The play, The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare has two main settings. One setting is Venice, a city where many businessmen live, a place, full of unhappy and unkind people. It a world of commercial and law. Shakespeare has portrayed Venice as the real world. The other setting is Belmont, a city which houses a rich, happy society of beautiful people. Belmont is a fairy-tale world of music and love. In this play, it is evident that, good things happen in Belmont and not so pleasant events happen in Venice.
The play begins with Antonio, a rich merchant of Venice is depressed, which shows that money and wealth did not bring happiness to this man. Shylock, a wealthy businessman who lives in Venice is not happy because he is an outsider and he is treated badly because of his Jewish religion. All his money could not buy him the happiness he wanted. Shylocks daughter, Jessica says, Our house is hell. This is a woman who belongs to the privileged class of Venice but still she is not happy, even with all that money she possesses.
This rich society of Venice is pathetically dependent on money for support and satisfaction but it still does not bring happiness to them. Belmont is happier society. The young people there play tricks on each other, and wittiness and humor is part of their daily life style in Belmont. Portia, a beautiful, rich young woman who lives in Belmont, enjoys playing tricks on other people for fun, and everybody has a good laugh at the end. She plays a trick on her own husband, Bassanio, by dressing up as a lawyer and taking away the ring she herself gave him when they got married.
She made him promise that he would never take it off, lose it or give it away. Afterwards when Portia asks Bassanio where the ring was, he has to confess that he gave it away to a lawyer as a reward for saving his best friend from an important court case. Then she pretends to be very hurt and offended by his lack of love, faith and honor towards her by saying, If you had known the virtues of the ring, or half her worthiness that gave the ring, or your own honor to contain the ring, you would have not parted with the ring.
But then laughingly she reveals the truth about who the lawyer really was. All the people present at the scene were amused and they all enjoyed the light-hearted trick played on Bassaio by his own wife. Evidently, people are happier in Belmont. As shown in the play Venetians are unkind people. You spit on me on Wednesday last; you spurnd me such a day; another time you calld me dog says Shylock the Jewish businessman addressing Antonio, a Christian Venitian who has been so cruel to him just because he is a Jew.
Also the people in Venice mock and laugh at Shylock when his daughter ran away with his money to marry a Christian. Salarino and Salanio make fun of him. They had no sympathy towards the man who has just lost his only family and his valuable money. Maybe he is greedy, but it was still his money and one would expect people to feel sorry for him but they were even crueler to him by laughing at his losses. Even though one should feel sorry for Shylock, he himself is a very cruel man.
He hates Antonio and all Christians and when he got the opportunity to take revenge he was more than prepared to do so. He and Antonio had a contract which stated that, if Antonio was not able to pay off the debt of three thousand ducats he borrowed from Shylock within three months, he would have to pay the debt by letting Shylock cut a pound of flesh from his body close to the heart. When Antonios ships were lost and he was not able to pay off the debt, Shylock was delighted. Shylock likes saying I thank God, I thank God.
I thank thee good Tubal: good news, good news! ha, ha! Im am very glad of it: Ill plague him; Ill torture him: Im glad of it This shows that he was a horrible man. Later when he was offered the money, he refuses saying that he would rather have Antonios flesh than money. Jessica, Shylocks daughter informs Bassanio and Portia how cruel her father really is, by saying, When I was with him I have heard him swear to Tubal and to Chus, his countrymen, that he would rather have Antonios flesh than twenty times the value of the sum that he did owe him.
These unkind attitudes of people in Venice came from Venice being a commercial city of trade and business. People are untrustworthy and cunning. People who live here have to be aware of their fellow people, thus they have developed a untrusting, unkind attitude towards others. People who live in Belmont are kind and helpful. When Portia learns that Bassanios best friend, Antonio would have to follow the contract between him and a Jewish businessman by giving him a pound of flesh from his body because of not being able to pay off the debt, she gives Bassanio the money to go and help him.
She also postpones her honeymoon and asks Bassanio to go to his friend. This shows that she was a kind young woman who sincerely cared for the life of a man she has never met. Later, Portia dresses up as a lawyer and saves Antonio from getting a pound of flesh cut off his body as the contract stated. She and her maid, Nerissa went through the troubles of travelling to Venice from Belmont to save Antonio, and they never get money as a reward for their good work. Portia was truly unselfish.
These kind attitudes are practiced in Belmont because its a clam and quite place with happy and caring people. The final act takes place at Belmont. There is music and we know that everything went well. The act ends happily with all the lovers reunited; Bassanio with Portia, Gratiano with Nerissa and Jessica with Lorenzo. There is no place for Shylock in Belmont, he is a man who hates music and festivals. He is an alien to the generous world of music and peace. Even Antonio, who is a Venitian seems to be rather silent and not at ease.
In this play, Venice is portrayed to be the real world. Its where bad events take place. Shylock loses all his properties in Venice. Antonio almost gets killed, Jessica and Lorenzo ran away from Venice. In Venice Bassanio has to decide whether to keep his wifes ring and his promise not to ever take it off or giving it away as a reward to the Doctor of Laws for saving his friends life is the most important thing. Bassanio may have convinced Portia without any trouble in the magical world of Belmont.
Above all, Venice is the city of darkness and pain, and it has much to learn from the love Belmont shows. When one recalls what happened in Belmont, it seems like a fairy-tale came true. A poor young nobleman comes to the city of Belmont, in hope of marrying a fair and wealthy girl. He has to choose between three caskets set by the beautiful girls father, to win her for marriage. This is the world of the fairy-tale, in which everything happens in groups of three. Generally, in fairy-tales, lovers are subjected to triple tests and the third attempt is always lucky.
Also, in the traditional fairy-tale, those who show themselves with wealth are taught a bitter lesson. So, the Prince of Arragon and Morocco who chose the costly metals of gold and silver leave the scene as arrogant fools. The poor but handsome Bassanio, who chooses the lead casket, receives the reward for his wisdom and humility. Also the young lovers Lorenzo and Jessica run away from Venice and come to Belmont to start a new, happy life together. The play ends happily in Belmont. So at the end, those who deserve happiness find happiness in this loving city of Belmont.