Merchant of Venice Essay

Submitted By myem4
Words: 982
Pages: 4

Merchant of Venice Essay Mark Twain once said that “the very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” Throughout history, prejudice has been a major foundation of society, influencing the thoughts and actions of many generations. A society built upon prejudice and discrimination is a fragile and dissonant one. It cannot be harmonious when riddled with hate and intolerance as seen in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The copious inequalities in Venice divides groups of people based on superficial details and creates a discordant society from which no one benefits and where there are no winners. The hatred between different demographics, stemming from society’s perception of perfection and the want for superiority, causes dissension and confines them to closed minded ideas. It prevents people from the chance to be enriched with different perspectives and cultures. The deep rooted prejudice that precipitates the humiliation of Jews, the shaming of the dark skinned, and the objectification and degradation of women account for the incongruence. The society creates the norm of being Christian and persecuting Jews; other religious backgrounds being unacceptable. Shylock, a Jew, is spat upon and harassed openly based solely on the fact that he is not Christian. Antonio, an established merchant, calls him a “misbeliever, [a] cutthroat dog,” yet he is still look upon as a saint by his fellow Christians (Shakespeare 35). They accept, if not embrace, his violent behavior and the Anti- Semitic traditions of their time. Only Christians were considered upstanding and righteous people, proven by Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, for she “shall be saved by [her] husband,” since “he hath made [her] Christian” (133). A Jew cannot be considered virtuous or holy, rather as someone that will not receive salvation or entry into heaven; their only possible hope being conversion. Jessica accepts the standards of her society and willingly converts to Christianity, hoping to save her soul. This barrier, created by the Christians, is put in place to demonstrate superiority and dominance. However, with the humiliation if Jews, the Christians do not benefit or truly achieve holiness. They are merely losing credibility as honorable people in the eyes of God by putting those of a different religion down, for it goes against the fundamental principles of their religion. The ill treatment of Jews by the Christians creates a schism fueled by a mutual hatred between the two. While the strong Anti-Semitic beliefs prevail in Venice, their concept of beauty is highly distorted as well; basing one’s reception in society on the color of their skin. When Prince Morocco comes to court Portia, a wealthy, intelligent woman, and seek her hand in marriage, he tells her to “mislike [him] not for [his] complexion,” (43). By feeling the need to say this to improve his chances, Morocco reveals his fear that Portia will judge him on the color of his skin and, in turn, exposes the racism of the society. He further tries to justify his skin color as he tries to explain to Portia that his blood is as red as the palest man. In doing so Morocco further proves how paleness is revered while a dark skin tone is shamed. Furthermore, when Morocco chooses the wrong casket, Portia is relieved, praying that “all of his complexion choose [her] so” (79). In a society where possessing pale skin is held in high esteem, Portia is led to hope that all suitors with dark skin, like Morocco, choose wrongly as well. The racial discrimination arises from their perception of beauty and perfection which involves a fair exterior. This warped perception of beauty causes lost opportunities to experience new cultures. By shaming those of darker skin color, they lack the knowledge and experience from ancient, rich cultures