Beginning of Essay on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice
For the Sake of Love and Money
In The Merchant of Venice, money is at the heart of all events, even those surrounding love relationships. Three relationships in the play show the role that money has on love, albeit it in different ways: they are the relationships between Portia and Bassanio, Antonio and Bassanio, and Jessica and Lorenzo. Through these three relationships Shakespeare conveys the idea that considerations of wealth have an effect on love, but that true love rises above mercenary matters.
Portia and Bassanio begin their relationship with money and wealth as crucial factors; for Bassanio, acquiring Portia’s wealth is initially his primary motivation. When Bassanio asks Antonio to underwrite his efforts to court Portia he makes it clear that he needs and wants her money: “In Belmont is a lady richly left” (Page 9 Lines 161-163). Bassanio adds secondarily that, in addition to being wealthy, Portia is fair and virtuous, but Bassanio leaves the clear impression that if it were not for her money he would not be interested in marrying her. The reason for his need for money is that Bassanio has lived beyond his means and owes a large debt to Antonio. However, in the end, the reader is left feeling that Portia and Bassanio are in love and will have a good marriage. How can they get to that point on a courtship and marriage founded on pecuniary motives? Portia saves the day here, just as she does when she plays the part of a lawyer and saves Antonio. She saves the relationship because she is not concerned about money.
From the beginning, she has loved Bassanio without regard to his wealth or lack thereof and wants him to choose the correct chest. “I remember him well, and I remember him worthy of thy praise.” (Page 14 Lines 115-116). It is Portia, not Bassanio, who makes a declaration of love once Bassanio has chosen the correct chest: “You see me, Lord Bassanio, where I stand, Such as I am. Though for myself alone I would not be ambitious in my wish To wish myself much better, yet for you I would be trebled twenty times myself, A thousand times more fair, ten thousand times more rich, That only to stand high in your account I might in virtues, beauties, livings, friends, Exceed account.” Incidentally, in those lines Shakespeare again links money and love through diction: Portia refers to Bassanio’s “account” of her, as if her virtues, like assets on a balance sheet, are kept in in columns of debits and credits. Portia is so unconcerned about money that when Antonio informs her that he is broke and needs some cash right away to help his friend, she is eager to assist and offers even more than the original debt. Her love and its enthusiasm further buoy the relationship by her taking upon herself to save Antonio from Shylock because she vows that Bassanio will not lie in bed grieving for his dear friend. Through this relationship, the reader is left to conclude that money is not necessarily at odds with establishing a loving marriage, if one of the parties to the relationship can rise above it and set an example for the other. Further to this point, although not involving marriage, there is another close and longstanding relationship in which money figures largely on both sides, that of Bassanio and Antonio.
Response to Prompt on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
In this passage from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein two ideas appear that are central to the novel. One theme is that no creature can live alone without a connection with others. The second is that experience makes us who we are, suggesting that nurture more than nature defines us.
The main image in the second half of the passage is of the monster alone in the woods and made miserable by his loneliness. The isolation is emphasized by the inhospitable image of the woods: the trees are bare and the stars are cold. Further through personification, even nature seems to shun him, as the stars shine “in mockery,” of his plight. Diction adds to the tone of isolation, with the stillness of the night being described as “universal,” which suggests it is hugely oppressive and endless. The exaggeration in the monster’s description of his feelings further conveys his sense of isolation, as he describes “All, save, I were at rest or in enjoyment.” Although reason would insist that the whole world was not content, his loneliness is so great as to provoke that hyperbole. The importance of companionship appears elsewhere in the novel, as isolation affects other characters: the blind man who lives alone, the narrator who embarks on solitary travels, Justine who is an orphan, and, eventually, Dr. Frankenstein who becomes an outcast, going alone to the uninhabited and lonely frozen stretches of the world to end his terrible experiment. Further the idea that no one should have to live alone and lonely, underscores the selfish thoughtlessness of Dr. Frankenstein’s experiment; if Dr. Frankenstein had stopped to think what he was doing in creating a creature without peers, he would have recoiled from inflicting such a fate on any creature. That admonition could even go to the point of questioning the wisdom of his tinkering with nature.
Not only is the monster lonely, he is enraged. In the passage we see that the monster is turning violent, raising the idea that the cruelty he has experienced has made him bad. First, through simile and metaphor he is reduced to the state of a wild beast that has “broken the toils” and is running amok like a hunted animal “with stag-like swiftness.” He wants to vent his rage by spreading destruction and then imagines the pleasure of looking at the harm he has caused. The monster traces in this passage the full trajectory of his emotions from despair to rage and revenge because it is not until he despairs of finding a companion or kindness in the world that he becomes angry and violent. Shelley uses an implied metaphor to give an image of the magnitude of his desire for revenge, comparing the monster’s desire to destroy with a starving person craving food: he would “glut” himself on the spectacle of the misery he creates, implicitly like a starving person would stuff himself with food. The idea that nurture (i.e. experiences) not nature counts to determine who we are is central to the character of the monster because a reader, understanding through the force of Shelley’s prose the agony of the monster’s experience, would find that his actions were, if not justified, certainly explicable and feel that he is not a monster as much as a suffering creature.