Merchant of Venice
Christianity and Judaism in The Merchant of Venice: Imperfect Faith
Though William Shakespeare accurately portrays both Christianity and Judaism in his play The Merchant of Venice, the characters in the play do not represent their religions well. A reader unfamiliar with these religions could easily misinterpret flaws in a character's nature as the teachings of his religion. After a preliminary glance at the play, one would assume that Shakespeare wrote unjustly of the two religions depicted therein. However, Shakespeare had to write the play to please his audience, so he added a twist. By making characters not wholly perfect in their faith, in compliance with reality, Shakespeare was able to add the insults and bigotry and anti-Semitic feelings that would please the crowd, were true to society, and yet did not change the teachings of the religions themselves.
Shakespeare does not change the principles of the two religions in this play. Even the characters in his play who do not always follow the teachings of their religions speak of these beliefs. In the courtroom scene, the Duke says to Shylock, "We all expect a gentle answer, Jew." (IV, i, 35). He means he expects Shylock to show the mercy of a gentile, more specifically a Christian, who would show mercy to Antonio and waive the...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 943 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7598 literature essays, 2153 sample college application essays, 318 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in