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Merchant Of Venice By Shakespeare Essay, Research Paper

In this world, there are many aspects of blindness whether it is mentally or

physically. Either way, each blindness brings out the disability in each person.

Such portrayal was shown throughout the play The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare

presents more than one form of blindness, which complicates the social order of

the society, and I feel that the blindness, being their imperfection, creates

tension between characters, which is weakened by blindness. When the characters

are being blind, they are corrupted by their actions and somehow they do not

care who they are hurting as long as they know they are getting the best out of

something. Whether it being valuables, love, power, or respect. Physical and

mental blindness are seen throughout this play. They play a part in each

character?s daily lives and are the obstacle that prevents happiness. Old

Gobbo, who is Launcelot?s blind and feeble father, expresses physical and

mental blindness when he approaches Launcelot and surprisingly asks him,

"Master young man, you, I pray you, which is the way to Master

Jew?s?" (Pg. 21, lines 29-30) for he was looking for his son, Launcelot.

Surprisingly Old Gobbo did not know that he was speaking to his son. Old Gobbo

is nearly blind, which is the physical part of the blindness, which was one of

the reasons why he unable to recognize Launcelot?s features. He is also

mentally blind because a father should recognize his own son?s voice.

Launcelot briefly jokes with his father before confessing "[he is]

Launcelot ? [his] boy that was, [his] son that is, [his] child that shall

be," (Pg. 22, lines 78-79) but Old Gobbo still "cannot think [he is

his] son" (Pg. 22, line 80). Launcelot convinces himself that "if [his

father] had [his] eyes, [he] might fail of knowing [him]" because "it

is a wise father that knows his own child" (Pg. 22, lines 70-71). It is a

shame that a father cannot recognize his own flesh and blood. This blindness

concerns the relationship of a father and their child. Another blindness that

concerns the relationship between a father and the child would have been between

Portia and her dead father. Portia, the heroine of The Merchant of Venice, is

forced to marry the suitor who chooses the correct casket left by her deceased

father. When the Prince of Morocco, one of Portia?s suitors, comes to Belmont

to woo Portia, he daringly takes the test of choosing the correct casket. He

accepts the consequences that if he fails, he was to "never to speak to [a]

