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Macbeth and Me

In: Film and Music

Submitted By ConnorPhillips
Words 1329
Pages 6
Connor Phillips
Mrs. Mondesir
ENG 2D1 05
Monday, October 31, 2011

Everybody makes agreements even if it is a promise of love, or helping someone out. Agreements usually are made with a contract, a hand shake or by trusting the words spoken. In the play Merchant of Venice written by William Shakespeare, the characters Bassanio, Antonio and Shylock make many agreements throughout the play which help the reader learn about the personalities and thoughts of the characters.
Bassanio makes the most risky pacts that cause a change in the thoughts and views of the other characters. Bassanio asks Antonio if he may borrow money from Shylock for him, creating a problem between Antonio and Shylock. Antonio needs to pay Shylock the money that Bassanio owes him within the next three months. Since Antonio is not able to meet that deadline, Shylock uses this opportunity to seek revenge on Antonio due to their difference in religion. Although all three men were involved, the agreement only included Shylock and Antonio. “Three thousand ducats for three months, and Antonio bound.”(I, iii, 8-9). What Shylock means by “Antonio bound” is that if Antonio cannot or does not pay Shylock, Antonio will have a pound of flesh removed from him. This shows the recklessness of Bassanio as he borrows money and does not think about the consequences Antonio will face. Another agreement Bassanio makes is a promise to his love Portia that he will never take the ring she gave him off even though his love for her originated from a want of money. “…but when this ring parts from this finger, then parts life from hence: O then be bold to say Bassanio’s dead” (III, ii, 184-185). The promise he makes to her shows the reader that Bassanio makes sacrifices for his selfish needs and without thinking about others. At that moment is when he chooses the lead casket and Portia gives him the ring. He is saying that he will wear this ring and be faithful to his wife until he dies. Bassanio also tries to make an agreement with Shylock when Antonio is in court. Since he is now rich, Bassanio will pay much more than he would have paid before, just to save his friend. “I will be bound to pay ten times o’er on forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart…” (IV, i, 209-210). Shylock must take this deal due to the laws of Venice but Bassanio’s courage and will power show that he deeply loves his friend and will do anything for him. Bassanio gives the lawyer, which is really Portia, the ring he vowed to protect as a sign of gratitude. These three pacts that Bassanio makes demonstrate his risky personality through his selfish actions. Unlike Bassanio, Antonio’s actions show his kind and generous personality.
Antonio is the most caring and giving person in the whole play. His thoughts towards others are cleary shown in his actions. Part of the whole revenge conflict between him and Shylock is that Antonio lends out money only on trust and no interest. “…Try what my credit can in Venice do… Where money is, and and I no question make to have it to my trust or for my sake.”(I, i, 180-185). Even though Antonio currently has no money because his ships are at sea, he is still willing to look for money to help his friend Bassanio. This shows the effect Bassanio’s personality has on Antonio and Antonio’s feelings for Bassanio. During the previous agreement, another promise was made between Shylock and Antonio. “I’ll seal to such a bond, and say there is much kindness in the Jew.” (I, iii, 148-149). Since Shylock is Jewish, everyone hates him in Venice. He is segregated, ridiculed and even abused. An abundant supply of gratitude was given in this sentence spoken by Antonio. One would expect a rejection from Shylock, but Antonio sees past the man and into the soul when dealing with his business. Prior to the agreement and Antonio’s need for the money, Antonio spat on Shylock. Antonio shows his good qualities when it benefits himself and he uses his generosity as a key to other people’s minds. Antonio keeps his word no matter what. His trust and loyalty shows when he is in court with Shylock and was going to let Shylock cut off his flesh. “But little; I am arm’d and well prepar’d. Give me your hand, Bassanio. Fare you well” (IV, i, 262-263). Antonio lets Shylock try and complete his bond without any hesitation or resistance. He absorbs the fact that he could not complete the deed and that a promise is a promise. This ultimately shows reliability and faith in Antonio. Some people can be devious when making contracts and agreements.
Shylock makes conniving and smart agreements with anyone that he can. He makes some of his bonds because he knows they will help him in the future. As a money lender, Shylock charges interest but in this case he hates Antonio so he charges his life. “Be nominated for an equal pound of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken in what part of your body pleaseth me.” (I, iii, 145-148). A pound of flesh, if taken literally or metaphorically will kill someone. Since Shylock wants revenge for things Antonio did to him, like spit on and scorn him for his religion, Shylock is sly because he knows that if the deal does not work out, he will get what he desires. Also, when he is in court Shylock demands to take the pound of flesh from Antonio because his ship was lost at sea and could not pay Shylock back. His plans failed miserably when the laws of Venice came into play. Portia, disguised as a lawyer, says to Shylock, “Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more but just a pound of flesh. If thou tak’st more or less than a just pound… thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate.” (IV, i, 322-330). The law states that if Shylock were to take the pound of flesh he will lose all he owns and die. This agreement portrays a rather evil side of Shylock and also the sad side. His hopes are lost when Portia tells him the law and that he has no money. Shylock is basically left to crumble and live a hard life. Another contract was made during this scene. When the decision is put onto Antonio as to whether or not mercy shall be given, Antonio comes up with a better solution. “So please my lord the duke and all the court to quit the fine for one half his goods… upon his death unto the gentleman that lately stole his daughter. Two things provided more: that for this favour he presently become a Christian… of all he dies possess’d into his son Lorenzo and his daughter.” (IV, i, 378-388). This tells Shylock that he must become a Christian and give all he owns to his heir Lorenzo. Shylock is devastated yet shows the gratitude Antonio deserves (despite his hatred) showing the pleasant side of Shylock. Shylock is embarrassed, by the contract and tells the court to send the deed after for he is too humiliated to take it now. Later he is shunned by all his fellow Jews and lives in the streets.
Throughout the play characters make agreements that help the reader learn that their actions and promises can affect the way that their personalities are portrayed. Bassanio’s three pacts show his risky behaviour through his selfish and thoughtless actions. Antonio’s character as a good man is shown through his kindness and generosity within the three agreements that he makes. Shylock can be seen as sneaky and greedy through the contracts where he is selfish and vengeful. In all of this, the agreements show the thoughts and traits of the characters.

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