In spite of its watery depth, Venice’s commercial and contractual foundations make human relationships superficial and merely transactional. When we take a close look at many of the scenes, the situation will … Every offence is not a hate at first. But Bassanio wrongly understands honor as a type of contract: Antonio’s life is worth Bassanio’s marriage. Every offence is not a hate at first. The ring symbolizes the moral relationship of love instead of contract, which Bassanio had failed to understand. Finally, there are those who believe that Antonio’s melancholy is motiveless. [3] Citations of the play are from G. Blackemore Evans et al., ed., The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1974), 254-85. 49. While Jessica feels ashamed of the disguise she wears in order to escape, she recognizes that if Lorenzo truly loves her, he won’t care about her looks. This was particularly true for women of higher social status or who possessed greater wealth than their husbands. It would seem that this is the price that the citizens of any commercial and contractual republic must pay for in exchange for these goods. [12] It is not unreasonable to assume that some ethical presuppositions that informed the late Elizabethan period had roots in classical Greek and Roman philosophies. For Antonio, one can owe money but one cannot owe love, at least as he has defined it. 51. Shirley and Kerrigan look at the use of promises and swearing in Shakespeare’s play, which is similar to contracts but lack their binding force. [26] They sense the corrosive effects that contract and commerce have upon non-contractual relations like friendship, love, and marriage but are unable to operate successfully outside the contractual foundations of Venice and Belmont. Had quite miscarried. [5] If an exception were made in this case, Shylock correctly asks why should the Duke not break other contracts, such as the purchasing of slaves (IV.i.89-103; 38-39)? This is evident in the decisions, actions, and relationships of Antonio, Bassanio, Portia, and Jessica in the play: Antonio foolishly risks his life out of friendship; Bassanio views friendship as commensurate with marriage; Portia perceives of her marriage in contractual and commercial terms; and Jessica’s breach of contract leads to unhappiness. Culture Education Philosophy Politics Voegelin, Biography Collected Works Excerpts Voegelin Audio Voegelin Videos Resources, About VoegelinView Announcements Archive Forthcoming Submissions Staff Donate, Rousseau and Kant’s Competing Interpretations of the Enlightenment, Jonathan Edwards and the Re-Enchantment of the Saeculum: The Puritan and Edwardsian Roots of the Idea of Social Progress, The Fall of Soul from Plotinus to Augustine, The Anabasis of Michel Serres: Hermes-Trickster Knowledge and the Ambivalences of Modern Communication Technology. In a sense, Bassanio participates in the marital contract of Portia and Bassanio. From the play it is made known that Venice is a city based on commerce with its law of contract enforced – even if a pound of flesh were demanded – for otherwise the law would lose its legitimacy and all trade and justice would cease to exist. By recognizing this important factor, Jessica and Lorenzo reflect a strong foundation despite their tumultuous start in which Jessica must run away from her father and religion. Jessica explains to Lorenzo that love looks past embarrassments or faults. He even agrees use a pound of his own flesh as collateral to Shylock, whom he clearly detests, in order to loan Bassanio the three thousand ducats (I.iii.152-81). IV,1,2016. Critics who see the play as a pattern of exchanges and purchases or revolving around the question of bonds fail to address the question about the incommensurability of non-contractual relations with contractual ones. This creditor-debtor perspective of marriage also appears earlier in the play, when Salerio compares Lorenzo’s relationship to Jessica in the same language: “To seal love’s bonds new made, than they are wont / To keep obliged faith unforfeited!” (II.vi.6-7). Will never more break faith advisedly (V.i.249-53). Sharp, “Gift Exchange and the Economies of Spirit in ‘The Merchant of Venice,’” Modern Philology 83 (1986), 250-65; William Kerrigan Shakespeare’s Promises (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1999); Richard Harp, “Love and Money in The Merchant of Venice,” Modern Age (Winter 2010), 37-44. [11] However, I suggest another possibility: Antonio is sad because, on the one hand, he desires a relationship that more meaningful than one predicated on contracted; but, on the other hand, he recognizes that such a relationship is difficult, if not impossible, in the commercial republic of Venice. What is interesting is that Shakespeare shows us not only the advantages of the commercial and contractual republic with its multicultural society and economic abundance but also its shortcoming in terms of human relations and moral values. [8] C. L. Barber, “The Merchants and the Jew of Venice: Wealth’s Communion and an Intruder.” In Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Merchant of Venice, ed. Both Antonio and Portia love Bassanio differently. Pettet, “The Merchant of Venice and the Problem of Usury,” Essays and Studies 31 (1945), 19-33; C. L. Barber, Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy, 163-91; Frank Kermode, “The Mature Comedies.” In Early Shakespeare, ed. J. H. Burns with Mark Goldie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 30-65; David Norbrook, Writing the English Republic: Poetry, Rhetoric, and Politics, 1627-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 15-20; Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). 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