Merche, Mercy, and the Merchant Book Review by Colby

A look at the theme of economic morality in William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice".
# 150799 | 2,123 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2012 | US
Published on Apr 23, 2012 in English (Analysis) , Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)

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This paper examines how "The Merchant of Venice", and the culmination of the Antonio -Shylock bond, represents a triumph of mercantile, interventionist capitalism over free-market, gold-standard capitalism. It looks at how, in regulating their bond, Portia, embodying government, law and the omnipotence of Mercy, prevents Shylock from killing Antonio and how, although this is largely perceived as a virtuous act, an argument for interventionist capitalism, the fact that Antonio is rewarded for risking poorly and Shylock is punished for risking well is both unsettling and immoral. The paper further argues that the play is celebrates what it condemns, interventionist capitalism winning out over free-market capitalism.

From the Paper:

"In Shylock's assessment of Antonio's character in act I, scene iii we see the potential for economics to collapse into ethics. When he says, "Antonio is a good man" and Bassanio asks if he has not heard otherwise Shylock is quick to clarify: "Ho! No, no, no, no: my meaning, in saying he is a good man, is to have you understand me, that he is sufficient" (I.iii.14-6). Shylock assesses men by their fiscal reliability. This may seem, outwardly, a cold concept but really Shylock is just judging his fellow man on the premises of honesty, reliability, and trust; he is proving the capacity for morality to be contained within economic policy. In the conversation with Bassanio that follows the reader also becomes aware of the fact that Shylock weighs his risks carefully. Unlike Antonio, who can have no sure way of knowing the condition of his ventures (we find out later that misinformation has lead him to believe his ships wrecked), Shylock keeps his risks closer. Even though he acknowledges the unreliability of Antonio's mercantile trade he protects himself from it with the buffer of a written contract; he mitigates his risk and assures the fact that the proper parties suffer by their faults. "

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Critchley, Simon, and Tom McCarthy. "Universal Shylockery: Money and Morality in The Merchant of Venice." Diacritics 34.1 (2004): 3-17. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. .
  • McAvan, Em. "Economies of Sacrifice in The Merchant of Venice: God, the Gift and Shakespeare." The Bible and Critical Theory 6.1 (2010). Web. 10 Nov. 2011. .
  • Shakespeare, William, G. Blakemore Evans, and J. J. M. Tobin. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Print.

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