INEQUALITY During Shakespearean times, inequality was a major aspect in life. Several inequalities and social problems were present in England during this time. In the Shakespearean play, The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare identifies many problems that existed during his time. A major problem that Shakespeare focused on was discrimination through religion. Also racism was a big issue. Shakespeare provides many examples of this type of discrimination.
There are many examples of religious discrimination throughout this play. The first encounter is when Shylock states, "I hate him for he is a Christian" (1. 3. 42). This shows how Shylock does not like people who are Christian and that he condemns them for this reason. We can also infer from this that Shylock is not Christian.
The second encounter of racial discrimination is when Shylock states, "To eat of the habitation of which your prophet the Nazarite conjured the devil into! I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you" (1. 3. 33-37). This quote shows how Shylock did not like Bassano because of his religious preference. In addition to religious discrimination, the concept of mercy also plays an important role in the Shakespearean play. Portia addresses an important issue in her speech on the theme of mercy.
There are many examples in Portia's speech that indirectly define the concept of mercy. The first example is when Portia states, "It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, it is an attribute to God himself" (4. 1. 198-199). This quote emphasizes the power of mercy in that it is a vital characteristic of kings.
Also, by stating that God attains the quality of mercy, Portia stresses the power of mercy. This quote makes one think that by possessing mercy, they are powerful and all-mighty. The next example that elaborates on the concept of mercy is when Portia states, "It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven" (4. 1. 188). This quote shows mercy as more of a blessing from God.
Portia gives mercy a positive connotation. Portia's manner of defining mercy is effective in persuading Shylock to show mercy and not kill Antonio. Mercy could eliminate religious discrimination because it could cause someone to treat others equally. By showing compassion, one will not discriminate in any manner.
The realistic solution of showing manner could even be used today to prevent religious discrimination. Throughout this play there are many examples of religious discrimination such as shylock hatred for Christians. Although there are no real solutions offered to this problem in the play the reader is shown how religious hatred can ruin lives. This message is as clear today as it was during Shakespeare's time. One can still see the effects of religious discrimination and hatred and conflicts such as the one between the Israelis and the Palestinians. A good way to solve the problem of religious discrimination is by seeing and finding out what the true religion is about and not judge people of other religions by stereotypes that we may have of people with that religious background.