The Merchant Of Venice

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Prompt: In what ways does the last scene draw together the central concerns of the play? Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” has long been revered for its clever and witty use of language but it is Shakespeare’s handling of the central concerns of the play that earn him the highest regard. The play delves somewhat playfully into issues of friendship, fortune, faithfulness, and family, while weaving in weightier matters such as hatred, greed and vengeance. While these issues are largely resolved in the trial scene, the contrasting values of love, generosity, and keeping ones word become the final messages of the play. The final scene set in serene Belmont, opens with Lorenzo and Jessica’s playful banter. Their references reflect the harmonious nature of love (Troilus climbs a wall longing for Cressida, Dido summons her lover, and Medea gathers enchanted herbs for Aeson). But, while their shared repetitions of “In such a night” reflect balance and unity they also hint at tragedy and loss. The audience would have understood the dark side of their allusions (Cressida betrays Troilus, Aenas deserts Dido, and Medea leaves Aeson). Thus, although Shakespeare has left room for his audience to come to their own conclusions, the love and harmony exhibited in the final scene does remain in stark contrast to the racial hatred displayed in the trial scene. As Lorenzo continues his discussion with Jessica he turns to the subject of music (“Let the sounds of music creep in our ears….the touches of sweet harmony”). He reminds the audience that mortals are merely imperfect humans (“this muddy vesture of clay”) and urges Jessica to appreciate music more saying that any man who does not value it “must be villainous and untrustworthy”. This may have been a slight against Shylock who had previously dismissed music as “shallow foppery” but it also plays a larger role of
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