Notes on Merchant of Venice Themes

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Merchant of Venice Topic Tracking: Persecution

Topic Tracking: Persecution

Act 1, Scene 3

Persecution 1: Shylock believes that his offer of money has been repaid with persecution based on his religion - he thinks that the offer of dinner was an invitation to eat pork, something he cannot do. He wonders why they have taken this opportunity to mock and insult him, when he'd done nothing to provoke them.

Persecution 2: Shylock suggests that he needs no reason to hate Antonio beyond the fact that Antonio is a Christian, and therefore worthy of nothing more than his contempt.

Act 2 Scene 1

Persecution 3: The Prince of Morocco knows full well that the color of his skin would be an issue with anyone in Portia's position, but begs her to take other things into consideration. He explains that there are other ways to judge him beyond the colour of his skin, and that in any of those respects, he is more than worthy. Portia says she has accepted the puzzle of the chests, and beyond that she has no interest in the color of his skin.

Persecution 4: After the Prince has failed, Portia exclaims her relief that she won't have to marry a dark-skinned man, and hopes that if any other dark people try to win her hand, they'll fail just as the Prince had.

Act 2 Scene 3

Persecution 5: Despite their love, Lorenzo and Jessica cannot be married so long as she is a Jew. This forces them to elope, fleeing from her father, knowing full well that he would never give her permission to marry a Christian, let alone convert to do so.

Act 3, Scene 1

Persecution 6: Shylock believes that his excessive persecution of Antonio is justified because of the way Antonio had persecuted him. He refuses to justify his actions because Antonio had no justification for persecuting him. He states that he was persecuted solely for being a Jew, and since the Christian response is to take revenge when wronged, that is exactly what he plans to do.

Act 3, Scene 5

Persecution 7: Launcelot, always feeling superior to those around him, tries to put Jessica down now that she's no longer his employer. He insists that she will always be a Jew, no matter who she marries and what she does.

Act 4, Scene 1

Persecution 8: Shylock is proven correct about his persecution when his very religion is used to defeat him in court. Because he is a Jew, he cannot be a citizen of Venice, and because he is not a citizen, any action he takes against Antonio will be illegal and dealt with harshly.

Persecution 9: In his final humiliation, Shylock is forced to choose between his religion and his wealth. If he remains a Jew, he will be destitute, only if he gives up his faith will he be allowed to keep his money - even then only half of it.

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