Men's Control In William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice

1499 words - 6 pages

Men's Control in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the scene opens to reveal a society controlled by men. Men, who live in the foreground of Venetian society, wield their power in business, government, and family life. In the background, women conduct their lives quietly. They are subservient to their husbands and fathers and are regarded as helpless and in need of male guidance in areas of decision making. Though in Shakespeare’s time such a societal structure was largely acceptable, the modern reader views the subjugation of women with aversion, and the ways in which Shakespeare presents the female characters in this play perhaps show that he too was not entirely comfortable with the unbalanced scale of power between men and women.

Portia, Nerissa, and Jessica, the three female characters in The Merchant of Venice, are bound by the strictures which society has imposed upon them. All three, however, seeking to gain the freedom to act as they please, disguise themselves as men. Once they are seen as men, the women are able to escape the societal constraints which previously limited their actions. The fact that they must disguise themselves as men in order to achieve empowerment and freedom of action encourages the reader to question the justice of the social hierarchy.

Because the setting in The Merchant of Venice is characterized by a hierarchy of gender roles in which males hold authority over females, a character like Portia’s father, one who reigns in authority over his daughter, is made possible. Additionally, the presiding social structure allows for his action of subjecting Portia to the mechanism which will determine her husband. Fortunately for Portia, she is not at all repulsed by Bassanio; however, this does not mitigate the fact that she remains powerless under male influence. Her father, in imposing the system by which she gains a husband, and Bassanio, by having the ability to approach her as a suitor and choose her as his wife, hold a great degree of power over her.

Portia laments her inability to act according to her own volition, saying, “O me, the word choose! I may neither / Choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike, so is / The will of a living daughter curbed by the will of / A dead father” (1.2.22). The extent of male dominance in Venetian society is evidenced by the high degree of authority that Portia’s father continues to hold over her life even after he is dead. Choosing a spouse is one of the most life-altering decisions a person can make, but Portia has no say in the matter. Instead, she must entrust her destiny to a system of boxes and riddles, and for the most part, she is a willing societal minion, but only when dressed as a woman.

Once Portia slips into male garb, her behavior is shockingly different. The audience sees not a restricted, powerless Portia, agonizing over the possible misfortunes of being wed to ill-complexioned...

Find Another Essay On Men's Control in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

1990 words - 8 pages Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Shylock has been very badly treated by certain Christians and he yearns for revenge. He goes too far when he seeks the life of his main persecutor, but he is essentially, an intelligent, dignified

Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

1754 words - 7 pages Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice 'I am a Jew' a famous saying from Shylock in 'Merchant of Venice' that clarifies the merchant brotherhood of a wealthy city. 'Merchant of Venice' contains rascals and heroes. The audiences will soon realise that Shylock, the Jewish money lender, is shown as a villain within the wealthy city. Is this really what Shakespeare had intended? This testimony given

Portia and Bassanio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

1150 words - 5 pages Portia and Bassanio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice “The Merchant of Venice” is a Shakespearean play based on the themes of friendship, racial prejudice, deceptive appearances and love, of which the most romantic is the love between Portia and Bassanio. In contrast, the other two couples - Lorenzo and Jessica, Gratiano and Nerissa – exhibit playful or down-to-earth love. Portia is as faultless as

Homosexuality in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

1645 words - 7 pages Homosexuality in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice With every great story line comes a theme. William Shakespeare created an art of intertwining often unrecognizable themes within his plays. In Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, one hidden theme is the idea of homosexuality. This theme might not have even been noticed until modern Shakespeare fans discovered them. According to Alan Bray’s book, Homosexuality in

Prejudice in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

1668 words - 7 pages Prejudice in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice The main theme of the Merchant of Venice is of Shylock, a Jew, and Antonio, a Christian taking part in a deal involving the Jew lending the Christian a sum of money. The bond they make is that if Antonio cannot pay Shylock back, Shylock can take legally a pound of Antonio's flesh as payment. The other plots in the play consist of Jessica, Shylock's daughter

Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

1380 words - 6 pages Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare wrote The merchant of Venice in the Elizabethan period. It was written as a play and this is reflected in the exaggeration of some of the scenes. At the time the play was written anti-Semitism was common, this again is reflected by the attitudes of the characters. In theory at the time this play was written only Jews who had converted to

Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice - 2507 words

2507 words - 10 pages Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice To Shakespeare's Audience Shylock was the Villain of the Merchant of Venice, Yet a Modern Day Audience sees Shylock as a Man Persecuted because of his Religion, Discuss this Statement with Detailed Reference to the Text and Explain this Change of Attitude. This is not just a change of attitude but a change in the way of life for the people of the world over this

Characterizing Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

2907 words - 12 pages Characterizing Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice The ‘Merchant of Venice’ was written at a time when there was great prejudice towards the Jewish race. They were known for their intelligence, hard work and business acumen, which later led them to be mistreated and resented. They were made to wear distinctive clothing in order to be identified, and citizens of Venice could treat Jews in any way they

Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice - 2897 words

2897 words - 12 pages Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice The Merchant of Venice, a tragic- comedy written in the late 16th century by the greatest known English author, William Shakespeare. This is a tale set in the heart of Venice, amongst the Venetian Christians and Jews. The history of the Jews is marked by terrible hardship and atrocities; Jewish people kept up their customs and religion formed tight knit

Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice - 2622 words

2622 words - 10 pages Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Introduction One of the most interesting and dramatic characters in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is the rich, despised money-lending Jew Shylock. It is impossible to judge Shylock’s character by our own modern Standards, simple because Shakespeare wrote this play for play goers in Elizabethan times. This was very different to modern times for two reasons

Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice - 2018 words

2018 words - 8 pages Shylock in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Works Cited Missing At the time the play was set Jews were considered 'second class' citizens in Venice despite the fact that Venice was famous for its quality of justice. There was a lot of prejudice against the Jewish minority and they were

Similar Essays

William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice

2846 words - 11 pages William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare, having spent most of his youth in England, was influenced by England’s beliefs. England was going through a Christian reformation that had caused friction between Christians and Jews. Jews and Christians did not see eye to eye on almost everything and especially on usury, the practice of lending money with interest. Boyce, a Shakespearean critique

William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice

1873 words - 7 pages William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice The play centres on two main characters, Antonio, an extremely wealthy merchant and Shylock, a very wealthy Jew. In Venice, a person's word was their bond. A promise made by word of mouth was the same as having an agreement in writing; they had to keep their word or pay the consequences. Shylock is a usurer, a person who lends sums of money to others, charging vast

William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice

1980 words - 8 pages William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice From your reading of the play, explore the character of Shylock. Was he meant to be a figure to be mocked and despised by Shakespeare's audience or did Shakespeare want a different reaction to him? Throughout history, Jews have been persecuted for their beliefs. Muslims and Christians have thrown Jews from their countries, segregated them when they are present in those

William Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice 3475 Words

3475 words - 14 pages William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Introduction The three versions of the Merchant of Venice which I have watched are: 1. Channel 4 television version for their Schools Broadcasting Programmes 2. Trevor Nunn's version 3. National Theatre Company version directed by Jonathan Miller and starring Laurence Olivier as Shylock Act IV scene 1 is an intense scene in the play where we see many of
Fist of Legend | Ceramica elettrico | Rail Wars!