Merchant of Venice

Covenants in the Merchant of Venice College

In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare explores the concept of covenants through several motifs including marriage, inheritance, filial piety, and justice. While revenge is personal, justice intends to right societal wrongs, but The Merchant of Venice makes a mockery of justice. Jessica not only steals away in the night, but steals what she and her cohorts can carry. The unorthodox contract between Antonio and Shylock along with Portia fraudulently acting the part of a Doctor of Laws at court further derides the notion of justice. Antonio and Shylock serve as the protagonist and antagonist, but it is not always clear which one is which. Two scenes in particular highlight the ambiguous nature of justice in the play: Jessica breaking her familial bond with her father and stealing Shylock’s wealth depicts a covenant bound in tradition and loyalty rather than the law; while the contract between Antonio and Shylock for a “pound of flesh” is an example of a legal, albeit an unorthodox and even unethical, contract.

Shakespeare weaves interconnections between the characters in The Merchant of Venice not only through their relationships to one another, but through contracts, agreements, and pledges. Contracts play an apparent role:...

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