Historical and Cultural Context of The Merchant of Venice Flashcards

How were Jewish people viewed in the Elizabethan era, and how is this reflected in ‘The Merchant of Venice’?

Jewish people were regarded with suspicion and prejudice.

Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, is treated with contempt by the Christian characters, reflecting these attitudes. However, Shakespeare gives Shylock legitimate grievances, adding complexity to his portrayal.

What does Venice symbolise in ‘The Merchant of Venice’?

Venice symbolises the world of commerce and finance. It is a busy trade city where merchants like Antonio thrive, reflecting the competitive and materialistic values of its inhabitants.

How does Belmont contrast with Venice in the play?

Belmont is an idyllic and luxurious setting, serving as a romantic escape from the harsh realities of commerce in Venice. It represents noble pursuits of love and wealth without the cutthroat competition found in Venice.

How does the economic development of Venice influence the play?

The economic development of Venice shapes attitudes towards moneylending and merchants. The play examines justice and prejudice in a rapidly evolving economic landscape.

How does Shakespeare add complexity to the character of Shylock?

Shakespeare depicts Shylock as having legitimate grievances against the Christians who mistreat him, which adds depth to his character.

This complexity challenges the usual anti-Semitic stereotypes of the time and encourages the audience to reflect on themes of prejudice and intolerance.

What themes are highlighted by the contrast between Venice and Belmont?

The contrast between Venice and Belmont highlights themes of materialism versus romanticism, commerce versus nobility, and the different societal values and motivations in each setting.

You’ve used 10 of your 10 free revision notes for the month

Sign up to get unlimited access to revision notes, quizzes, audio lessons and more

Sign up