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Two Settings in the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare

Shakespearean works are well known for their depth, symbolism and philosophical view upon different aspects of life. Mirroring is one of Shakespeare’s favorite tools. Mirroring is used to emphasize the contrast and show differences between the sides of the society and the ways of living of the characters. The Merchant of Venice is not an exception. Just like all other plays of Shakespeare, it has many antagonisms and it portrays the most important and hot conflicts that used to be popular at that time just as much as they are now. Exploring this multi-dimensional play is exciting because the more you think about it, the more hints and tints you discover.

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The play takes place in two main locations – Venice and Belmont. These two places portray two different lifestyles. One of the most important and essential themes of the Merchant of Venice is wealth. Shakespeare has a special view of this subject; he sees love as a form of wealth (Milton 34). Venice represents earning money, accumulating it, protecting it, fighting for it; and at the same time Belmont demonstrates having money and all other life’s pleasures, this is why life in Belmont is so happy, slow and peaceful, and the whole location is so dreamlike. Being rich and having nothing to worry about is a dream of most people. To my mind, Belmont and Venice present two different sides of wealth.

Venice is a busy place where all the characters are constantly worried about their income, they give loans and borrow money to maintain their business. Here we see the first clash of love and money. Bassanio needs to impress a rich heiress from Belmont, but unfortunately, he does not have the money to win a lady from a rich family as a wife, “O my Antonio, had I but the means to hold a rival place with one of them” (1.1.176-177).

He does have a good friend Antonio, who is an international businessman and who is willing to borrow money for him to conquer a woman Bassanio compares to the Golden Fleece and notes that “many Jasons come in the quest for her” (1.1.175). We can see that Bassanio is aiming at two birds with just one stone; he wants to solve all his financial problems by winning a rich woman at expense of his best friend.

Bassanio’s desire to receive both love and wealth with the help of Antonio leads us to the next conflict. The main confrontation of the play: Antonio against Shylock the usurer who also happens to be Jewish. The two men dislike each other strongly. Antonio does not approve of usury, and Shylock, in response, criticizes Christian people and their way of living and their arrogance towards his nation, and especially he hates Antonio because “in low simplicity, he lends the money gratis” (1.3.37-38).

Shylock has no friends in the play; even his own daughter will take his savings and escape with her Christian beloved. The usurer gets rejected by everyone because of his greed and selfishness (Janik 128). After his daughter’s escape, Shylock becomes focused only on his hate towards Antonio and wants to take revenge by killing the Christian businessman. Shylock represents how business alters a personality and how earning money can become a dangerous obsession destroying people’s lives.

Meanwhile, in dreamlike Belmont, Portia, tired of meeting dozens of potential future husbands, is mocking them secretly with her waiting-woman Nerissa. Portia’s late father was a man with good imagination; he has set a condition for the men who would want to marry Portia – they have to participate in a guessing game, the one who guesses correctly – will take Portia as a wife. Young heiress compares her life to a lottery, where she is the prize – “the lottery of my destiny bars me the right of voluntary choosing” (2.1.15-16).

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However, young Portia is far from being a naive maiden waiting for her destiny to find her. Her wealth is not the only thing she has inherited from her father; she also is fond of game playing. She is good at tricks, practical jokes, playing roles and pretending; she boldly bends the rules and achieves whatever she wants, she plays people for fun. Obviously, she is a great match for Bassanio.

The play does not have a plain good or plain bad character. All of them have flaws and virtues, good and bad sides, all of them could be understood. This is why this play is still one of the most popular in theatres all over the world. It is so life-like. Antonio is always sad, “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad” (1.1.1) and he keeps getting in trouble, greedy and means Shylock is destroyed by his own hatred, bold and smart young people fight for love and friendship and become successful.

The play starts with sadness, but it has a happy ending (Morris and Farrell 1). The issues this play brings up are still alive and essential – conflicts over money, social classes, religion, race, conflicts of generations, the interaction between opposite sexes. We still wish to find love and earn a lot of money to lead a wealthy life. Shakespearian Belmont and Venice are the two sides of wealth. We want our life to go through all the “Venice” of difficulties and worries, and end up in our own romantic and dreamlike “Belmont” where we have love and security and can live happily ever after.

Works Cited

Janik, Vicky. K. The Merchant of Venice: A Guide to the Play. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Print.

Milton, Joyce. William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Hauppauge, New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 1985. Print.

Morris, Mark and Tony Farrell. The Merchant of Venice. Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Nelson Thornes, 2003. Print.

Shakespeare William and Beth Obermiller. The Merchant of Venice. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 2004. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 2). Two Settings in the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare.

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"Two Settings in the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare." StudyCorgi, 2 Jan. 2022,

1. StudyCorgi. "Two Settings in the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare." January 2, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "Two Settings in the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare." January 2, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Two Settings in the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare." January 2, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Two Settings in the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare'. 2 January.

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