Essay, Research Paper: Merchant Of Venice


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“How little is the cost I have bestowed in purchasing the semblance of my
soul,”(3.5.19-20) is where the heart of this play is in my eyes. Portia doing
what she can for her one true love, Bassanio. Money is of no importance to her
especially when it comes to the happiness or unhappiness of Bassanio. There are
many places in the Merchant of Venice that show Portia and Bassanio’s
indifference, and what seems to be apathy toward wealth. Many are hidden and
many are as clear as day to the reader. I found that reading into The Merchant
of Venice was a fun and interesting experience. The way Shakespeare wrote his
plays makes people really think about what they are reading; it reminded me of a
maze. Portia, an unspoiled Princess to riches, a Princess that doesn’t need to
think or worry about money. It is something she has an unimaginable amount of,
yet it doesn’t change who she is or what her values are. Her father seemed to
instill in her that money isn’t everything to everybody; how you care about
people and values are what matter the most in life. When we first see Bassanio,
he is telling Antonio of a secret trip he plans to take to win the heart of
Portia; yet he has no means to get there due to his extravagant living which has
left him in debt to others. At first money seems to be of some importance to
Bassanio, but towards the middle of the play his thoughts seem to change.
Although Portia’s father does not have a so-called character in The Merchant
of Venice; his presence is definitely felt through Portia’s character, as well
as the scrolls on the caskets. In doing this, Portia’s father in a way still
had a hand helping to choose the right husband for his daughter. When each of
the princes come to woo Portia and go into the casket room, they look for what
would be the most creative answer in picking out the casket. The gold casket
scroll reads “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” (2.7.4-5).
When the reader first sees this, he thinks the gold casket would make the most
sense. Portia’s father would have put her picture in there, because it is gold
and full of riches as is Portia. Reading into this the reader might think that
Portia’s father would not put her picture in this one, because love is richer
than gold. The prince that would pick this one is not interested in love only
Portia’s wealth. The second casket made of silver states “Who chooseth me
shall get as much as he deserves.” (2.7.7) I have yet to think why any Prince
with half a brain would pick this casket over gold or lead. To pick this, deep
inside, they did not want to marry Portia. Apparently, the gold wasn’t
intriguing enough for them yet the lead was too poor. The lead casket would be
the most appealing to the Prince who really wants to win Portia’s heart and
not her riches. This scroll reads “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he
hath.” (2.7.9) When Bassanio and Portia discuss his choices she asks him to
think about his choices carefully because it will determine their future
forever. Bassanio although deeply in debt to moneylenders, can see past the gold
and silver of the first two caskets, and hazards his chance with the lead
casket. The scroll inside this casket proves this point;” You that chose not
by the view, Chance as fair, and choose as true: Since this fortune falls to
you, Be content, and seek no new. If you be well pleas’d with this, And hold
your fortune for your bliss, Turn you where your lady is, and claim her with a
loving kiss."(3.2.130-138) From the beginning of the play, Portia seems for
those times more or less of a free spirit. She has been in Belmont all of her
life and knows little about Venice and its residents lifestyles. Portia’s
father seemed to have instilled values and love in Portia from a very young age.
She was taught to love and to be kind and that money could not buy love and
happiness. Earlier in the play Bassanio borrows 3,000 ducats from Shylock on
Antonio’s word that it will be paid back in full. Shylock is a stereotypical
Jew who is a moneylender that insists on charging interest on monies loaned out.
He needed this money to go to Portia in Belmont. If Antonio does not pay back
the ducats to Shylock in due time; Shylock will be able to cut off a pound of
Antonio’s flesh anywhere on his body. In 3.2 of the play, Bassanio receives a
letter written by Antonio regarding the money that is owed to Shylock. Portia
being concerned about Bassanio asks what the letter is about. Bassanio explains,
“When I told you my state was nothing, I should then have told you that I was
worse than nothing; for indeed I have engag’d my friend to his mere enemy, to
feed my means.”(3.2.258-263) Bassanio then tells Portia of the whole deal and
the conversation goes on: Por: What sum owes he, the Jew? Bas: For me, three
thousand ducats. Por: What, no more? Pay him six-thousand, and deface the bond;
double six-thousand and treble that, before a friend of this description shall
lose a hair through Bassanio’s fault.”(3.2.297-302) Portia realizes that who
Bassanio may have been in the past and how he dealt with his money is nothing
like he is now. This is why she doesn’t care how much he needs to call of
Shylock. The fact that Portia is willing to pay three times the amount owed to
Shylock to spare Bassanio’s friend proves how unimportant money is to her. In
this next portion of Merchant of Venice, Portia tells everyone around her of the
unimportance of money and the value of true love and friendship and how that is
the most important thing and how Bassanio’s happiness and the life of his
friend Antonio are so important: Por: I never did repent for doing good, nor
shall I now: for in companions that do converse and waste the time together,
whose souls do bear an egall yoke of love, there must be needs like a proportion
of lineaments, of manners, and of spirit; which makes me think that this
Antonio. Being the bosom lover of my lord, must needs be like my lord. If it be
so, how little is the cost I have bestowed in purchasing the semblance of my
soul, from out the state of hellish cruelty. (3.5.8-21) Portia really pours her
heart and soul out in these words. How strong she is and how willing she is to
make the ones that matter happy, no matter what the cost. Shakespeare really had
the world’s most perfect woman in mind when he developed the character Portia.
As many have said she is definitely one of his strongest female characters. She
is the ideal daughter, following her father’s wishes, the ideal friend,
princess, and wife. Portia was the smart, strong and loving woman that anyone
would be honored to know. Throughout the play, we see many sides of Portia, but
all remain the same when it comes to riches and values. She proves it many times
over. I believe she even taught Bassanio the importance of love and friendship
over money. The moral of William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, is not how
you earn your money, nor how you spend it, but, how you keep your money,
friends, loved ones, and most of all values all at the same time. Choose from
the heart and continue down the path of love and wisdom.
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