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Word Count: 872
A central theme in Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice involves the delineation of Jewish and Christian ideals The claim that Christians thrive on spirituality and bonds of brotherhood rather than on materialism is expressly conveyed throughout the play by Christian characters However there are several instances where this claim proves false Bassanio can be interpreted as one such character that strays from the established ideals of his religion on several occasions The language he uses may be interpreted as having materialistic rather than spiritual undertones A notable instance that implies Bassanios reversal of religious roles occurs when he opens the lead casket Act III scene ii lines 114-130 Upon discovering he has chosen correctly and has won Portia he promptly begins to describe the beauty of his brides likeness painted inside He proclaims Here in her hairs the painter plays the spider and hath woven a golden mesh tuntrap the hearts of men faster than gnats in cobwebs Act III scene ii lines 120-123 This implies that Bassanio regards Portias beauty as something that alone could make men fall in love with her By Christian standards a womans outward appearance is second to the beauty of her spirit as evidenced by the Christian characters insistence that the condition of a persons spirit is all that is important exemplified in one instance by Portias offer to spare Shylocks life during the trial Bassanio continues to dwell on the beauty of the portrait as he says But her eyes - how could the artist see to do them Having made one methinks it should have power to steal both his and leave itself unfurnished Act III scene ii lines 123-126 The fact that Bassanio is dwelling so much on Portias outward appearance suggests that he puts materialism ahead of spirituality whether he realizes it or not One would imagine that if he really did live up to the ideals of his religion his initial reaction to choosing
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