The Merchant of Venice

Write 3 double-spaced pages on one of the following topics about The Merchant of Venice. As before, start out with your main idea or interpretation and please use quotations from the play as your primary source of evidence. EACH PARAGRAPH of your paper (after the introduction) should have at least one quotation that you discuss in detail. When you write the title of the play ALWAYS put it in italics. And give your paper a title, something that tells me what it’s about (example: Love and Money in The Merchant of Venice). Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about writing this essay. 1. Examine Shylock’s rhetoric. Pay special attention to the quality of his language—his use of metaphor and repetition, for instance. How do his speeches reflect his character as a whole? What values are most important to him? Is there more complexity to his character than you might first expect? (See, for example, Act 1, scene 3; Act 2, sc. 5; Act 3, sc 1; Act 4, sc. 1-the trial scene). 2. Compare and contrast Venice and Belmont. What is the significance of these distinct settings in the play? Look particularly at what happens when characters from Venice go to Belmont and when Portia and Nerissa must visit Venice. What does their behavior tell us about the meaning of these two different places? 3. Discuss Portia’s character. How does she compare to the men around her? Is Bassanio a worthy husband for her? Why do you think she goes to so much trouble to save Antonio? Is she justified in tricking Bassanio into giving her the ring when she is disguised as Balthazar? 4. Discuss the relationship between Jessica and Shylock. Are we meant to sympathize with the moneylender’s daughter or not? Does Shakespeare seem ambivalent in his portrayal of Jessica? How does her departure compare or contrast with the servant Launcelot’s similar decision to leave Shylock? Is Shylock really only concerned with the money he takes, or is there some evidence that he feels his daughter’s departure more deeply? 5. In spite of the fact that it was written in the late 16th century, does The Merchant of Venice have something to tell Business majors in the 21st century? What might still be relevant about the way the play portrays money and commerce? Be sure to use specific examples from the play to illustrate your thoughts and ideas.

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