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Title Religious allusions in Merchant of Venice and the gospel (Mark)

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There were indeed many religious allusions in the Merchant of Venice ¨C anti-Semitism being one of the main themes portrayed through various allusions in relation to one of the four gospels, Mark. In Merchant of Venice, Jews are portrayed to be the ¡®evil¡¯ or ¡®bad¡¯ characters ¨C the only Jews in the play were Shylock, his daughter Jessica and Tubal; Jessica later converted to Christianity after eloping with Lorenzo, which emphasized on the isolation of Shylock and Tubal, the only Jews left in a Christian society. In the gospel, Jews were also portrayed to be comparatively shallower ¨C for example, in chapter 7 of the gospel, it was stated that ¡°For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.¡± And the Pharisees later asked Jesus why his disciples ate with their hands defiled, to which Jesus answered, ¡°Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, `This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.¡± Later towards the end of the story, we also see how the scribes and the Pharisees tried by all means to bring Jesus down. In my opinion, the Jews are portrayed here to be characters in opposition to Jesus and his disciples, or the ¡®good¡¯ forces. Likewise for Merchant of Venice, Shylock and Tubal were portrayed to be characters in opposition to Antonio, Bassanio and his friends, the ¡®good¡¯ characters of the story.

Also, in Merchant of Venice, I think that the Jews are portrayed to be vengeful and filled with anger and hatred ¨C Shylock is one such good example, and throughout the play he had been thinking of ways to ruin Antonio and kill him. This situation might have been based on the gospel, in which the Pharisees and scribes have also time and time again tried to find excuses to bring Jesus down, never letting go of a chance to criticize him ¨C ¡°By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?¡± (chapter 11, line 8) ¨C and towards the end of the gospel, many tried to find excuses for Jesus¡¯ execution ¨C ¡°For many bore false witness against him, and their witness did not agree¡± (chapter 14, line 56) I feel that there is also another similarity here ¨C that is, like Jesus faces a lot of discrimination from the Jews, Antonio in Merchant of Venice is also discriminated by Shylock for being a Christian. Therefore, there is discrimination here between the Jews and the Christians.

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Hence, we can see that anti-Semitism is basically portrayed through various religious allusions in Merchant of Venice, in a similar manner to the gospel. However, there were also other similarities in terms of theme and plot that I spotted between the gospel and Merchant of Venice.

One of the themes explored was the theme of mercy and justice. In the gospel, we see how cruel the scribes and the Pharisees were to Jesus, how they tried all means to get him killed ¨C ¡°And Pilate said to them, Why, what evil has he done? But they shouted all the more, ¡®Crucify him.¡¯¡± (Chapter 15, line 14) Likewise in Merchant of Venice, we see how Shylock also does the same to Antonio, ignoring all that Portia and the Duke said, desperate to bring Antonio down. In both cases, we see how justice has been ruthlessly enforced without forgiveness or mercy.

Other themes explored in Merchant of Venice also have a religious basis. For example, as we can see how Antonio¡¯s devotion towards Bassanio is that of self-sacrificing, and the love that exists between them is almost like a ¡®god-like amity¡¯. This is similar to Jesus¡¯ devotion and love towards his disciples and other people ¨C very spiritual, and self-sacrificing. Also, in the Merchant of Venice, there is an element of miracle; how love and faith can overcome all tribulations. Likewise, in the gospel, we see a miracle happen in the end ¨C Jesus was resurrected.

I was really quite surprised to see how the Merchant of Venice has such a close relation to the gospel ¨C that it was, in fact, deeply rooted in religion. This somehow gave a sense of depth and reality to the play, and a touch of spirituality is added as well. Therefore, it added to my appreciation of the play.

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