Shakespeare/Merchant Of Venice Story term paper 12501

Shakespeare term papers
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William Shakespeare attained literary immortality through his exposition of the

many qualities of human nature in his works. One such work, The Merchant of

Venice, revolves around the very human trait of deception. Fakes and frauds have

been persistent throughout history, even to this day. Evidence of deception is

all around us, whether it is in the products we purchase or the sales clerks’

false smile as one debates the purchase of the illusory merchandise. We are

engulfed by phonies, pretenders, and cheaters. Although most often associated

with a heart of malice, imposture varies in its motives as much as it’s

practitioners, demonstrated in The Merchant of Venice by the obdurate characters

of Shylock and Portia. We frequently see the intent of greed and selfishness

covered up by the words and face of virtue. Such exploit is displayed by the

exceptionally stingy Shylock, an unpopular Jew who makes his living through the

practice of usury. When confronted about his unsympathetic trade, he resorts to

citing scripture, thus comparing his selfish trade with the actions of holy men

(I, iii, 73-87). Antonio, a well respected and honorable merchant, sees right

through the falsehood of the justification and asks Shylock, “Was this

inserted to make interest good? Or is your gold and silver ewes and rams?” (I,

iii, 91-92). The response from Shylock to the question reveals a glimpse of his

true meaning. “I cannot tell; I make it breed as fast” (I, iii, 93-94) is a

rather boastful reply of his wealth than a righteous rationalization. To which

Antonio can only turn to his friend and say “The devil can site Scripture for

his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a

smiling cheek” (I, iii, 95-97). Words alone are not the only means by which

imposters operate. A far more effective mode is one that fools the eye for it

cannot pierce through the surface. Portia, the new wife of Antonio’s friend,

dresses as a lawyer in order to deceive the court. However, unlike Shylock’s

motive, Portia’s intent is far more noble and selfless. She manipulates the

law in such a way to save Antonio from certain death by the hand of Shylock.

Through the eyes of the law, the imposture of a lawyer, especially by a woman at

that time, was seen as extremely illicit. But Portia saw impersonation as the

only means by which to save a man’s life. The action more than warranted the

cause. Unquestionably a motive of honorable ethical values. The distinction

between the intentions of Shylock and Portia is clear. Even though Portia did

save the life of a noble man, she did use deception in order to do so.

Nevertheless, one may argue that imposture of any form is dishonesty and the

motive behind it cannot change that. The only way to preserve absolute truth

would be with steadfast integrity.

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