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THE ROLE OF PREJUDICE IN THE MERCHANT OF VENICE This paper discusses the subject of prejudice in the William Shakespeare play The Merchant of Venice I Introduction William Shakespeares satirical comedy The Merchant of Venice believed to have been written in 1596 was an examination of hatred and greed The premise deals with the antagonistic relationship between Shylock a Jewish money-lender and Antonio the Christian merchant who is as generous as Shylock is greedy particularly with his friend Bassanio The two have cemented a history of personal insults and Shylocks loathing of Antonio intensifies when Antonio refuses to collect interest on loans Bassanio wishes to borrow 3000 ducats from Antonio so that he may journey to Belmont and ask the beautiful and wealthy Portia to marry him Antonio borrows the money from Shylock and knowing he will soon have several ships in port agrees to part with a pound of flesh if the loan is not repaid within three months Shylocks abhorrence of Antonio is further fueled by his daughter Jessicas elopement with Lorenzo another friend of Antonios Meanwhile at Belmont Portia is being courted by Bassanio and wedding plans continue when in accordance with her fathers will Bassanio is asked to choose from three caskets -- one gold one silver and one lead Bassanio correctly selects the lead casket that contains Portias picture The couples joy is short-lived however when Bassanio receives a letter from Antonio informing him of the loss of his ships and of Shylocks determination to carry out the terms of the loan Bassanio and Portia marry as do his friend Gratiano and Portias maid Nerissa The men return to Venice but are unable to assist Antonio in court In desperation Portia disguises herself as a lawyer and arrives in Venice with her clerk Nerissa to argue the case She reminds Shylock that he can only collect the flesh that the agreement calls for and that if any blood
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