William Shakespeare 's The Merchant Of Venice

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Artese claims that the flesh-bond plot in The Merchant of Venice resembles a folktale known as “A Pound of Flesh” (325). Artese supports his supposition with background context and parallels between the two story lines. Literary versions of the pound of flesh story circulated during the sixteenth century and were collected since the nineteenth century because of the plot’s longevity and populairity Shakespeare would have been familiar with pound of flesh stories (326). Human commodification is a central issue in both The Merchant of Venice and the folktale. When Portia states that Shylock cannot extract a drop of blood from Antonio and take no less or no more than an exact pound, this also alludes to the pound of flesh storyline (330-331). After establishing that The Merchant of Venice’s plot is based off of the pound of flesh storyline, the author explains that it was important for Shakespeare to use this specific plot because it shows the power dynamics between the Venetian Christian and the Jew.

The pound of flesh folktale often centers around an outsider character trying to obtain pound the flesh that was agreed upon, but the outsider’s plea is usually foiled for “absurd” reasons (331). The Merchant of Venice is set in Venice because it was considered a relatively tolerant city; it was one of the only places where a Jew could have gone to court to defend such a bond (332). Shylock expected to be treated equally, but Artese shows that, like the folktale story, the law of
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