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Merchant of Venice: Law and Love

  • Date Submitted: 10/31/2010 10:22 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 55.5 
  • Words: 2254
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The Necessity of Choice:   Separation of Law and Love in The Merchant of Venice

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice illustrates two cities and a dichotomy surrounding them both.   Venice, a city of law, and Belmont, a city of love, are represented by the leading characters that reside in each as well as the events that unfold in Venice and Belmont; however, when the characters move between the two cities, the line blurs between law and love distorting both.   The drama yearns for the separation of the two themes, and it is when the characters are given the option of choice – to choose either law or love – they find themselves in the throes of their selection and in the city their choice represents; if the choices blur between the two cities, however, then chaos ensues.  
Opening in Venice, the drama begins its detrimental infusion of love into law by focusing on Antonio, a successful merchant and creditor.   Antonio professes his melancholy attitude, and though he claims the reason is unclear to him, Solanio correctly estimates Antonio is in love.   Solanio references Roman mythology in comparison to Antonio, and in so doing, he parallels the conflicting presence of love in Venice, a city of method and business.   Like Janus, the two-headed Roman god, Antonio symbolizes the paradoxical roles of the drama’s ideals which mask the certainty of the play’s outcome (I.i.50-51).   However, it is Antonio’s strong love for Bassanio that Antonio has become as strange a figure as Janus.   In true businesslike fashion, Antonio has lent money to Bassanio.   Despite their strong friendship, Bassanio desperately yearns to clear his debt, so he devises a plan.   It is this plan that becomes the catalyst for Antonio’s deep sadness, so Antonio expresses his hurt to Bassanio by claiming: “You know me well, and herein spend but time / To wind about my love with circumstance / And out of doubt, you do me more wrong” (I.i.153-55).   The strong emotions between these men drive doubt into...

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