Though Antonio and Shylock don’t have much in common at first glance, both men are the only two characters in the play who have jobs and the financial know-how that comes with them. Antonio is a merchant and Shylock is a moneylender who makes loans for interest. Though Antonio eventually is saved and restored financially, it could be argued that both men lose what is most important to them by the end of the play and that their true values are revealed by what could be considered risky investments. Shylock asks for a pound of flesh as a bond (instead of money or other valuable collateral) and Antonio makes the ill-advised decision to accept Shylock’s offer. Later, Shylock refuses money and insists on his “bond” (the pound of flesh). How do these two decisions tell us something about what both men value beyond money itself? It might also be helpful to think about Shylock’s punishment—is it the loss of his wealth or the forced loss of his religion that leaves him so wretched? Similarly, Antonio ends up more wealthy at the end of the play, but has he lost what means the most to him (see the previous topic)? Why does he seem so alone in the play’s final scene?
In a paper of a minimum of 1000 words (about 4 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font), respond to one of the following prompts. Do not waste time with a general introduction, instead start by introducing your topic and your main focus, then move to your argument or main idea. For example, you could say something like this: “In this paper I will discuss how Shakespeare’s Portia is a model of integrity in The Merchant of Venice. In a play where Venetian noblemen are motivated by money, even in their choice of brides, Portia shows the importance of loyalty and honesty in her relationship with Bassanio, thus teaching him an important lesson.” Respond to the prompt in a series of paragraphs focusing on details from speeches which are significant for the points you want to make. Be sure to use short quotations in each of your paragraphs (except your introduction) to support your points (2-4 lines is probably enough in most cases). In a paper of this length, long quotations are not a good idea. An explanation of how to quote is below. Remember, 1000 words is a minimum word requirement. You are encouraged to write more if you feel you have more to say than can fit in 4 pages.
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