lady afterward in [the] way of marriage" (g. 19, lines 43-44). He blindly

chooses the gold casket with the engraving "Who chooseth me shall gain what

many men desire" (Pg. 35, line 37), for its appearance. Inside the gold

casket contained a skull "within [its] empty eye there [was] a written

scroll" (Pg. 36, lines 64-65), which said that the Prince of Morocco was

not wise. He overlooks the reality that not everything that seems valuable is

good. The Prince of Arragon, another suitor who hopes to win Portia?s hand,

also repeats the similar incident of choosing the wrong casket. He accepts the

terms as well, but instead of choosing the gold casket for value he chooses the

silver casket with the engraving "Who chooseth me shall get as much as he

deserves" (Pg. 40, line 51). Inside the silver casket contains a

"portrait of a blinking idiot" (Pg. 41, line 56) and a schedule saying

that he was a fool for choosing silver. Both princes are being physically blind

by appearances which leaves them empty handed and single for the rest of their

lives. Physical and mental blindness takes a dramatic effect with Launcelot and

his father and both princes because it affects the way they think and the way

they act, which prevents them from being happy. Shakespeare presents blindness

as a problem to the society in his play. Many people did not see how there was

many problems concerning their relationship between other people. In the

blindness of religion, he has the characters seeing the worst in religions that

they do not believe in. He describes how Jews are unwanted in Venice, which was

at that time a society of Christians. For Shylock, who is an illegal Jewish

moneylender in Venice, many Christians despise him for his religious beliefs and

the interest he places upon people who loan money from him. He as well holds

contempt with Christians, but he still does business with them because his life

revolves around the interest received by them. His former employee, Launcelot,

calls the Jew "the very devil incarnation" (Pg. 20, line 24) because

he was a Christian employed by a Jew. The characters in the play treat Shylock

badly because he is different and they do not respect him because he is not one

of them. The people who misjudge him are being blind by how bad they are. They

are judging him as the villain, but it is blindness that is the villain. The law

in Venice was capable of changing a person?s religion by force. This shows how

people did not care for others except for what they thought was right. Blinded

by their stubborn ways, they feel that different ways are bad. For example, the

Jewish Shylock has such a negative reputation in this society that in the end of

the trial between him and Antonio, who is the merchant of Venice, Antonio says

"that, for this favor, [Shylock] presently become a Christian." (Pg.

79, lines 399-400) In response to Antonio?s words, "[Shylock was]

content." (Pg. 79, line 407) This shows how blindness made no religious

tolerance in Venice and that Shylock did not care much about his religion when

it comes to his life being in jeopardy. In contrast of forced religion, Jessica,

Shylock?s daughter, willingly becomes a Christian, for she "shall be

saved by [her] husband (Lorenzo). He hath made [her] a Christian" (Pg. 63,

lines 17-18). Launcelot also jokingly tells her that "making of Christians

will raise the price of hogs" (Pg. 63, lines 21-22). The reason why Jessica

converts to Christianity is because she was unhappy being a Jew, feeling that it

brought despair and grief for her. There are times when a religion is not

fulfilling to a person?s religious need. In Jessica?s case, she feels that

Christianity has more to offer than staying a Jew. During the play?s time,

which was the age of Renaissance, blindness was a common flaw and was seen

throughout its society. Men were blind toward women because they did not see how

they were treating women. The men deliberately prevented women from

accomplishing anything that the men were able to do. Women did not have the

rights they wanted, such as self-worth, respect, privileges, and equality, and

Shakespeare seems to not show any signs of the women wanting respect. If he did

show any signs of women wanting respect, he would not of had the women

cross-dress. Instead, they would attend the trial portraying their real gender.

Portia, Nerissa, and Jessica disguise themselves as men to have the same equal

opportunity to walk around in public with the same respect as men. Portia and

Nerissa concealed themselves as a male lawyer and a male clerk to take part in

the trial. The reason why they will "speak between the change of man and

boy with a reed voice, and turn two mincing steps, into a manly stride"

(Pg. 62, lines 68-70) so they could have their voices heard in order to convince

the Duke to release their friend Antonio from his forfeit. Women knew that men

would only respect other men. Jessica cross-dresses to elope with her love,

Lorenzo. The reason why she dresses as a torchbearer is to be able to walk out

in public without being suspected of any wrongdoing. Unlike Portia and Nerissa,

who seemed comfortable in their disguise, Jessica felt that "cupid himself

would blush to see [her] thus transformed to a boy" and to "be

[Lorenzo?s] torchbearer" and "hold a candle [to] her shames"

(Pg. 32, lines 39-42). Portia and Nerissa dressed as men for power while Jessica

simply dressed for escape. Blindness is present here for the fact that the women

were able to get away as men shows how the society cannot recognize females.

Even though Shakespeare worked the cross-dressing scenes with his characters,

women roles were played by men, which that also shows how women were limited to

privileges. Shakespeare exaggerated men being oblivious to women?s actions and

characteristics when concealed as men. Cross-dressing was not the only blindness

between the men and women. For the women who were brave enough to dress as men

and risk their lives walking around in public, they were able to feel the brief

moment of power and dominance. Afterwards when the women returned back to

reality, they were considered as "property" to men. Men did not see

women anything more than property. For Portia, she felt that "[she] may

neither choose who [she] would nor refuse who [she] dislike" of a suitor

because she was "curbed by the will of [her] dead father" (Pg. 8,

lines 20-23). Her father left "three chests of gold, silver, and lead,

whereof [the suitors] chooses his meaning chooses [Portia], will no doubt never

be chosen by any rightly but one who [she] rightly love" (Pg. 8, lines

27-30). In her father?s point of view, he felt that the right chest chosen by

the right suitor would be the husband for Portia. It also seems that he felt

that Portia did not know how to choose a right husband because she was a woman.

