of mercy, compared to Shylock, who gives loans at interest and goes to the extent of requiring a pound of flesh as the security, meaning lack of mercy and his intention to kill. Bassanio, discussing forgiveness with Shylock, says that, “Every offence is not a hate at first,” and in response, Shylock asks, “What, wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?” (Shakespeare, 145). Shylock is happy that Antonio’s argosies overseas failed, and without mercy and understanding, he presses for justice in taking the bond in the form of a pound of flesh. As Antonio tries to explain his failed business to Shylock, the moneylender is determined to take his pound of flesh. During the hearing, Shylock defies the plea to take three times the amount of money given to Bassanio bounded by Antonio and clings to his demands for the pound of flesh as the bond. This shows the hate and merciless nature of Shylock, who is representing the law, while Antonio is representing mercifulness and understanding instead of law. In the end, mercifulness and understanding win against law and justice, indicating that law should be guided by humanity and not bare law.
Shakespeare, through the play, displays the conflict between Christianity and Judaism. The two religious groups are shown to be in dissonance throughout the play, with each religious group professing hate against the other. Shylock, who is a Jew believing in Judaism, professes his hate for Antonio, not because of his character but because he is a Christian. Shylock says, “I hate him for he is a Christian … If I can catch him once upon the hip, I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him (Shakespeare, 29). Shylock calls Lorenzo a “prodigal Christian” for eloping with his daughter, Jessica. Shylock also tells Bassanio that they can do business, walk together but cannot “eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you” (Shakespeare, 29). The Christians in the play refer to Shylock as “The Jew,” indicating their personalized dislike for Judaism. Antonio, during the judgment, offers a condition to Shylock as a reprieve of the judgment to change to Christianity which was a punishment to the Jew. There is no Christian in the play supporting Shylock, not because they have social differences but due to religious differences. The power of religious differences enhances the factor of favoritism against Shylock in the court of law, denying justice to him and instead of punishing by dividing his wealth halfway and placing the inheritance on the shoulders of Lorenzo, the Christian who eloped with her daughter Jessica. This shows that there is hate and conflict between the Christians and Jews due to religious differences.