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Scholars Day: April 15, 2009

The Servant and the Served in "The Merchant of Venice"

Shakespeare's comedy, "The Merchant of Venice" contains the genre's requisite lovers, villains, easily-resolved conflicts and lighthearted conclusions, as well as slapstick moments such as the encounter between the low-born Launcelot Gobbo and his father in Act 2. However, a deeper analysis of the text reveals a more disturbing portrayal of noble life in Venice. The deception, betrayal, and anti-Semitism that permeate this work paint the play's main characters in a decidedly negative fashion. Shylock's victimization at the hands of the Venetians, Bassanio's fiscal irresponsibility and Antonio's stupidity for taking a loan on his behalf, and Portia and Nerissa's deception of Bassanio and Gratiano, are all instances in which we see the "good" characters making morally questionable decisions. Read carefully, the dialogue between Launcelot and Old Gobbo in 2.2 shows parallels between the words and actions of the servant and the served, emphasizing the unethical actions of the play's main characters.

Presenter: Anthony Casciano (Undergraduate Student)
Topic: English
Location: 218 Hartwell
Time: 11:25 am (Session II)