Merchant of Venice Analysis
‘Merchant of Venice’ is one of the most celebrated comedies created by Shakespeare. A Shakespearean comedy is thought to be a romantic kind of comedy rather than a classical one. In a romantic comedy, imagination is given free play, and the rules of dramatic composition are often ruled out. The plot of the play, as it has been knitted, contains four stories that end happily at the junction where the cruel Shylock the Jew meets with his fate because of his ill intention and greediness. The play, as it is characterized, obtains the spirit of love, beauty, affinity, freedom, and sacrifice for others. The insertion of melodious music makes it a fairy tale rather than a real story.
The greed of wealth and money, sympathies for friends and love between the couples are the basic themes of the play, which also narrate the socioeconomic and cultural norms in the contemporary world. The relationship between Lorenzo and Jessica is an important episode of the play. It looks closely related to both the main stories of the play i.e. the bond-story as well as the casket story. Also, the domestic life of Shylock has been described with the help of these two minor characters of the comedy play, without which it looks hard to disclose how suspicious, miser and repressive he has been even towards her real daughter. And it is his high handedness that forces his daughter to revolt against his tyranny and runs away from the house along with gold and jewels which belong to Shylock.
Lorenzo is a close friend of both Bassanio and Antonio, and elopes with Jessica, daughter of Shylock, and adds miseries to the Jew’s life and accelerates his anger. Jessica is the daughter of a Jew merchant named Shylock and is in love with Lorenzo, a Christian. It is she who devises a scheme of elopement with her suitor at the night when Shylock is invited at dinner. She disguises herself as a boy to hide her identity for elopement. Also, she takes money and jewels with her while escaping from the four walls of her house where she has been confined because of the instructions of her father.
Jessica is the unique beauty of Venice. And there exists ample testimony in the drama to reveal her physical charms. Lorenzo too is very fond of him and his words for her are highly valuable to prove her fair; also she is a lady with captivating prettiness and purity of heart and soul. Lorenzo once describes her fairness in these lines:
“Beshrew me, but I love her heartily,
For she is wise, if I can judge her,
And fair she is, if my eyes be true;”
The play depicts socio-economics circumstances and cultural values prevailing in the England of Elizabethan time. The love affair between these two minor characters is one of the sub-plots of the play. Jessica, though attractive and charming, lacks the intelligence of mind. She seems to revolt against the religious and social norms and values because of her sheer love for her suitor Lorenzo. It is due to her immaturity and lack of sharpness that she cheats her own father and elopes with her lover putting aside all the limitations imposed on her by her father.
It is hard to agree with Lorenzo when he calls her wise. Actually, her behavior on different occasions proves her naïve, childish and simple. Also, she looks a bit fool while squandering away fourscore ducats in one single sitting. While making her comparison with Portia, the central figure of the play, she looks undutiful and also treacherous both towards her father and her race. Though her father has confined her into four walls, yet she must have acknowledged her obligation towards him. This is due to her immaturity that she takes a quick decision of elopement without consulting others or assessing the results of her haphazard decision.
In the same way, she appears to be ready-witted and intelligent while devising a scheme of disguise and escaping the night when her father is out as well as the procession is passing away near her house. Also, she informed Lorenzo through the letter about all her plans and programs of going to Belmond. She very ready-witted demands a promise from her lover after elopement in Belmont on the occasion when he admires her true love for her penniless lover for whom she has stolen gold of her father, these words: “In such a night, Did young Lorenzo swear love her well, Stealing her souls with many vows of faith, And ne’er a true one.”(Lines 18-20).
The character of Jessica also describes the domestic life of the prevailing culture. It is a fact that the atmosphere of her house looks very pathetic and gloomy, and she seeks no pleasure in a confined life, yet her childish attitude and lack of wisdom cannot be ignored. All that is perhaps due to so many restrictions imposed on her that she is unable to judge the significance of money and the consequences of elopement and thus spent money extravagantly. Also, she appears to be more devoted to her lover than him. Her courage and loyalty are really appreciable when she guided herself to move towards Belmont. She also looks after Portia’s house happily along with her husband, in her absence when she has to go to Venice to plead Antonio’s case.
Shylock not only puts aside the moral values but also the religious teachings of Judaism too. He himself gives a way of elopement for he has no intention of getting her married. Secondly, Judaism states that God’s law has been made to make people happy and contented, but he tries to inflict highly painful revenge on Antonio. He does not accept even the double educates and remains focused on revenge by saying: My dee is upon my head! I crave the law, The penalty, and forfeit of my bond. (Lines 204-5). Further, the play refutes Christian teachings of forgiveness and confession as the Judge(Portia) refuses to give forgiveness to him when he seeks his own three thousand ducats.
The relationship between the two lovers reveals how they have to undergo so many restrictions and boundaries since the Jew girl cannot marry a Christian boy. Also, there are cultural taboos and marriage without the permission of the father was taboo and prohibited in the Shakespearean era. People look down upon such marriages in which parents are not participating. Not only religious restrictions but also socioeconomic status is vital and valid in making marital relationships. The play reveals how Shylock is displeased on finding Jessica in love with Lorenzo, who is not rich enough to be his equal in status. The period consisted of such characters who loved only pecuniary gains. Also, Shylock looks more offended by the loss of money than the elopement of his daughter. He cries:
“My daughter!—O my ducats!—O my daughter!
Fled with a Christian!—O my Christian ducats!”.
The Lorenzo-Jessica relationship refutes spiritual values since it is not liked to live with a lover without marriage.
Bibliography: Shakespeare, William, Merchant of Venice.