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.