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The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Race

In The Merchant of Venice, Judaism and Christianity aren't just religions – they're constructed as racial (and even national) identities as well.  In its portrayal of a bloodthirsty Jewish m...

Wealth

Money is a very big deal in this play.  (Big surprise there, right?  The plot revolves around a Venetian merchant who can't repay a loan to a hated moneylender.)  In much of The Merc...

Friendship

"To you, Antonio, / I owe the most, in money and in love" (1.1.4).  So says Bassanio as he prepares to court his future wife.  Like Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merchant of Venice is inte...

Marriage

These days we tend to associate marriage with romantic love, but in Shakespeare's day that wasn't necessarily the case.  Marriage is portrayed in several different ways in The Merchant of Veni...

Justice

Because Venice's economic stability depends on foreign businessmen like Shylock, the city has laws in place to protect their legal rights.  Although the law is on his side when the Jewish mone...

Love

Love in The Merchant of Venice comes in a variety of forms. There's love between family members, between friends, and of course, between lovers. Still, love is more notable for its absence than its...

Isolation

The Merchant of Venice is riddled with characters who feel a deep sense of isolation. The characters clash on a variety of levels, as they come from different backgrounds and life situations and ha...

Choices

In The Merchant of Venice characters must choose between lovers, friends, and family, personal comfort and societal norms. The explicit choices, like Portia's casket lottery, provide a frame for th...

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