7/12/2012

Merchant of Venice

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Merchant of Venice

In Shakespeare’s comedy “The Merchant of Venice”, Shakespeare uses split settings, Venice and Belmont. These two settings represent complete opposites, and these differences allow Shakespeare to build tension and suspense in the play. Venice is a place of hatred, destruction, and violence. A complete opposite, Belmont is a haven for lovers, where peace thrives, and a place where people go to confess their feelings.

Venice is a very important, historical city especially during the Renaissance. The North Africans and the Muslims inspired the architecture of the city. Venice is vastly populated with many different ethnicities, which leads to conflict and tension within the city, as is seen between the Christian Antonio, and the Jewish Shylock. The economy of the city is very dependent on shipping in the area, as Venice is a major port city. While Venice is an enormously populated economic hub, Belmont is completely the opposite of Venice.

Belmont, an imaginary city made up by Shakespeare, is a quiet and peaceful setting. Belmont means “Beautiful Mountain”, and the relevance of that name is seen with the interaction between characters of the story while they are in Belmont. In Belmont, all the worries of the outside world are forgotten. There is a scarce population in Belmont, and it has come to be intended as a place for lovers. The words and actions expressed in these two split settings allow the reader to see how Venice is a place of danger and Belmont is a retreat for lovers.

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Venice is portrayed as an area of destruction, hatred, and violence. The words and actions in Venice are typically spoken by men who are in search of money and riches. Destruction in Venice is seen when one of Antonio’s trading ships is destroyed during its voyage, “I reasoned with a Frenchman yesterday, Who told me, in the Narrow Seas the part, The French and English, there miscarried, A vessel of our country richly fraught. I thought upon Antonio when he told me” (II, viii, Line ). Hatred is observed in Venice after Shylock’s daughter steals some of his riches, and then proceeds to run off and marry a Christian. “Stolen by my daughter! Justice! Find the Girl!” (II, viii, Line ) and “My own flesh and blood to rebel!” (II, viii, Line 4). Violence is seen when Antonio is unable to pay off his debt to Shylock and he is forced to give up one pound of his flesh to Shylock, “You must prepare your bosom for his knife” (IV, I, Line 55) and “A pound of flesh to be by him cut off” (IV, I, Line 41). While Venice symbolizes death and destruction, Belmont is seen in a completely different light.

Belmont is portrayed as a peaceful sanctuary where peace thrives. The words and actions in Belmont are usually spoken by women full of beauty and virtue. Belmont is seen as a haven for lovers when several men travel there to woo Portia into marrying them, “And with an unthrift loved did run from Venice, as far as Belmont” (V, I, Line 0). Belmont also serves as a place of peace for the lovers, as is seen when Portia’s family prepares a feast in honor or Bassanio picking the right chest, “Our feast shall be much honored in your marriage” (III, ii, Line 17). Belmont is portrayed as a place where people go to confess their feelings as well. This is seen when Portia tells her suitors to confess their love for her, “Confess and love” (III, ii, Line 7). Belmont is shown to be a haven of safety and peace to those that come to Belmont.

The two split settings that Shakespeare uses in “The Merchant of Venice” helps him to convey his message more effectively by building two plots in two settings adding to the tension and suspense. While Venice is the place of destruction, Belmont is the retreat for lovers. The fact that these two places are almost complete opposites of each other also adds to the suspense, and keeps you guessing as to what will happen next.



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