Theme Of Revenge In Merchant Of Venice

900 Words4 Pages
William Shakespeare has encapsulated the essence of revenge as a central theme in his comedic play, The Merchant of Venice. Set in 16th century Venice, Shakespeare creates pivotal characters in a mercantile environment that enables revenge to flourish and be explored in the play. To highlight the central theme of revenge, which is the act of seeking retribution for a harm done, Shakespeare has juxtaposed it to other central themes. From the outset, the cause and need for justification of revenge is analysed from the perspective of anti-Semitic conduct. The act of revenge is further examined with reference to financial wealth and its role in driving revenge. As the storyline unfolds, it culminates with an insight into the outcome of revenge in the context of another central theme, mercy. It is through these comparisons that the central theme of revenge can be dissected and therefore understood. In exploring the central theme of revenge, Shakespeare looks at the cause of revenge and the need for the perpetrator to justify it, through the highly emotive subject of anti-Semitism. Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, is deeply angered by the Christian characters of the play, in particular Antonio, the merchant referred to in the play’s title. Having been called a ‘dog’, and spat upon, he has endured cruelty and suffering simply due to his Jewish faith, a faith which is the core of his being and defines him as a man. The depth of his pain and his hurt can be felt in his soliloquy (Act 3 Scene 1). Here, his humanity is felt when he asks, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? ... If you poison us, do we not die?” It is this depth of feeling that enables the audience to understand the origins and need for revenge. Shylock also needs to justify his right to revenge as much to himself as to others, and puts forward a case for why revenge is necessary and justified. He states that, “If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge.” By juxtaposing the theme of anti-Semitism, Shakespeare gives Shylock’s reason for revenge depth and purpose and thus establishes revenge as a central theme of the play. Having established that
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