September 23, 2011
Bound By Definition
What is a bond? The Oxford-English dictionary describes it first as “anything with which one's body or limbs are bound in restraint of personal liberty.” Restraint of personal liberty. To be bound is like a punishment in this sense; when you are bound to something, you inevitably lose a bit of freedom. This is a theme that occurs in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice on multiple occasions (five to be exact). Throughout the play, Shakespeare toys with the word “bond” and illustrates five circumstances in which people can find themselves bound.
The most obvious bond in the play is the “merry bond (CITATION)” between Shylock and Antonio. In the first act, the young Bassanio convinces Antonio to borrow three thousand ducats from Shylock, a Jew. Bassanio is the first character to use the word “bound” in the entire play (1.3, line 4, p 1128). After the first appearance, “bond” and “bound” are used thirteen more times in the scene. I believe that Shakespeare intentionally ended the first act with the repetition of this word because that is what the entire play is about— legal, romantic, and family bonds.
Shylock does give Bassanio the three thousand ducats that he asked for. This is where the principle bond of the story occurs. If Antonio is unable to repay Shylock, a pound of flesh is named the interest for the borrowed money. Antonio is bound to Shylock’s bond and must, legally, forfeit a pound of his flesh if he is unable to pay Shylock back. Legality and the law are huge themes in this play.
Another example of legal binds is employment. Lancelot, the clown, is legally the servant of Shylock. In Act 2, Scene 2, he gives a small speech about the trouble is experiencing while under the rule of his Jewish master. His conscious was telling him to flee from his master while he knew that he was obligated to remain a servant to Shylock by law. Lancelot eventually chooses to...