Portia, on the other hand, felt that she was being forced into marriage because

her father was blind about her emotional feelings. She wanted to marry out of

love and not by force. Luckily Bassanio chose the right casket, which was the

lead casket, because Portia loved him. People were so blind that they could not

see women in men?s attire. It is ridiculous because Shakespeare seems to

exaggerate men?s stupidity. Another example of men treating women as property

would be Shylock and Jessica. Shylock also does not see Jessica as another

person. He calls his daughter "[his] flesh and [his] blood" (Pg. 44,

line 33). Shylock?s life revolved around money, not his daughter. He was

neglecting the love that he should be giving to his daughter. Now that Jessica

had ran away, and him not having any friends, he does not feel any loss except

for his "two thousand ducats in [the chest], and other precious, precious

jewels" (Pg. 46, lines 78-79) that Jessica stole when she eloped. Shylock

was blind to not notice any unhappiness with Jessica. If he did, the elopement

most likely would not have occurred secretly. Shylock was blind to not notice

his daughter?s unhappiness with the relationship between him and her as well

as the unfulfilling religion that Jessica was forced to believe in. We have come

a long way from the Renaissance Age. We now have laws that protect each citizen

from religious prejudice and gender discrimination. The reason why there was

religious prejudice and gender discrimination was because people did not see

other people?s point of view. They felt that what the majority of people

believed was considered correct and whoever broke through their barrier of

beliefs were shunned out of their society. What was the cause of blindness then

is now the thing of the past. People of all religions now enjoy the freedom of

religious tolerance because people do not see other religions as wrong. They

just accept the other religions and go on believing what they feel is the

religion for them. Women have the equal opportunity to accomplish and

participate in activities that men once forbade them to take part in. Men now

see that women are able to accomplish the same things that they could do. There

are times when in our society, we have problems concerning these laws. Most of

the times, when situations like those are taken to the fullest extent of the

law, things will be solved with justice and equality. There is no longer any

issues concerning the blindness in religion and gender. The way blindness of

cross-dressing once was is rarely seen in our society now because women do not

cross-dress for power anymore. Most of the time we hear women, and even men,

cross-dressing to make a bold statement of their inner feelings, it could

possibly relate to power, but not the power that Portia and Nerissa wanted to

experience. Women now do not have to dress as men to have equal power because

they know that what was in the past have evolved for the better. Gender

discrimination is no longer a flaw of blindness. I am please to know that I do

not have to go through what the women went through during that time. Being

unable to do what I please without being suspected of foul doing just because of

my gender. Portia plays a character that breaks out of the barrier of a

cookie-cutter expectations of women. What I mean is that Portia did not hide

behind the usual women roles but instead she had the guts to attend the trial as

a man risking public humiliation if she was caught. People were so blind, it

seems unreal to believe it because how could some of the characters be so blind

mentally and physically? I do not see any of the same blindness in this time.

However, I do feel that it is still present, but it does not have as much as the

effect it had back in the Renaissance Age. How people were in the past has

changed to what we are today. Blindness is not the cause of discrimination as

much anymore. We can think that the people acted foolish throughout the whole

play because they did not notice the obvious. For example of how the two princes

made a fool of themselves and were punished for their idiotic choices of

choosing the correct casket. Physical and mental blindness were the cause of

unhappiness. Sometimes people purposely acted blind because they were

brainwashed to believe that if the majority of people believed it, then it was

right. We do not see that blindness much in our world today. Shakespeare showed

us in his plays that blindness was normal and that blindness was the cause of

his characters? situations. Blindness made Shakespeare?s time harsh and

unfair. Now we see what goes on and problems similar to the characters in the

play will not repeat itself. We now see what they cannot see.

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