Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Merchant

Red theme--symbol of blood. Also
relates to Jesus Christ's sacrifice.
I originally planned on covering one of these subjects a day this week, but obviously I didn't.  Good thing I agree with the use of mercy, something I lightly covered recently. I mentioned at the end of said post that I saw there being a need for a third party when it comes to matters of justice and mercy. I originally wasn't really planning on looking for Christianity within Shakespeare's plays, but I feel like I just can't help it.  I think it may be largely influenced by the church-owned Christian university I'm currently attending, but I admit, I look for themes of religion in a lot of things I study, including foreign languages and culture.  At any rate, to prevent deliberating myself to death, I'll jump now to what I've noticed while reading and watching the BBC production of the The Merchant of Venice.  Here's something from Antonio that will show you what relation I noticed (in Act V):

Antonio. I once did lend my body for his wealth; 
Which, but for him that had your husband's ring,
Had quite miscarried: I dare be bound again, 
My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord 
Will never more break faith advisedly.

Antonio's actions for Bassanio show his selfless love for his BFF.  Christian relation?  Jesus lent his body to the cause of obtaining heavenly wealth for those whom he sees as his best friends--those who were most loyal to him during their mortal lives.  Antonio was ready to give a pound of his flesh to keep his bargain for his friend's temporal happiness.  Again likewise, Jesus gave his flesh for the souls of his followers' eternal happiness.  The comparison isn't flawless (but what comparisons are?), but I find that Antonio can be seen as a mortal foil to Jesus in this play.

Last thing before I forget; justice and mercy.  I think of Portia's role as the lawyer in the trial of Antonio vs Shylock as a foil to Jesus' merciful role in saving souls.  I admit I don't feel it's as developed of a parallel as Antonio's foilship (note: not a real word), but that there's a loose connection there, as without her, Antonio wouldn't have received the mercy all his friends feel he deserved.  What do you think?

Next, I'll bring up a few themes common to this play and religion.  But that will be a different post.

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