The Merchant of Venice

All I knew about The Merchant of Venice before I read it was that Shylock was a Jew and that he made that speech about being the same as all the Christians of Venice regarding bleeding if cut etc. And demanding his pound of flesh for the unpaid debt.

Apparently, it falls under the category of “Comedy”. While it had some moments of amusement, I’m not sure that’s how I’d categorise it. But then, since the other two categories in the Folio are Histories and Tragedies, I can understand it being a comedy.

I was quite taken by poor Shylock. Granted he was being unreasonable about the (late) repayment of the loan, without interest, paid to Antonio, but Antonio did sign on the dotted line to pay with a pound of flesh if he couldn’t find the cash. I’m just surprised at Shylock refusing to settle when the money (plus some) turns up.

If I’ve learned one thing from all the murder-dramas I watch, it’s that moneylenders don’t kill debtors. Dead men can’t pay up. And moneylenders like their money back. What on earth was he going to do with a pound of flesh?

I get that he had cause to hate the Christians: Antonio particularly hadn’t been overly friendly, and his daughter Jessica had just eloped with a Christian Lorenzo (taking lots of jewels with her). But he was offered double the loan as repayment. He wasn’t due any interest. Antonio was only supposed to repay the capital.

In the end, Shylock is left broken and destitute. And forced to convert to Christianity, so he probably had to leave Venice as well. They might not have killed him, but the Christians weren’t quite as merciful as they thought they were. He lost everything. He didn’t even get the money he was owed. He just wanted the contract to be upheld.

A gentleman’s word is, after all, his bond, is it not?

5 thoughts on “The Merchant of Venice

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