Sunday, April 20, 2008

Love, Marriage and Friendship in the Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice written by William Shakespeare is a romantic comedy. So, we can easily understand that the topic of love will be very important in the Merchant of Venice as it is a romantic comedy. Indeed, love, marriage and friendship all of them have very important role in this drama. The drama revolves around the friendship of Antonio and Bassanio then we have the love of Portia and Bassanio and also of Lorenzo and Jessica. The two couples got married din the drama and the topic of friendship is very significant and important in the plot of the play.

If we talk about love then the first that should be considered is the love of Portia and Bassanio. Bassanio wanted to get married to Portia because she was a beautiful and wealthy woman. So, from this point of view, Bassanio can be accused of loving the beauty and wealth of Portia more than Portia herself. On the other hand, Bassanio really liked Portia and wanted to get married to her. So, for this he took a risk of putting Antonio at the mercy of the enemy Shylock. On the other hand, Bassanio also took the oath that if he failed to solve the mystery of the cascade she would never get married again. Portia was a romantic person and really liked Bassanio. She did not like all the princes and rich men who wanted to marry her. In stead, she wanted to get married with a nice man like Bassanio who was easy going and lovely.

If we look at the relationship between Lorenzo and Jessica it is a very interesting relationship. Jessica was a Jew and the daughter of Shylock. On the other hand, Lorenzo was friend of Antonio and Bassanio. Lorenzo liked Jessica and Jessica was too much annoyed from her father and she did not like any Jews man. In stead, she found a Christian man to be more attractive because she was too much annoyed so she ran away with Lorenzo.

One interesting thing of Merchant of Venice is that William Shakespeare has talked about the successful love and unsuccessful love both. He has talked about the love affair of unsuccessful person towards the end of the drama.

There is another couple that should be mentioned is Nerissa and Gratiano. Nerissa was Portia’s servant and friend and she got married with Gratiano. Shakespeare has talked very little about this couple.

The ring episode is interesting. Both Bassanio and Gratiano promised to their wives that they will not part with the wedding ring. However, they had to give the wedding rings to the lawyer and the clerk who saved the life of Antonio. They did not know that they gave the wedding rings to their wives who were in disguise. These wedding rings reflex faithfulness and loyalty in marriage. To the audience of Elizabethan age wedding ring was a very important thing and they could never imagine of parting with it.

In Merchant of Venice, we can see conflict between self interest and love. All the Christian characters and also Jessica loved to do good things to other people. Antonio risked his life for his friend Bassanio. When Bassanio heard that his friend was in deep trouble he even did not enjoy his couple life and came back to Venice. Gratiano, Lorenzo all of them were helpful to each other. On the other hand, Shylock was a very self-centered person. He only considered self interest and he was a selfish person and he did not care for other people. This conflict of self interest versus love for others is one of the main themes of Merchant of Venice.


If we look at the treatment of marriage of Shakespeare in the Merchant of Venice then we can see two important things. The first thing is that Lorenzo and Jessica got married. Lorenzo was a Christina and Jessica was a Jew and they got married and they were happy. So, Shakespeare shows that people of two religions could get married and yet be happy. The second thing that we look at Shakespeare’s treatment of marriage in the Merchant of Venice is that Bassanio was from Venice and Portia was from Belmond. So, Shakespeare also supported the idea of two persons of two different cities getting married. Here, we have to remember that during the Elizabethan age most people used to get married within their city or within their even village. The same thing happens in Bangladesh even at the present time. Most people want to marriage within their district. They do not want to go far and most people do no want to go far and most people do not want to get married to people outside if the religion. So, Shakespeare has taken a very liberal attitude towards marriage and love in the Merchant of Venice.

Friendship is perhaps the strongest thing in Merchant of Venice. The friendship between Antonio and Bassanio was very deep. Antonio risked his life and took loan from the enemy Shylock to send Bassanio to get married with Portia. Even there was no guarantee that Bassanio would be successful because it depended on his solving the mystery of cascade. Yet, Antonio took the risk. On the other hand, when Bassanio heard that Antonio was in danger he lost all his happiness. He just owned the hand of Portia for marriage but yet he did not enjoy this matter at all. He became a very wealthy man by getting married to Portia but wealth was not important for him. He was only sad at that moment for his friend Antonio who was in danger only for helping him.

There is another topic that we should talk when it comes to friendship of love- hatred of Shylock against all the Christians. I have said earlier that Shylock was a self centered and selfish person. He did not understand what friendship is and what love is. To him, the only important thing was money and power. He cared only to crease his money and to be stronger in the society.

In conclusion, we can say that Shakespeare has treated the ideas of love, marriage and friendship very successfully in the drama Merchant of Venice.

Also read:

Portia in The Merchant of Venice

Trial Scene of The Merchant of Venice


  1. Nice blog. Thats all.

  2. Anonymous2:23 AM

    You're missing a lot. The Christian characters do not wish to do good things for others--they only concern themselves with doing good things for other Christians. Antonio spits on Shylock and abuses him. In some productions of this play, Shylock is made to appear tragic and sympathetic.

    Also, the marriage between Lorenzo and Jessica is not as simple as you might think. it is assumed, when Jessica talks of her hatred of her Jewish father and marries a Christian, that she will convert and submit to her husband. And in the end, Shylock is forced to convert. There is no acceptance of other religions going on in this society.

    I follow Christ myself, but it is clear that the Christians in this play are hypocrites. They love their friends, but not their enemies, and they preach mercy but refuse to show grace and allow Shylock to accept money to settle his debt.

