Love, Hate, Friendship and The Influence of Money in Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare


Love, hate, friendship and the influence of money are some of the many themes in Merchant of Venice written by Shakespeare. This is a play that depicts many different themes through their characters and their relations. There is a contrast of themes like love and hatred, and it is seen through different perspective where each one has their own struggles. The theme of love itself is shown in so many different forms like friendship, romance and greed. These themes are also intertwined with the religious discrimination between Jews and Christians and is able to have a powerful influence on its readers.  

The play starts off with an unknowing melancholic feeling faced by Antonia and a conversation between him and his mates figuring out the cause of his dismal mood. Just then Bassanio arrives with a request for loan from Antonio. They were dearest friends and their friendship is the connotation of true love and loyalty between friends. Antonio is even ready to risk his life and take a loan for Bassanio from the Jew, Shylock. He accepts an unnecessary contract that bounds a pound of Antonia’s flesh as the punishment for not paying the loan back in time. This shows the selfless character of Antonia who is ready to risk everything for friendship. On the other hand, there is shylock, who’s only love is money. Infact, his greed for money takes him to many extents. In the market, he is cruel and vicious and traps innocent people for his profit. The greed for money suppressed the love for his daughter Jessica because when she eloped with a Christian, Shylock cried in the streets and was more concerned about the jewels and ducat she took with her.  

Jessica also shows veracity in love when she elopes with Lorenzo. Despite having the blood of shylock, his actions do not define Jessica’s character. She is true to her lover and changes her religion to Christianity after she marries him. This is one of the love stories shown in merchant of Venice which portrays the theme of love and romance. The love story of Gratiano and Nerissa is paralleled with the central romantic relationship between Bassanio and Portia. It was for wooing Portia that required Bassanio to take money from Antonio. Though at the beginning Bassanio was attracted to Portia because of her wealth, at the end they do end up loving each other and become the lovebirds of Belmont. This purity even shows in the casket selection since Bassanio did not chose the gold or silver casket for its shining appearance, but risked everything for the worthless lead casket which surprisingly made him win Portia. The whole casket selection also brings out a beautiful love that a father has for a daughter, unlike the relation between Jessica and Shylock. Even when Portia’s father was gone, he left behind a challenge to find the best suitor to wed Portia.   

In the case of Jessica and Lorenzo, true love is emerged once again since these lovebirds cross out all the religious barriers between them. Like any other relationship which should be built on trust, they are one example of it since Jessica trusted in Lorenzo and was ready to become a Christian. She even got jewels and ducats from her old home to support them in the future. One common comportment we observe in some of the characters in merchant of Venice is the way of expressing love by generosity and kindness. Antonio was ready to sign a fatal bond for Bassanio; Bassanio was willing to take Gratiano to Belmont where he found his love; Portia travelled to Venice in disguise to save Antonio; Jessica was ready to escape her home with wealth for Lorenzo; These are some of the acts of selflessness shown by the character that help us gain a deeper meaning of love in this play. Here, a clear distinction from shylock, the selfish and greedy antagonist whose only love is wealth. Lastly, love in this play may not only be shown as something romantic between two characters but also as friendship, gratitude or even greed.

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