Religion in The Merchant of Venice Essay

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Religion was a major factor in a number of Shakespeare’s plays. Religion motivated action and reasoning. In Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” religion was more than a belief in a higher being; it reflected moral standards and ways of living. In the “Merchant of Venice,” “a Christian ethic of generosity, love, and risk-taking friendship is set in pointed contrast with a non-Christian ethic that is seen, from a Christian point of view, as grudging, resentful, and self-calculating.” (Bevington, pg. 74) Although Shakespeare writes this drama from a Christian point of view he illustrates religion by conflicts of the Old Testament and the New Testament in Venetian society and its court of law. These Testaments are tested through the…show more content…
First, we see Antonio, a soft-hearted and morose Christian gentleman whose riches cannot provide him the fulfillment that others deem appropriate. He is sad because he lacks love. To fulfill that love, he assists Bassano in his own quest to pursue love. Though usually depicted as a homosexual relationship, it is a portrayal of love between friends or brothers, another type of bond. This act of bonding puts Antonio in gracious light. He helps his loved one by borrowing money from Shylock and pawns his life to strengthen that bond. This reinforced bondage reflects Antonio’s selflessness, God-like quality, and most importantly Christian morality. Shylock on the other hand is not put on the same pedestal as Antonio. As the Jewish representation of Venice, Shylock, “as a usurer, refuses to lend money interest-free in the name of friendship.” (Bevington, pg. 76) This act of usury in the eyes of Christianity is considered sinful, immoral and inhumane. Instead of lending money interest-free he applies collateral and conditions to the bond. Also, Christians of the time looked at Jews with negativity. “It can be argued that this goes back to the earliest days of Christianity, when the tradition began of making the Jews bear the guilt of the Crucifixion. Throughout medieval and early Renaissance Europe the prejudice bred dark fantasies: Jews were accused, for
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