    This is understandable, since Shylock was threatening to kill Antonio, but the whole issue is still more complicated than it seems.

  3. Anonymous8:38 AM

    -Going off of comment above

    Sure Shylock is a bit stubborn and so on, but he is quite frankly misunderstood. His wife left, and then his daughter left a faith so important to him and eloped with a Christian man. He was absoluetly heartbroken.

    Instead of saying he was self-centered and money centric, you could focus more on the emphasis of the human qualities that Shakespeare had placed in Shylock. This play was written in a time period were anti-Semitism was very common, but sometimes Shylock recieved empathy (although not much) which I believe is very interesting.

    although I am not a fan of the anti-Semetic overtones,I think Shakespeare did a wonderful job building the character of Shylock into someone understandable.

    Also, I do not think that Shylock "did not understand what friendship is and what love is". Why would he be upset that Jessica left him? That the Christians hate him?

    Good summary.

  4. nice summary! i really this movie. this movie reminds me a lot of happenings in my life

  5. Anonymous10:12 AM

    i need t write an essay and this is not helping

    1. Anonymous12:24 AM


    2. Anonymous9:15 PM

      omg same

    3. Anonymous8:59 PM

      Personally this is a very good source of information and is very easily understood, that is what makes it hard to resist just copying and pasting onto a word document.
      Try to resist the temptation and read this over, paragraph by paragraph, changing them into your own words. If it looks a little confusing, this technique will help you very much.

    4. Anonymous12:35 PM

      its not helping me either!

    5. Anonymous6:45 AM

      same, working on essay, this is no help

    6. Anonymous7:12 AM

      well not to be rude, but how about you do your own work and analyze the play with 'your own' thinking. The article may be good or not but everyone understands things differently.

  6. Anonymous9:36 PM

    Ok well this essay dosent make much sence it seems like u r takeing the christans side morr then shylock I could be wrong but that's how I see it but did the christains really show him mercy in this time period jews were not able to work at all and the only thing that a jew could do is loan money and only jews can do this and this is the only thing they can do so since the are forceing him to convert he will not be able to loan money and also since he was origanly a jew he is still not able to work so basicly the chirstans made it so he has no possible way to make money and is now homeless how is that mercy they basicly killed him any ways and for his daughter she doseent really love her wife she just hates the fact that she is a jew so she marrys him no love what so ever

  7. Anonymous8:56 PM

    This is a really impressive blog and it seems that you have worked very hard on this.
    I believe, that saying Razib is taking sides is not entirely true. Everybody had their own opinion, and in fact, people are able to comment on this piece to add to it, not to just say that Razib is for or againt one particular religion.
    Overall this is very good, however, you could have included a few quotations from the play, that is essentially what will make your review a more reliable source.

  8. Anonymous9:01 PM

    I have recently uploaded a comment saying this was very good overall, and that you need to add quotations...
    But I also forgot to mention that you need to check your spelling before uploading this to a website that is visible to all. But yea, overall, very good and reliable information.

  9. I think there are really good ideas in this essay if only they were more carefully and more eloquently phrased! I also agree that you need to consider Shylock's side more carefully before making judgements on his personality.

    If you'd like to see a different point of view on the play, you can read my essay on the theme of self-interest in The Merchant of Venice on my blog :

  10. Anonymous3:45 AM

    to be honest i would swear that this was written by a five year old with down syndrome

    1. Anonymous7:08 AM

      Absolutly rude and uncalled for.

    2. Anonymous3:29 AM

      His spelling and English is pretty terrible.

  11. Anonymous7:41 PM

    You need to mention the possibility of love between Antonio and Bassanio and maybe the love of money for Shylock. A good help, just missing quotes!

  12. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Your not particularly correct about Shylock only loving money. When he hears that his daughter had sold the ring passed down to him from his dead wife, he practically breaks down in the middle of the street, not for the money it was worth, but for what it meant it represented. Also I'm pretty sure he'd be at least a little upset his only daughter abandoned him!

  13. Anonymous7:30 PM

    It is amazing . It is not difficult . I like it

  14. Anonymous3:30 AM

    His English and spelling is TERRIBLE, it doesn't make any sense in places. Yikes!!

  15. Anonymous2:57 PM


  16. Anonymous9:54 PM

    It's good, though this is not much help for my essay . Shylock was both a cruel unreasonable man as well as a victim which was only an effect of his actions. He knew pain by losing his daughter,wife and his religion not just by losing his wealth . This blog was a tad messy in my opinion .

  17. Anonymous12:44 PM

    this is according to ur point of view.....please talk in context of the drama....and in many places ur english is not understandable.
    thank you!!

  18. Anonymous11:20 PM

    intresting plot

  19. Anonymous4:56 PM

    This helped me a lot

  20. Anonymous4:58 PM

    This helped me a lot.The matter was good.Thanks!

  21. Anonymous3:24 AM

    Your ideas are valid therefore instead of a summary you are giving, a strong opinion with good quotes would be more interesting! Good overall work and thank you for taking you time for the viewers

  22. Anonymous7:50 PM

    it's good but your missing a few aspects. For example the love story of Gratiano and Nerissa. Shylock is not only wicked and cares for his property because he in a scene becomes sad that his daughter has stolen his ring given to him by his wife Leah. This should definitely be put under Marriage...
    otherwise good effort.
    By the way I am professor of English From Bengaluru University.

  23. Anonymous8:28 PM